The Carolina Panthers have the “inside track” to land Baker Mayfield, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. The Cleveland Browns have been trying to trade the embattled quarterback since they acquired former Houston Texan quarterback Deshaun Watson back in March. They have also since added Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs to serve as the backups to Watson.
Thus far, a market for Mayfield has yet to materialize. This has caused speculation that the team might be forced to cut Mayfield. This is because most of the teams who needed a quarterback after the season have already found one. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky, the Denver Broncos traded for Russel Wilson, the New Orleans Saints resigned Jamies Winston and brought in Andy Dalton, the Washington Commanders traded for Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts traded for Matt Ryan.
The Panthers are one of the few teams who went into this off-season looking to upgrade their quarterback position, but have yet to find a suitable replacement for Sam Darnold. The team acquired Darnold from the New York Jets prior to last season for three draft picks, but were left unsatisfied by his performance. Darnold went 4-7 last season and threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (nine).
Darnold and Mayfield were both taken within the top three picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. If the Panthers were to acquire Mayfield without finding a trade partner to take Darnold, then they’d set to pay almost $40 million combined for two quarterbacks who were replaced by their original teams. Both quarterbacks are set to make around $18 million each on their fifth-year option and the amount is fully guaranteed.
The Browns could renegotiate Mayfield’s contract to help lower the cap hit prior to trading him, most likely accomplished by adding voidable years. It’s unlikely the Browns find a trade partner with Mayfield’s current cap hit, which has led to the rumors that the team might be forced to cut him.
If the Panthers were to trade for Mayfield then they’d have quarterbacks taken within the top three picks just five years ago. There’s still potential to be had in that quarterback room, especially for Mayfield who only a year ago led the Browns to their first playoff appearance in over a decade. It’s easy to forget how great Mayfield was in 2020 after his awful injury-riddled 2021 season, but in 2020 he went 11-5 and threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
The potential of Mayfield could cause the team to pass on taking a quarterback with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Currently, the team has been heavily linked to University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett in the NFL Draft. They are expected by many to take either him or Liberty’s Malik Willis. Acquiring Mayfield lowers the chance of the Panthers taking a quarterback, which increases the likelihood that one of the draft’s top quarterback prospects falls to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20.
A Mayfield trade could also lead to some division in the locker room as star wide receiver Robby Anderson spoke out against Mayfield just yesterday. Anderson commented “Nooooo,” on an Instagram post that suggested that the Panthers were the favorites to acquire Mayfield and later commented “Facts” on another post that said that Anderson didn’t want Mayfield on the team.
It was ESPN’s Ian Rapoport that said that the Panthers were most likely to acquire Mayfield yesterday, but one of Rapoport’s colleagues said the team had no interest in Mayfield. This is similar to an instance earlier in the off-season when Mayfield was linked to the Colts as he said that was his preferred destination which led to the Colts reportedly denying any interest in Mayfield and later acquired Ryan. The Seattle Seahawks have also been linked to Mayfield, but that has mostly been due to the fact that they need a quarterback and that he wants to be traded.