With one preseason game to go, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles named Baker Mayfield the starting quarterback for the 2023 season, filling the very large shoes of Tom Brady.
Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft who has had stints with the Browns, Rams and Panthers, beat out 2021 second-round draft pick Kyle Trask.
Bowles first notified Trask on Tuesday morning, then Mayfield.
The Bucs are Mayfield’s third team since he was traded by the Browns one year ago. He lost the starting job with the Panthers in Week 12 and was released. He then signed with the Rams and performed well enough to earn a fresh new start in Tampa. But being named the starter in Tampa didn’t make things any sweeter for him as he views this as merely the first step in a long road ahead.
General manager Jason Licht, Bowles and offensive coordinator Dave Canales all acknowledged that continuing a lengthy quarterback competition so deep into camp would mean fewer reps for the eventual starter, but the Bucs felt it was necessary to give Trask a true opportunity after two years behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert.
Trask showed significant improvement from mandatory minicamp to training camp in his accuracy and fundamentals, his grasp of Canales’ new offense and his decision-making. At one point he was outplaying Mayfield in practices.
But Mayfield’s experience, having started 69 regular-season games — including a 48-37 playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers when he was with the Cleveland Browns — prevailed.
Mayfield started the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers; Trask started the second. The plan is for both to play Saturday night in the preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens, with Mayfield expected to play the first half and Trask the second. Third-string quarterback John Wolford’s status is up in the air because of a neck injury. He suffered a sprained neck against the Jets in the second preseason game. Bowles said X-rays and MRIs were negative, but Wolford did have a neck injury last year.
Mayfield appeared more in control and had better command of the offense this preseason. In the first preseason game, he completed 8 of 9 passes for 63 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
In two preseason games — including nearly an entire second preseason game because of Wolford’s injury, Trask completed 26 of 38 passes for 317 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled against the Jets on a sack Saturday night, but it was recovered by tight end Cade Otton.
Mayfield signed with the Bucs this offseason on a one-year deal worth $4 million with incentives that push it to $8.5 million. The hope is that he can get his career back on track while helping the cash-strapped Bucs avoid a major drop-off after Brady’s retirement. Mayfield’s financial situation has come to light recently in a petition he and his wife, Emily, filed in Texas court last week over the potential misappropriation of $12 million at an Austin investment firm.