Previously mentioned as being uninterested in Baker Mayfield, the Panthers look to be reversing course. Carolina now has the inside track to acquire the disgruntled quarterback from Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.
During his much-discussed podcast appearance this week, Mayfield mentioned the Seahawks as his most likely destination. But the former No. 1 overall pick was unsure, as his offseason has now seen him drift into limbo following the Browns’ Deshaun Watson trade. A Panthers deal would be interesting. Not only has Mayfield been reported to be unenthused about playing with Carolina, Robby Anderson recently tweeted he would not be excited about such a deal. During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport also mentioned the Panthers as the most likely Mayfield team (video link).
Carolina, however, makes sense as a Mayfield suitor. Matt Rhule is on the hot seat, and GM Scott Fitterer said the team will likely have to compromise its board to draft a quarterback at No. 6. Mayfield would give the Panthers an instant starter, one who would likely be an upgrade on every Panthers QB situation since before injuries derailed Cam Newton‘s career. It would also pair Mayfield with Sam Darnold, giving the Panthers an interesting setup featuring the first two QBs drafted in 2018. Like Mayfield, Darnold is tied to a fully guaranteed fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM).
While it would seem Mayfield lacks options at this point, Cabot adds the fifth-year passer has “several” interested teams. The Seahawks would seemingly be in this mix. Others certainly would if the Browns cut him, but they are not expected to do so. A trade is tentatively expected to be completed by the draft. Otherwise, Mayfield’s market could shrink further, with certain teams set to make seminal QB decisions in the first and second rounds.
The Browns hope to resolve their newly awkward QB situation soon, rather than carry Mayfield on their roster deep into the offseason. It seems he will beat Jimmy Garoppolo to the transaction wire. It will be interesting if the Panthers or another team convinces the Browns to take on part of Mayfield’s salary. The Browns doing so would stand to increase the level of trade compensation.
These Mayfield rumblings come after the Panthers completed a busy week of quarterback evaluations. They hosted six QB prospects this week, and buzz around the league is pointing to a Carolina QB choice. It would not be out of the question for Carolina to acquire Mayfield and use its first-round pick on a passer, the likelier scenario would be the team trading for Mayfield and either taking a non-QB in Round 1 or trading the pick. Lacking any picks in Rounds 2 and 3, the Panthers have discussed moving down with a few teams.