Baker Mayfield signed a one-year prove-it (again) deal with the Buccaneers as their first starting quarterback after Tom Brady retired. After Mayfield outperformed his first contract with his fourth NFL team, how much is the veteran QB worth to Tampa Bay going forward?
Mayfield, after being cast off by the Panthers and not being re-signed by the Rams in 2022, had a great ’23. He was worth well more than his $ 4 million in base salary, confirmed by maximizing incentives for individual and team performance and earning a bonus $ 1.9 million.
For the Buccaneers to keep him for 2024 and beyond, they will need to significantly bump up the value and years on his next deal. Here’s projecting the potential parameters of that new contract, first by looking at what he’s already made in his NFL career:
Baker Mayfield contract history
As the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Browns in 2018, Mayfield signed an all-guaranteed four-year rookie contract worth $ 32.68 million. The Browns then agreed to pick up his fifth-year option for the ’22 season, worth another $ 18.9 million guaranteed.
Things then got tricky salary-wise for Mayfield because the Browns decided to trade for Deshaun Watson in the 2022 offseason, leading to Mayfield requesting a trade. When he was traded to the Panthers for a conditional fifth-round draft pick that July, Mayfield agreed to a $ 3.5 million pay cut, with the Panthers paying him only $ 5 million. The Browns were still on the hook to give him $ 9 million for his play last season.
After disappointing results with the Panthers, Mayfield then requested a release in December and earned the remaining $ 1.35 million owed to him after the Rams signed him off waivers.
The Buccaneers took a cheap flier on him in free agency for $ 4 million in March before he turned 28 in April. Mayfield won the starting job over Kyle Trask, and with his efficient play, gave Tampa Bay more than a one-year bridge option.
Baker Mayfield career earnings
Over his now six full NFL seasons, Mayfield has earned a little more than $ 55 million, according to Spotrac. That averages to more than $ 9 million per season.
Baker Mayfield contract projection
The Buccaneers can draw from a related parallel from the 2023 offseason. Before offensive coordinator Dave Canales helped revive Mayfield’s career and helped make him one of the NFC’s better starting QBs, he was key in getting Geno Smith on track with the Seahawks.
Smith is older, as he turned 33 in October. He also had less of a career pedigree as a starter, as he was a second-round pick of the Jets in 2013 vs. being taken at the top of the draft. Smith was also elevated after backing up Russell Wilson for a few years.
For his late-blooming breakout season in 2022 leading the Seahawks to the playoffs, Smith was rewarded with a new three-year contract in 2023 worth $ 75 million, with $ 40 million guaranteed.
When comparing Smith’s 2022 season with Mayfield’s ’23 season, the metrics say the latter was better and more consistent. However, Mayfield is also younger and has more potential to be a long-term solution.
The Buccaneers are in a comfortable cap situation with around $ 50 million available in 2024. With Mayfield and the team wanting to stay together, there’s mutual motivation to get a pleasing deal done.
As the top of the QB market has shot well above $ 50 million per season, the Bucs would have a relative bargain even when not getting the absolute steal Mayfield was in 2022.
They can feel that some of Mayfield’s new deal is a good-faith reward in arrears. In that sense, a bump to $ 30 million is not only reasonable, but it also keeps the Bucs in the middle of the pack for what they’re paying their QB. Five years at $ 150 million with around $ 60 million guaranteed would be fair, even as a floor.
Given Mayfield’s age, that’s a good length, too, locking him up through his age-33 season. As QB salaries keep rising, that will also give the Buccaneers some good financial flexibility to address other roster concerns to stay competitive.