ORLANDO — Baker Mayfield may like the passes that would be called for him next season but he’s just as concerned about whether Mike Evans will be catching them.
The quarterback indicated Friday at Pro Bowl practice that the Bucs hiring Kentucky and former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen is only “Step 1” on a journey to remain in Tampa Bay.
Perhaps just as important to Mayfield would be for the team to re-sign Evans, who like Mayfield is set to become a free agent in March.
“For me, it’s tricky,” Mayfield said of his future plans. “I don’t know. Like I told you guys, I’ve kept it straight-forward and I would love to be back with (Evans), so there’s a lot of contingencies that go into that. Obviously, getting an OC, that helps. That’s Step 1.
“And (Evans) sees that so we can talk to him about it and see his thoughts. But we both have to do what’s best for us. That’s what it comes down to. But, obviously, we would love to play together again.”
Mayfield is coming off his best season in the NFL, having posted career highs with 4,044 yards passing and 28 touchdowns while leading the Bucs to an NFC South title and wild-card win over the Eagles.
But he could not have done any of it without Evans, who had one of his best seasons at age 30. Evans had 79 catches for 1,255 yards and 13 touchdowns, tying the Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill for most in the NFL.
Evans gave the Bucs until the eve of the start of the regular season to reach a contract extension before suspending negotiations.
Hiring Coen, who coached Mayfield for the five games he spent with the Rams in 2022, was an obvious signal that the team is serious about moving forward with the same quarterback.
Mayfield said it was important that the Bucs included him in their pursuit of a new offensive coordinator to take over for Dave Canales, who was hired as the Panthers’ head coach last week.
“It’s important to me,” Mayfield said. “I’ve had so many offensive coordinators to this point, to me it’s, ‘Okay if I do come back, let’s keep the continuity for the other guys, build on what we’ve already grown from and go from there.’ I think that’s just important, especially for the guys up front sticking together and doing that and just the skill positions, guys that can play faster are always better when they don’t have go think and having that system that’s similar is so important.”
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