Baker Mayfield excited about Buccaneers' push to retain core of roster in free agency

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Moments after Tampa Bay was eliminated from the NFL playoffs, Baker Mayfield spoke about the impending challenge the Buccaneers faced in trying to keep a talented roster together this offseason.

“I said immediately after the Detroit game ... to build a winning team and to have a lot of the key pieces that we needed back to continue this run and improve it, some sacrifices have to be made,” the much-traveled quarterback said Wednesday after finalizing a three-year contract worth to $115 million to remain with the Bucs.

The deal comes on the heels of star receiver Mike Evans landing a two-year, $52 million deal to stay put, too.

Veteran linebacker Lavonte David (one year, $10 million) will return for a 13th season, while general manager Jason Licht continues to work on a contract extension for left tackle Tristan Wirfs and a long-term deal for All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who’s guaranteed a salary of just over $17 million for 2024 under the franchise tag.

Mayfield said he’s not concerned about whether he potentially left money on the negotiating table before agreeing to a deal that includes $50 million guaranteed. He's more interested in keeping the roster intact.

“Now, listen, this is life-changing money and I’m not going to act otherwise. It’s something that I’ve worked extremely hard for over the years, and many years of football. I’m grateful for it," Mayfield said.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about. There’s nothing to say, ‘Oh, well he got more.’ It’s not that mentality,” the quarterback added. "Knowing that we have a chance to bring back some key pieces and make a further run in the playoffs, that’s important to me. I’m a winner at heart, I hate losing, so knowing that we get a lot of guys back and we can continue to build this for years to come is a special thing.”

Mayfield bet on himself last winter, joining the Bucs on a one-year, $4 million contract after Tom Brady retired. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft revived his career by leading Tampa Bay to a third consecutive NFC South title and a victory over Philadelphia in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

“He had us circled as the best place to go, and we had him circled as the best player to follow the legend Tom Brady,” Licht said. “Not many quarterbacks would have the confidence to do that. Baker certainly did.”

Mayfield threw for career bests of 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns while also cutting down on costly mistakes (10 interceptions) that hindered him in previous stops with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

The Bucs rebounded from a 4-7 start to win five of six games down the stretch to clinch the NFC South and a fourth consecutive playoff berth.

“We were close. We made a good run there at the end, but I don’t think any of our guys were satisfied,” Mayfield said. “I’m looking forward to being able to push for a deeper playoff run.”