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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

GM Jason Licht Dishes on Free Agent Priorities: Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans 

At the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, General Manager Jason Licht discusses the team’s focus on re-signing impending free agents Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans 

Jason Licht Combins

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have several cornerstone fixtures set to hit the unrestricted market in free agency, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Mike Evans. Mayfield revitalized his career in 2023 with the Buccaneers and demonstrated the level of play that made him the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. At the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, General Manager Jason Licht fielded a variety of questions from local media, and he vocalized his desire to extend the relationship with Mayfield beyond the 2023 campaign.

"Baker meant a lot to this team, this fanbase and this town and I think we meant a lot to him," said Licht. "I think it was a perfect marriage. I've said it before, but he sought us out. He gambled on us, saw it as a good situation and saw it better than a lot of national outlets that saw us winning two games. So, he thought it would be good for him and it certainly was. I know he wants to be Buc and we want him to be a Buc, so that is usually a good starting point."

Mayfield, who was selected as 2023's Most Improved Player by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), produced a 2023 season in which he established career highs in completions (364), passing yards (4,044), passing touchdowns (28) and completion percentage (64.3%). He was one-of-two players this season with 28-or-more passing touchdowns and 10-or-fewer interceptions, joining Cowboys' Prescott. Mayfield ranked among league-leaders in passing touchdowns (seventh), passing yards (ninth), completions (10th) and passer rating (12th). He became the second player in Buccaneers history to throw for 4,000-plus yards, 25-or-more touchdowns and 10- or-fewer interceptions in a single season, along with Tom Brady (2022).

He led Tampa Bay to victories in five of the team's final six games of the regular season, recording the club's first four-game win streak since the 2021 season. During the streak, Mayfield became the first visiting quarterback in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating (158.3) at Lambeau Field, earning his fourth career Player of the Week honors. Throughout the season, Mayfield elevated the Bucs' offense with surgical tight window throws, improvisation skills, underrated arm talent, competitive disposition, quick processing and poise under pressure. Licht confirmed that the Buccaneers have started contract negotiations with Mayfield, along with future Hall of Fame receiver and Bucs' icon, Mike Evans.

"He had a hell of a year, and I am happy for him," described Licht. "He bet on himself too. He is an unprecedented player, and we want him to be a Buc for life and we are working towards that. Obviously, it takes two sides – I know he wants to be a Buc…A good deal, it takes some time for both sides."

In 2023, Evans extended his own NFL record of consecutive seasons with 1,000-or-more receiving yards to begin a career to 10. Evans' streak of 10-consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards became the second-longest such streak in league history, trailing only Jerry Rice (11). He is one-of-four players with 11,000-plus receiving yards and 90-plus touchdown receptions through 10 career seasons, along with Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice. Evans' 13 receiving touchdowns in 2023 tied for the most in the NFL and his 15.9 yards per reception ranked as the eighth-most in the league.

He spearheaded the offense and at 30 years old, Evans has shown no signs of regression. He has achieved both longevity and consistency for the Bucs throughout the duration of his career. The savvy route runner creates subtle separation that leaves defensive backs reeling and possesses physicality to power through jams. Evans is as close to it gets as a cheat code on post and go-routes with long-stride speed and awes with unstoppable back-shoulder catches. He is dominant at the catch point and sets the tone for Tampa Bay.

Both Mayfield and Evans have become focal points for the team's brass during the offseason and although both will be hot commodities during the 2024 free agency cycle, Jason Licht and co. have made it a priority to retain the services of the dynamic QB-WR duo.

"If we can re-sign Mike and Baker and Lavonte [David] and Chase [McLaughlin] and Antoine [Winfield] and Tristan [Wirfs], I mean, we should be throwing another boat parade," Licht laughed. "Pretty good class there."

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