The Carolina Panthers have made the best offer to the Cleveland Browns for the services of quarterback Baker Mayfield and are making an increased push to trade for the Cleveland passer before the end of the team’s mandatory minicamp, which begins on Tuesday.
The Panthers have been connected to Mayfield since the Browns quarterback first hit the market in response to the Browns trade for Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.
The ongoing sexual assault allegations against Watson and the likelihood that he could be suspended have not seemingly stopped Cleveland from shopping Mayfield. He was excused from the Browns’ mandatory minicamp.
According to NFL reporter Dov Kleiman, the sticking point in negotiations between Cleveland and Carolina is the amount of salary that each side will be required to account for.
Playing under the fifth season of his rookie contract, Mayfield is due a fully guaranteed $18.858 million in 2022. The Browns cannot recoup any of that by releasing Mayfield. A trade with the contract as-is would move all of that salary to the acquiring team. It’s likely that Cleveland will be forced convert a part of that salary to a signing bonus, which would stay on the Browns’ salary cap books after a trade.
Sam Darnold is nominally the Panthers’ starting quarterback, though he struggled in his first season in Charlotte in 2021. He was injured and replaced by P.J. Walker and Cam Newton, though neither the journeyman or the past-his-prime starter had better results than Darnold.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Darnold failed to produce in a three-season run as the New York Jets starting quarterback before joining Carolina last offseason.
The Panthers also drafted Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and Corral, who was seen as a borderline first-round pick, could contend for the starting job, as well.
The Panthers are entering their third season with Matt Rhule as head coach and have won five games in each of his first two seasons, putting the pressure on for the team to have more success in 2022.
A trade for Mayfield, as opposed to hoping for a Darnold turnaround or relying on the inexperienced Corral, could help the Panthers get ahead in 2022.