The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks reportedly "still haven't ruled out" a trade for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield before the 2022 NFL season.
Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported Friday the situation has been stuck in a "holding pattern" while the Panthers and Seahawks wait to see whether the Browns become more willing to retain a "much greater portion" of Mayfield's $18.9 million salary than offered so far.
Cleveland put itself in a difficult position in March when it completed a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans to acquire Deshaun Watson without finding a new home for Mayfield.
The Browns also signed Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs to fill the reserve roles, and they added undrafted rookie Felix Harper as a developmental option after his strong showing during the team's recent minicamp.
So interested teams realize Cleveland would prefer not to pay a backup in a crowded QB room nearly $19 million, and they're trying to leverage that into the Browns eating a sizable portion of that amount.
The contract's structure also doesn't help because the Browns would receive no salary-cap relief if Mayfield is released, but every dollar not retained in a trade would represent savings under the cap, which is why the trade route is strongly preferred.
Cleveland isn't against retaining some salary, but it wants the "contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return," per Howe. In other words, if it keeps more money in the deal it wants a better return, likely in the form of a higher draft pick.
Both the Panthers and Seahawks could benefit from an upgrade at quarterback for 2022.
Carolina drafted Matt Corral in the third round last month, but he's coming out of a mostly single-read offense at Ole Miss. A year on the sideline learning to read NFL defenses and adjusting to multiple-read offensive concepts would aid his development.
In turn, the Panthers could be staring down another year of Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who combined to throw 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season.
Seattle is heading toward a quarterback competition between Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason. It's unlikely any of them are the long-term answer following the departure of Russell Wilson.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll downplayed the idea of the team making a deal for another QB, though.
"I don't see us making a trade for anybody at all. I don't see that happening," Carroll told reporters in early May. "But we're certainly going to continue to be open to chances to help our club, and meanwhile we're just going to be battling and competing our tails off. There's always possibilities, so we keep open to that."
There aren't any other obvious potential trade partners for Cleveland, and the San Francisco 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo is another veteran signal-caller who could be on the move before the season gets underway in September, which crowds the market.
So the Browns may have no choice beyond keeping a significant portion of Mayfield's salary if they want to get a deal done.