The Carolina Panthers clearly need a starting quarterback. The Cleveland Browns have made it clear that Baker Mayfield will not be their quarterback and that he will be traded. The Panthers have shown interest but are clearly waiting for the Browns to either release Mayfield or agree to pay a high majority of his $19 million salary next season. The teams are playing ‘chicken’ with each other.
It is time for Carolina to blink and take steps to obtain Mayfield. The Panthers want to return to the playoffs. Mayfield has been to the playoffs. He will clearly be an upgrade over Sam Darnold.
Cleveland also needs to blink. The franchise needs more talent and it is hard to find teams historically who win when they pay a player $24 million to not play. Yes, the Browns have said that Mayfield will be their quarterback while free agent signee Deshaun Watson serves his suspension this season.
Jacoby Brissett, whom the Browns signed to a one-year deal in March, will take over as a fill-in starter. Whenever Watson takes the field, he’ll undoubtedly start. The Browns signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension after they acquired him from the Houston Texans in March, but his uncertain short-term future creates some urgency to clear up question marks for the upcoming campaign, which leads me back to Mayfield.
As the primary starter, the 27-year-old helped lead Cleveland to the playoffs and a wild-card road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2020 campaign. Through 60 outings (59 starts), he’s thrown for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions with a 61.6 percent completion rate. Things and numbers Darnold has never seen or recorded.
After his solid 2020 campaign, Mayfield struggled through most of the 2021 season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Still, his numbers were better than Darnold’s (Nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a 59.9 percent completion rate in 11 starts.
If Carolina waits too long, it may lose Baker to Seattle. With Geno Smith and Drew Lock competing for the Seahawks’ starting job, Seattle may push harder for Mayfield if the coaching staff doesn’t like what it sees out of the two unestablished quarterbacks through training camp. Both could also make a pitch for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, though he is coming off recent shoulder surgery.
It’s time for the Browns and Panthers to end their staredown and strike a deal. Mayfield would give Carolina some sort of hope heading into the upcoming season. Each day that passes is another day that Mayfield is not learning an offense.