Baker Mayfield‘s four-year run in Cleveland has reached its end. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the quarterback is heading to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round conditional draft choice in the 2024 NFL Draft.
After weeks of speculation as to the quarterback’s next destination, Carolina wins the bidding war. Although the Seattle Seahawks emerged as a possible destination, Mayfield instead joins a crowded room vying for the top job. Last offseason, the Panthers dealt for New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
Baker Mayfield’s deal comes at a pivotal moment in the offseason. Cleveland’s expected starter Deshaun Watson faces possible discipline stemming from 24 civil suits regarding sexual misconduct. The disciplinary hearing ended last Thursday, but a decision on punishment is unknown.
Baker Mayfield’s Trade Likely Causes Domino Effect on Browns, NFL Offseason
Cleveland remains responsible for $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary in 2022. Carolina will pay its new quarterback roughly $5 million, while the player is preparing to take a $3.5 million pay-cut. Mayfield can reportedly earn the $3.5 million back in on-field incentives. This provides the Browns over $8 million in salary-cap relief.
Mayfield – who underwent a procedure this offseason to clean any lingering damage to his shoulder – remains under contract through the end of the upcoming season. However, upon the season’s end, his rookie deal expires.
Spurned by Cleveland after an injury-plagued season, belief around the league brought potential interest from Seattle front-and-center. However, the team is rallying behind Drew Lock as QB1, labeling the ties to Mayfield in earlier trade rumors grossly overstated. Additionally, the idea of trading away Russell Wilson to later acquire Mayfield in the same offseason didn’t make complete sense.
The trade doesn’t shed much light on the Deshaun Watson disciplinary case. However, the timing is certainly precarious considering the status of any ban remains unknown. Last week, Mayfield said reconciliation was on the table if the Browns required his services.
Cleveland’s willingness to trade Mayfield could reflect the franchise’s attitude toward the eventual outcome of the hearing. But without public knowledge of a decision from disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, it’s impossible to assume.
But the trade – now official pending a physical – also opens the possibility of a ‘revenge game’ much sooner than later.
If named the Week 1 starter for Carolina, the Panthers and Mayfield host… the Cleveland Browns. Indeed, football fans are champing at the bit to crack jokes on behalf of the mess the Browns have created. One Twitter user calls the upcoming match, “Maybe See TV”.