Baker Mayfield eager to lead entering Year 2 with Buccaneers

Mad Dog gets everyone else mad during his Tom Brady roast take (1:53)

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo gets mad about Tom Brady's participation in a roast, as well as Brady expressing regret about doing it. (1:53)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Entering his second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Baker Mayfield said that he's looking to be "more in command" and "be himself even more."

"Obviously last year was a lot of trying to learn the system on the fly, get to know teammates as well, balancing that performance versus getting to know everybody and trying to be a leader," Mayfield said after Tuesday's OTA practice.

"But now, going through it -- obviously you have some new faces here -- but going through a year with these guys, trying to be more in command. I am vocal, but most of the time I'm only vocal when I need to be. I'm kind of a 'lead by example' type guy. So really now it's taking the next step in the vocal aspect -- getting everybody on the same page."

The Bucs signed Mayfield to a one-year deal in March 2023 to prove himself last offseason with a $4 million base salary. Following a season that saw Tampa Bay win the NFC South and reach the playoffs' divisional round, Mayfield was given a three-year, $100 million contract with $50 million guaranteed in March.

Now, it's unquestionably his team -- although he's no stranger to the volatility of the NFL.

"You never want to feel comfortable," Mayfield said. "Yeah, is it great that I know I'm going to be here for the next couple of years? Of course. It means I get to settle in here, be myself even more so and push these guys to the next level. It's a good feeling."

The Bucs were Mayfield's fourth team in less than one calendar year, as the Cleveland Browns traded him away in July 6, 2022 to the Carolina Panthers, who then waived him in December 2022. He was then picked up by the Los Angeles Rams, where he led a 17-16 come-from-behind victory over the Las Vegas Raiders a mere 48 hours after signing.

That time in Los Angeles was enough to have at least one team convinced he could start and win in this league: The Buccaneers, who had a sudden vacancy at the quarterback position following Tom Brady's retirement.

Mayfield not only led them to a 9-8 regular season record, but to a 32-9 wild-card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and before falling to the Detroit Lions in the divisional round in a 31-23 loss. Mayfield produced two of the four highest passing yardage totals in Bucs' postseason history in those games, with 349 and 337 yards, respectively.

"I mean, I think we proved to ourselves last year what we really believed in, what we knew we were capable of," Mayfield said of last year. "Obviously we fell short of the ultimate goal -- only one team gets to have that. But when you get that close, it almost makes you more hungry, when you're just a few plays away, on the road, in a tough environment, knowing that it came down to a two-minute drive.

"I mean the guys are putting in the work now to be on the same page, and to hit the ground in August, late July, we're ready to go."

Mayfield's five-game Rams stint would prove invaluable, as he was introduced to Liam Coen, then the Rams' offensive coordinator and whom the Bucs hired on Feb. 3 to lead their offense. The Bucs ran a similar system last year under now-Carolina Panthers head coach Dave Canales. But, there are differences in that there's more on the quarterback's shoulders, which Mayfield called "mentally taxing."

"There's a lot more responsibility -- line of scrimmage, a lot more double play calls where you're having to get the guys in the right positions," Mayfield said. "But as a quarterback, you want to have that responsibility and accountability. You always want to put your guys in the best position to have success, so now Liam's giving us the opportunity with a couple play calls to be able to do that.

"Like I said, it's more mentally taxing, but [I'm] just relearning the system and not taking it with the mindset that I've been here before but really starting from square one."

From an individual performance standpoint, Mayfield's focused on slowing his feet down and not passing up his progressions in favor of using his legs. To help him feel more stable in the pocket, the Bucs invested a first-round draft pick in center Graham Barton, who is already rotating in with the first-team offense.

They also used a sixth round pick on guard Elijah Klein, and signed veteran interior offensive linemen Sua Opeta and Ben Bredeson in free agency. The interior enforcements will not only help protect Mayfield's body but also his line of sight as a shorter quarterback at 6-foot-1.

Coach Todd Bowles said he hasn't seen a difference in Mayfield's approach despite the new system and his status as the franchise's leader for the next three years.

"It's the same Baker," Bowles said. "... The drive and the vigor is always there, but the maturity of how he's handling the situation right now -- learning a new offense -- has been great."