Baker Mayfield Moving Ahead In Panthers QB Race

When the Panthers completed their months-long Baker Mayfield negotiations with the Browns, the expectation was he would beat out 2018 draft classmate Sam Darnold. That path may be starting to form.

It has become fairly clear this is Mayfield’s job to lose, Ian Rapoport of notes (video link). Although Darnold has shown competency during camp,’s Mike Garafolo adds Mayfield’s higher ceiling — which has begun to show itself at camp, via splashier plays — has him pointed toward QB1 duty.

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Darnold has enjoyed a several-month head start on Mayfield in new OC Ben McAdoo‘s offense. Both Matt Rhule and GM Scott Fitterer wanted the Mayfield trade done by minicamp, which obviously would have allowed for the former No. 1 overall pick to begin on-field work sooner. As Mayfield assimilates further, a gap could begin to form. Mayfield’s knowledge of McAdoo’s system going into camp surprised the Panthers, per Garafolo (video link).

Rhule said he will hold off on determining a starter until after the team’s second preseason game (August 19), but if this battle continues its present course, Mayfield should start to see more than the 50-50 snap split as the regular season nears.

This points to a situation in which Mayfield, who took a pay cut from his fifth-year option salary to facilitate a trade to Carolina, starts over a quarterback tied to a bigger contract. Darnold is still attached to his full $18.9MM option salary. That will make the former No. 3 overall pick almost impossible to move. While a quarterback injury could change the thinking here, Darnold is not being shopped, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets.

As is the case with Jimmy Garoppolo, Darnold’s salary would almost certainly need to be reduced in order for him to be moved. Garoppolo has also shown far more than the USC product as a pro. Absent a major injury, no clear path — save for maybe Seattle — would exist to Darnold starting anywhere. No Darnold-Seahawks connections have been made. The team has been connected to Garoppolo, but only in a scenario in which the 49ers release him. If that is the Seahawks’ stance on Garoppolo, it is unrealistic to expect any Darnold trade interest to develop.

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