Baker Mayfield Trade Rumors: Panthers Have 'Inside Track' for Browns QB Before Draft

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 16, 2022

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 25: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks to pass during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 25, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Browns 24-22. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are reportedly the top candidate to land Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield via trade.

According to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, "several" teams have shown interest in Mayfield, but the Panthers have the "inside track."

It is now a matter of when rather than if the Browns trade Mayfield, as they made the decision to move on from him last month when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans.

There is perhaps no team in greater need of an offensive signal-caller than the Panthers, as their quarterback depth chart is currently comprised of Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker.

Carolina could take a quarterback such as Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder or Matt Corral with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, but even then, they may prefer an upgrade over Darnold.

The Panthers acquired Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets prior to the 2021 season in hopes that he could unlock some untapped potential, but that didn't happen.

In 12 games, including 11 starts, Darnold went 4-7 and completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Mayfield wasn't great in his own right last season, which is likely what emboldened the Browns front office to make a change under center.

The 27-year-old former No. 1 overall draft pick went 6-8 in 14 starts and completed 60.5 percent of his attempts for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Mayfield battled an injury to his non-throwing shoulder for much of the season, which required offseason surgery, so the hope for whichever team acquires him is that he will be much improved in 2022.

Even with last season's poor performance, Mayfield has accomplished far more than Darnold in the NFL, particularly in 2020 when he threw 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions and led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff appearance since 2002.

While Mayfield would likely be an upgrade over Darnold, there has already been some internal resistance to the idea of acquiring Mayfield in Carolina.

On Friday, Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson responded, "Nooooo" to a post on Instagram about Carolina possibly trading for Mayfield.

Given that Anderson has played with Darnold as a member of both the Panthers and Jets, it is possible that he doesn't want to see his quarterback get shuffled out.

As for Mayfield, Carolina would likely represent the best possible opportunity for him in 2022, as it would give him the best chance to start and surround him with weapons such as running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers Anderson, D.J. Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr.

If the Panthers decide against acquiring Mayfield, however, he may be forced to settle for a backup job next season.