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Baker Mayfield Cut by Panthers After Lamar Jackson, Garoppolo Injuries

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVDecember 5, 2022

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Carolina Panthers attempts a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers released quarterback Baker Mayfield on Monday, allowing the veteran quarterback to hit waivers before the stretch run of the regular season.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic reported Mayfield requested his release after being informed he would be the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Sam Darnold and PJ Walker.

Mayfield threw for 1,313 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in seven appearances (six starts) for the Panthers this season. Carolina acquired Mayfield in the offseason in a trade with the Cleveland Browns; releasing him now locks in Cleveland's compensation as a fifth-round pick rather than a potential fourth-rounder.

Releasing Mayfield with only five weeks remaining in the regular season is strange, but the timing is not an accident.

The San Francisco 49ers lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season to a foot injury Sunday, and the Baltimore Ravens are likely looking at a few weeks without Lamar Jackson because of a knee injury.

With the Panthers out of playoff contention and Mayfield not part of the team's future, Carolina released the 2018 No. 1 overall pick to allow him to pursue a chance with a playoff contender. If they were planning to cut him before Sunday's slate of games, they would have done so a week ago heading into the Week 13 bye.

The 49ers are the clearer fit given there is little skill overlap between Jackson and Mayfield, whereas Baker could likely do his best Garoppolo impression down the stretch.

San Francisco's quarterback depth chart consists of seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy and veteran journeyman Josh Johnson. Purdy looked surprisingly solid in relief of Garoppolo in Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins, but it seems unlikely Kyle Shanahan will want the so-called "Mr. Irrelevant" (the last pick of the 2022 draft) to lead the charge for a playoff team.

Mayfield hasn't been a quality starting quarterback in two years, but he's probably a better stopgap option than Purdy. He would also be working with the best coach and group of skill-position players he's had in his career.

One potential wrinkle could see a team claim Mayfield on waivers so the 49ers can't pick him up. That could be a smart strategic move for a fellow playoff contender, especially given Mayfield is only owed $1.4 million for the remainder of the 2022 campaign.