Will the Bucs keep Baker Mayfield from hitting free agency?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a couple of key moves this week, agreeing to terms on a new two-year contract extension with star wide receiver Mike Evans, and placing the franchise tag on All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., keeping both in the fold heading into the 2024 season.

Now, the Bucs must turn their attention to quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is set to hit free agency next week if they can’t work out a long-term deal before then.

Locking up Evans and Winfield (who should also get a long-term deal in the coming weeks that would replace the one-year franchise tender) obviously checks two of Tampa Bay’s most important boxes on their offseason priority list, but no team wants to have a question mark at the game’s most important position.

Mayfield is expected to have multiple suitors if he ends up hitting the open market, so the Bucs will have plenty of competition for his services if they’re not able to hammer out a long-term deal over the next few days.

After bouncing around between different teams and dealing with tons of coaching changes since entering the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, Mayfield had the best season of his career last year after signing a cheap one-year deal with Tampa Bay. Both sides have made it clear they’d love to keep a good thing going in 2024 and beyond, but the money has to be right for both sides.

Losing offensive coordinator Dave Canales to the division-rival Carolina Panthers was a hit to their continuity, but the hiring of Liam Coen to replace him makes it more likely that Mayfield would still want to remain in Tampa Bay. Mayfield and Coen both worked together in Los Angeles, and clearly have a good rapport.

Now that Evans and Winfield are both secured for the foreseeable future, don’t be surprised if the Bucs do everything they can to work out a deal with Mayfield that keeps him in Tampa Bay for the next few seasons, and prevents any other team from getting a chance to lure him away in free agency.

Story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire