One of the biggest quarterback shoes left to drop in the NFL this offseason finally happened Wednesday, as the Cleveland Browns traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers.
With Mayfield moving on to the next chapter of his career after a messy breakup with the Browns, here are three instant reactions regarding how the deal will impact both teams involved.
Mayfield Is Best QB on Panthers Roster
While it is far from guaranteed that Mayfield will begin the 2022 regular season as Carolina's starting quarterback, he represents the Panthers' best chance at success during the upcoming campaign.
The 27-year-old Mayfield is coming off a tough 2021 season, but he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 and has done some good things during his NFL career.
Mayfield suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder early last season that hampered him, as he completed just 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
It was a far cry from what Mayfield accomplished one year earlier when he went 11-5 as a starter and led the Browns to their first playoff berth since 2002, as well as an AFC Wild Card Round win over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mayfield was also productive during the 2020 regular season, completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and a career-low eight interceptions.
He should be healthy this season after undergoing offseason surgery, and he will have no shortage of quality weapons in running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson.
Mayfield's closest competition is Sam Darnold, who went third overall in the same draft as Mayfield.
Darnold struggled mightily in three seasons with the New York Jets and didn't sniff the playoffs before getting traded to Carolina. With the Panthers last season, Darnold wasn't much better, as he completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions, while going 4-7 as a starter.
Matt Corral, a rookie third-round draft pick, could be the Panthers' quarterback of the future if he harnesses his skill set, but for now, Mayfield by far gives Carolina its best chance to win.
Browns Netted Poor Return for Mayfield
The Browns essentially had no choice other than to trade Mayfield, but based on the way they handled his situation, they fell well short of maximizing his trade value.
Although Mayfield has been a mid-tier starting quarterback at best, he is a former No. 1 overall pick who is just two seasons removed from leading his team to a playoff berth and win.
A quarterback with his credentials would normally net a far bigger return, but the Browns essentially backed themselves in a corner.
By acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans and signing him to a fully guaranteed contract, it basically terminated the team's relationship with Mayfield, who was still under contract.
Every team in the NFL knew at that point that the Browns had to trade Mayfield, so even the teams that were interested in him weren't going to give up much since the Browns had almost no bargaining power.
What that resulted in was the Browns receiving a conditional fifth-round pick two drafts from now, which is an asset that isn't likely to ever make a sizable impact.
It is unclear what the conditions are, but if they are met, the Panthers will likely be happy with the deal. If they aren't, the Browns will get an even lower pick, and the Panthers can move on after this season when Mayfield's contract expires after this season.
The Browns needn't look any further than the Panthers to see what kind of deal they could have gotten for Mayfield had they handled things differently.
Last offseason, the Panthers traded second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks without conditions to the Jets for Darnold. At the time, Darnold was a far less-accomplished NFL quarterback than Mayfield.
The Panthers got Mayfield at a bargain price, and given how little the Browns received in return, it is a trade that could haunt the franchise for years to come if Mayfield finds his footing in Carolina.
Panthers vs. Browns Week 1 is Must-See TV
In a remarkable twist of fate, the Panthers will host the Browns in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL regular season.
The juiciest matchup of all would see Mayfield start for the Panthers and Watson for the Browns, but it promises to be a highly anticipated game regardless.
The only thing possibly preventing Mayfield from being Carolina's starter in Week 1 is the fact that he got traded relatively late in the offseason and only has about a month to get acclimated to the team and playbook before training camp starts.
If he can get up to speed quickly and performs well during the preseason, he has a solid shot to be the Week 1 starter.
Watson's status primarily depends on the NFL and whether it suspends him for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
While Watson reached financial settlements with 20 of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits against him accusing him of sexual assault or misconduct during massage sessions, the NFL can still suspend him under its personal conduct policy.
The decision should come down soon, and the popular opinion seems to be that Watson will miss at least part of the season.
Even if that is the case and Jacoby Brissett is the Week 1 starter, Mayfield against the Browns is something NFL fans won't want to miss.