The Carolina Panthers are adding a new quarterback to their depth chart, as they are sending a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Baker Mayfield. According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, the fifth-round pick can convert to a fourth-rounder based on playing time.
NFL Network reports the Panthers and Browns will also split the money Mayfield is owed in 2022. Money was always an issue in trade negotiations, as Mayfield was due a fully guaranteed $18.85 million in the final year of his rookie deal. The Browns will pay Mayfield $10.5 million in 2022 while the Panthers will pay about $5 million. Mayfield also reportedly agreed to take about a $3.5 million pay cut.
The former No. 1 overall pick has been searching for a change of scenery ever since the Browns won the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. The Panthers were long considered to be one of the favorites to land Mayfield, and they have swung a deal for him just weeks before training camp. Interestingly enough, Carolina opens the season against Cleveland in Charlotte.
Jonathan Jones reported just last month that the Panthers were operating with urgency to get a deal done for Mayfield. Per SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh, the Panthers are 0.7 wins better with Mayfield under center compared to last year’s starter Sam Darnold. Carolina should have a 1.3% better chance to win the division and a 4.4% better chance to make the playoffs.
The Oklahoma product threw for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 14 games played last year for the Browns, going 6-8 as the starter while fighting through multiple injuries. Mayfield seemed able to read the writing on the wall even before Watson chose Cleveland. In April, he told the “Ya Never Know” podcast that he felt disrespected by his team with how everything went down.
“I feel disrespected,” Mayfield said. “A hundred percent. Because I was told one thing, and they completely did another. That’s what I’m in the middle of right now. … I’m just looking for stabilization right now.
“I really, truly, honestly have no regrets of my time in Cleveland of what I tried to give to that place. And true Clevelanders and true Browns fans know that. And that’s why I can walk away from the whole situation feeling like: I did it.”
Mayfield joins a depth chart that is headed by Darnold, who was acquired via trade last offseason from the New York Jets. The Panthers now have two of the top three picks from the 2018 NFL Draft. Carolina also drafted Matt Corral out of Ole Miss in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and have former XFL standout P.J. Walker on a one-year deal.
It remains to be seen if Mayfield will be the long-term answer in Carolina, but Matt Rhule and Co. hope that he’s at least an automatic upgrade from their quarterback play in 2021.