Baker Mayfield Rumors: Browns, Panthers Talk Trade; 'Urgency on Carolina's Side'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 14, 2022

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up before an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. Browns general manager Andrew Berry said Tuesday, Jan. 11 the team expects Mayfield to return as its starter next season and rebound after an injury-filled 2021 that raised questions about his future with Cleveland.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The Carolina Panthers are reportedly making a push to acquire disgruntled quarterback Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns.

According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the Panthers and Browns are holding trade talks focused on Mayfield with the main sticking point being how much of Mayfield's salary the Browns are willing to absorb.

Jones added that Carolina has made Cleveland its best offer yet for Mayfield, and there is a sense of "urgency" on the Panthers' side to get a deal done soon in order to have Mayfield in the fold for part of minicamp.

The Browns essentially turned the page on Mayfield in March when they acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans and gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.

Before the Browns traded for Watson, Mayfield was clearly frustrated by the team even entertaining the idea:

Baker Mayfield @bakermayfield

With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is. <a href="https://t.co/psipN96cmh">pic.twitter.com/psipN96cmh</a>

The Watson trade coupled with the signing of Jacoby Brissett as a backup quarterback in free agency spelled the end of Mayfield's tenure, but things have been slow to develop on the trade front.

There are likely several reasons for that, including negotiations on how Mayfield's $18.9 million 2022 salary will be divvied up, and the fact that the Browns have very little leverage given that teams know they have to part ways with him eventually.

At the same time, the Panthers are lacking leverage to some degree since the Browns are aware of their less-than-ideal quarterback situation.

For now, Sam Darnold is the de facto starter, but that status is tenuous at best given that he finished last season with a 4-7 record as a starter and completed just 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions, marking the second consecutive year in which he had more picks than touchdown tosses.

Behind Darnold is rookie third-round draft pick Matt Corral, who has no shortage of talent but doesn't necessarily have the feel of a day one starter.

Mayfield has his warts as a player, but the 2018 No. 1 overall pick is perhaps the best option the Panthers have right now.

While the 27-year-old struggled to the tune of a 6-8 record, as well as 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season, he played much of the year with an injured non-throwing shoulder that required offseason surgery.

Also, Mayfield isn't far removed from a 2020 season that was the best of his career, as he completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also led the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and to a playoff victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is likely coaching for his job this season after going 10-23 in his first two campaigns, and he needs a quarterback who can best utilize running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Mayfield has had his ups and downs over the course of his career, but the numbers say he is a significantly better option than Darnold.