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.
“Baker’s our starting quarterback, Kyle’s our No. 2,” Bowles said. “We love everything Kyle has done. And he’s gotten leaps and bounds better than he was in the spring and he’s continuing to get better and we’re excited about him. But Baker’s our guy right now — experience-wise and just understanding the playbook just a little bit better. But Kyle’s on the come [up]. But we like both guys. We like where we’re at. Baker’s [No.] 1, Kyle’s [No.] 2.”
Bowles first notified Trask on Tuesday morning, then Mayfield.
“Now I’ve just got to lead like I know how, and the real thing is right around the corner,” Mayfield said. “It’s an exciting time.”
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.
“I expect to be the starter,” Mayfield said. “I know how talented I am. I know what type of leader I am. Now it’s time for the real thing. We’re about to have the real games and everybody’s excited here.”
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.
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.
“All-around — he can throw it, he’s very smart, he understands football very well, he can read defenses, he’s very good for the scheme we’re using — as is Kyle, I’m not denying that either,” Bowles said of Mayfield. “But Baker’s the guy we’re going with right now and we’re comfortable with that.”
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 praised Trask and Wolford and cited a Ben McAdoo quote when describing the quarterback room: “No cannibalism.”
“We need everybody in there to be a part of it and we’re pushing for the same goal — to win games,” Mayfield said. “I’ve been in that spot that Kyle’s in firsthand last year. So it’s all about support. You never know when your chance is going to come. You just have to stay ready and be the same guy for your guys every day.”
Mayfield said he has benefited from the different perspectives Trask and Wolford have provided.
“Kyle’s game is much different than mine. He can stand tall in the pocket and deliver it wherever he wants,” Mayfield said. “And John, just his mental aspect of the game — he can eliminate so quickly and play so fast. Trying to take certain things from those guys — it’s just always great to have just new tools that you can add on and learn from.”
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.
It is not a lawsuit, but attorneys have requested that defendants turn over financial records from 2018 to 2023 to see where the money has gone. Of the six defendants named in the suit, two — Camwood Capital Management Group and Camwood Ventures — were founded by Mayfield’s father, James Mayfield. His brother Matt also works for the firm.
Speaking for the first time since the court filing, Mayfield said, “I’ll say this: It’s been a long time coming for that,” Mayfield said. “I’m not going to comment on any details. But yeah, I’ve been dealing with that stuff for years now. So mentally I’m in a much better headspace, so ready to roll.”