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Baker Mayfield hopes to remain in Tampa alongside Mike Evans: 'We want to get the band back together'

In his introductory media conference last week, new Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Liam Coen said, "I was taught in times of crisis, think players, not plays."

That emphasis of getting the ball to the Buccaneers' best players sounds great in theory, but it's currently held up by the fact that two of Tampa Bay's most important offensive players – quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Mike Evans – are set for free agency.

The Bucs are coming off a successful 9-8 campaign, giving the Lions a run for their money in the Super Wild Card Round, but questions surround the futures of Mayfield and Evans before optimism can be funneled into the 2024 season.

Mayfield spoke with NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano and Daniel Jeremiah from Las Vegas about his future with the Bucs, and he echoed the sentiment of recent reports that Mayfield and Tampa Bay could be set for a reunion after he made the most of his one-year deal there in 2023.

"Obviously, we want to get the band back together," Mayfield said.

But if Mayfield was the lead singer, Evans was the guitarist. Bringing him back feels critical to making things hum again offensively with Coen replacing 2023 coordinator Dave Canales, who left to become the Carolina Panthers' head coach.

For his part, Coen said joining the Bucs was "a no-brainer for me," adding that he'd relish "the opportunity to work with Baker, to get back with him potentially." Coen called Mayfield an "ignitor," having briefly worked with him when Mayfield joined the Rams at the end of the 2022 season, where Coen was on staff.

Mayfield told NFL Network that he's going to take a similar approach to free agency as he did a year ago but that the Bucs remain at the front of the line for his services.

"For me, evaluating it the same way I did going into free agency last year," he said. "Look at the organizations. Who does it the right way? Who's going to put me in the best position to win?

"Obviously, Tampa's got … the upper hand because I've seen it firsthand, so for me, just evaluating that. Understanding where I'm headed in life right now. … I want to win, and that's really important to me to be able to have a chance to win Super Bowls. …"

Mayfield also couldn't hold back his praise of Evans, who caught 79 passes for 1,255 and 13 touchdowns. Evans registered his most receptions since 2016, his most yards since 2018 and his most TD catches since 2019 in a tremendous season.

"I understand where Mike is in his career," Mayfield said. "… He's a huge target. The guy has done it so consistently, 10 years in a row with 1,000 (receiving) yards. Very few people can ever say that. … 

"The guy is unreal. Everyone wanted to put an age on it and say that he's not going to be good anymore, and I think he took it personally."

Mayfield deflected away from his own free agency and put the attention back on Evans, whom Mayfield said belongs with the only franchise Evans has known in the NFL. And Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows where Mayfield stands on Evans.

"So we've both voiced our opinions that we want to be together, but it's got to be the right way," Mayfield said. "Mike deserves to be a Buccaneer for life. He's done so much for that community, so much for the franchise. He's put his time in. I can't say enough about the guy as a player, and just as a guy in general."

Now we have to wait to find out if they'll go back on tour together next fall.

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