The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were expected to be a 5-win team and be drafting in the top-10 of the upcoming draft. This was mainly due to the fact that the greatest-of-all-time had decided to call it a career and the Bucs only quarterback on the roster at the time was Kyle Trask.
In the offseason, the Bucs signed Baker Mayfield, who had been looking for a place to prove himself after being cut in Carolina and Los Angeles. He quickly won the quarterback battle over Trask and was made starter for opening day.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 3-1 in their first four games, losing only to the Eagles in Week 3.
Mayfield led the Bucs to wins in 3 of the first 4. He would also dominate the opposing defense except in the Eagles game which the Bucs could only muster 11 points. In their three wins however, the Bucs averaged just over 24 points, winning against a Minnesota team who was coming off a 13-win season away as well as a impressive road win against their division rivals New Orleans Saints.
By the end of Week 4, Mayfield had thrown for 882 passing yards with 7 passing touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. His quick start to the season had many analysts questioning how the Bucs were managing to do the things they were doing while being successful.
As the Buccaneers would continued their season, they went into a free fall losing six of the next seven games.
After their bye week in Week 5, the Bucs would lose four consecutive games all in different ways. In Week 6, they would be shut down by the Detroit Lions, losing 20-6. The following week, in Week 7, Younghoe Koo, kicked three field goals, one of which put the Falcons ahead as time expired, giving the Falcons the win. In Week 8, the Bucs went toe-to-toe with an AFC title contender. They faced the Bills on the road. Surprisingly, the game never got out of hand with the Bucs down just two touchdowns heading into the final quarter.
Mayfield would find Mike Evans early in the fourth quarter and get the two-point conversion. However, after that, the Bucs would not be able to get the ball into the end zone. The final play would be a very close Hail Mary that ultimately failed and went through receiver Chris Godwin‘s hands in the end zone. The Bills would win 24-18.
The final game of the 4-game losing skid was at the Houston. This game was very different from the previous three. The Bucs got into a shootout with the Texans and their rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud. It came down to a matter of 49 seconds. The Buccaneers would take the lead on a touchdown with just 49 seconds left. Unfortunately, that was enough for C.J. Stroud who would toss a touchdown to Tank Dell 39 seconds later, giving the Texans the 39-37 win.
The Buccaneers had a strong ending to the 2023 season winning five of their next six and pushing their way into the playoffs as the 4-seed.
The Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers game in Raymond James was the first game in December. Whether it was because it was a divisional rival or something else, this game was significantly closer than anyone expected. The Bucs walked away with the win 21-18, but don’t let Bucs fans fool you and say they weren’t a little nervous.
After going to Atlanta and getting revenge from the earlier season loss, the Bucs went to Green Bay to face the Packers. The Packers were just getting to be the Packers that we would see in the playoffs, but they still weren’t there just yet. Baker Mayfield would throw for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns, easily having the best game of the season and perhaps career with a perfect passing rating. the only other quarterback to do that at Lambeau was Aaron Rodgers, who now plays for the New York Jets.
The Bucs would finish out the season routing the Jaguars 30-12, losing their home game against the Saints and winning another tight one against the Panthers (which put them into the playoffs). It would take three Chase McLaughlin field goals that would send the Bucs into the playoffs.
While Analysts thought the Buccaneers would be “One and Done”,
Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers had other ideas.
The Bucs took on the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs, hosting them in Tampa due to Tampa’s status as division champion. The Eagles seemed almost uninterested in playing as with Bucs crushed the Eagles, giving the fans something to cheer about.
While the Buccaneers would lose in the next round to Detroit Lions (everyone’s Cinderella story), it would be a close game and something that the Bucs can build on for next year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Baker Mayfield was named Pro Bowl games offensive MVP.
Bucs and Baker have mutual interest in a long-term deal. The team even brough in an OC that Baker was comfortable with the Rams. pic.twitter.com/cpb0NqNcWr
— NFL Rumors (@nflrums) February 5, 2024
As the Buccaneers season is now over, we now look to the offseason and who the Bucs will look to bring back. Some major key players are going to be free agents including Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tristan Wirfs.
It seems the Bucs already make move to keep their quarterback as Dave Canales left to be the Panthers head coach. They have hired Mayfield’s old offensive coordinator during his time at this Rams, Liam Coen to replace Canales, in hope of keeping Mayfield. Mike Evans is a key target for the Bucs as Mayfield has verbalized publicly that he wants Evans back on the Bucs should he also return. As Chris Godwin will still be contracted for another year, it could be very beneficial for the Bucs to lock up both Mayfield and Evans for a strong offense.
Mayfield has also grown closer to the guy who keeps his backside free and that is Tristan Wirfs. Since his rookie season, analysts have known that he will be quite special. With Wirfs and Winfield Jr., it is a matter of how the Bucs are able to pull off getting their big players back, and who will be left out.
For the Buccaneers, the window really had always been open. They did win it in 2020. They have the ability to do so and could again if they all the pieces fall in the right places. As long as they draft well, that will continue to be the case.