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Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold to Have Open Competition for Panthers' Starting QB Job

Erin WalshJuly 12, 2022

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers' acquisition of Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns doesn't guarantee he will enter Week 1 as the team's starting quarterback.

Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer told reporters Tuesday that Mayfield and Sam Darnold will engage in a quarterback competition in training camp.

"This is an open competition. The reason why we added Baker is to make the group better as a whole," Fitterer said.

Mayfield said Tuesday that he's ready for a fresh start and is looking forward to competing against Darnold for the starting job:

"Sam reached out, got my number first. We've been talking about how to get the guys together the last minute before camp. It's been great. Sam just wants to win. That's just who he is. Our personalities might be different, but that doesn't mean we don't have the same goal, and that's to win and help this team out.

"I'm really looking forward to being in that room with him and just challenging each other, and elevating each other."

The Panthers acquired Mayfield from the Browns last week in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2024. Cleveland had been trying to trade the veteran after he requested a trade just before the franchise acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans.

Mayfield had inconsistencies in his four-year tenure with the Browns, who selected him first overall in the 2018 NFL draft out of Oklahoma. During the 2021 campaign, he completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards and 17 touchdowns against 13 interceptions in 14 games.

However, he played most of the season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder suffered in Week 2.

He played better than Darnold, though, who missed five games with his own shoulder injury in 2021. The former New York Jet completed just 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and Carolina went 4-7 in his 11 starts.

When the Panthers acquired Darnold from the Jets ahead of the 2021 season, they thought he could revive his career in Carolina, but he has shown little sign of improvement, leading the franchise to seek other options like Mayfield.

Both Darnold and Mayfield are entering the final season of their rookie contracts, which should provide motivation in their quarterback competition this summer.

But even if Mayfield wins the starting job, it's unlikely the Panthers would be willing to negotiate a contract extension with the veteran so close to the season.

Fitterer said Tuesday the franchise will "make decisions based later in the season, whether it's November or December. At that point, once there's a track record behind him in this offense and this organization."

That said, Mayfield may not want to discuss an extension. If he performs well in 2022, he might receive more money in free agency than he would have in an extension.

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