NEWS NOW: Tampa Bay Buccanneers QB Coach Thaddeus Lewis Has A Misunderstanding With New QB Baker Mayfield, Says He Is Not Capable Enough For…

QB Baker Mayfield is pleased with how things “worked out” with the Buccaneers.

Baker Mayfield, the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, stated on Wednesday that the Bucs “let me be the best version of myself” and that he “had fun playing football again” were two major reasons he came out of “dark times” in 2022, when he was traded around to four different NFL teams after being selected first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.

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The 28-year-old QB Mayfield also expressed uncertainty about whether he and the Bucs would reach an agreement before the NFL’s free agency window opened at noon on Monday. During this time, the Bucs will be able to speak with other quarterbacks and allow other teams to consider their options. In the end, he agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $115 million and $100 million with the Bucs million on Sunday.

“There were times that the couple days prior we didn’t know if we were going to get it done before free agency hit. So it was a lot of ups and downs,” said Mayfield, who said he had to start considering what Plan B might look like if things fell through.

Regretfully, I had to consider that. Before we even moved, I had to consider that we would be here for our daughter’s birth,” Mayfield said. His wife Emily is expecting their first child next month. The important thing was that, even though we wanted to return, we were willing to let God take charge once more if returning wasn’t the best course of action for us. We did our best to exercise patience. If I claimed we were content the entire time, I would be lying. However, everything turned out as they should have.”

The starting point came when Mayfield texted Jason Licht, general manager, while he and his wife Emily were having lunch at Salt Shack in Tampa. Wirfs, a left tackle, and his fiancée Meredith, who, like the Mayfields, are expecting their first child at the end of March, were also expecting. He replied, “Are we gonna get this thing done or what?”

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While having just finished lunch, Licht was in his office with vice president of football research Jacqueline Davidson and assistant general manager Mike Greenberg. They moved right away to secure one of the NFL’s biggest comeback stories of 2023 for a future chapter.

“He had us circled as the best place to go and we had him circled as the best player to come and follow the legend, Tom Brady,” Licht said. “Not many quarterbacks would have the confidence to do that, but Baker certainly did. We love his leadership – we love his ability on the field – but his leadership, his ability to rally the team, the city, the fanbase has been surreal.”

As the deal was finalized shortly after, Mayfield and his group celebrated while news flashed across the bottom ticker of a nearby television screen. There were text messages to center Robert Hainsey and right tackle Luke Goedeke, whom Mayfield says became some of his closest friends. They were soon joined by new offensive coordinator Liam Coen and assistant offensive line coach Brian Picucci. And he made a phone call to wide receiver Mike Evans.

“I called him and just said, ‘Well, I guess we’re getting the band back together,” Mayfield said. “How close I became with these guys, it became a huge factor in the decision. Knowing that I’m going to fight for them and they’re going to fight for me. That’s a big thing for us. It’s a great group.”

With little money in the wake of a three-year Brady run last year – including Brady counting $35 million against the salary cap last season – the Bucs signed Mayfield to a one-year deal worth $4 million in which he had to compete with Kyle Trask for a starting job. At that point, Mayfield had been traded away by the Cleveland Browns, cut by the Carolina Panthers after going 1-5 as a starter, and he had a five-game stint with the Los Angeles Rams. But it was enough for coach Todd Bowles, who grew fond of Mayfield during the pre-draft evaluation process when he was with the New York Jets in 2018. He was also Licht’s top quarterback on the Bucs’ draft board that year.

“We go back some ways. So we kinda talked after we played each other, each time we played each other,” said Bowles, who credited Mayfield’s mental toughness for his resurgence. “For a quarterback – there are very few great ones that’s not in the right system. You can be a good quarterback and be in the wrong system, and some get thrown by the wayside and some happen to find their niche. I think Baker found his niche and we found out what worked well for and we kinda played to those strengths. I think that every team that has a great quarterback plays to those strengths and he found his.”

Mayfield led the Bucs to a 9-8 record season record, an NFL South title and a 32-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. His 106.3 postseason passer rating in two playoff games set a new franchise postseason record, and his 3.0 postseason touchdown-interception ratio also matched Brady’s during his Buccaneers tenure. He also went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.

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Mayfield said that year of adversity was a “true test of character.”

“My journey has not been the one that I exactly envisioned – a lot of ups and downs – but just trusting it.” Mayfield said. “For me, trying to relate it to some of the things I did – from high school [and] having to walk on, to college [and] having to battle for a job, losing a job in Cleveland, going to Carolina, having to move to L.A. [With] all of those things, you realize mental toughness can take you a long way. Trusting in yourself and believing in yourself and having that confidence and trusting in God that you have everything you’re capable of and you have it all right there available for you, so just go do that and be the best version of yourself. For me, this was a good place that has already shown me that I can do that.”

When asked about other quarterbacks who will now try to reignite their careers, looking to him as a source of inspiration the way Geno Smith was for others in 2022, Mayfield said that it was all about finding the right opportunity. He simply needed to be in a stable organization that let him be himself, from the way he led to the way he played. Rather than display Brady’s finesse in the pocket, he’d leave it quickly — lowering his helmet and barreling towards defenders for a first down, which often ignited the Bucs’ sideline.

“I keep mentioning to be the ‘best version of myself’ and that means a lot,” Mayfield said. “So — it is a tricky business. There’s injuries, there’s a lot of things that can happen to you in your career. Self-inflicted ones too. And I’ve gone through both of those. And so for me it’s a good opportunity to be able to [say], ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel.’

“And by no means am I satisfied, but you can overcome these obstacles and the ups and downs you experience. I came in with the mindset that as long as I could say that I was the best leader and teammate these guys could have, and that I did everything in my power to work incredibly hard and maintain control, that I was going to hang my head high. And that’s what we did—we stayed united. That’s a major part of the reason I enjoyed playing football again, and it also helps me play better.”

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