Baker Mayfield

Panthers Name Baker Mayfield Starting QB

The Panthers have been holding an open competition for their starting quarterback spot throughout training camp, and the winner of that battle has been named. The team announced on Monday that Baker Mayfield will occupy the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. 

That news comes as little surprise, given the team’s acquisition of the former Heisman winner in July. Mayfield, especially if healthier than last season, should represent a significant upgrade over incumbent Sam Darnold. It became clear in the aftermath of the deal that Panthers’ preference was to bring in Mayfield much earlier in the offseason; the delay gave Darnold a temporary edge given his knowledge of the team’s offense, but things began to change quickly.

Two weeks ago, it became clear that Mayfield was distancing himself as the clear-cut top option under center. Today’s confirmation comes after he played just one series so far in the preseason, but showcased enough in doing so to point to the consistent level of play at the position Carolina has been looking for, as noted by SI’s Albert Breer. NFL Network’s James Palmer tweets that Mayfield will start the team’s final preseason game on Friday.

“When we started this process, we were looking at three things,” head coach Matt Rhule said (via Palmer, on Twitter). “Number one, mastery of the offense, number two, situational football excellence, and number three, moving the ball and getting guys involved. That’s been our focus all along.”

Today’s news also confirms that Mayfield’s Panthers debut will be against the Browns to open the regular season. Cleveland is paying $10.5MM of his fifth-year option salary, a move which was necessary to move on from the former No. 1 pick as the team transitions to Deshaun Watson. In spite of that, Mayfield is insisting that his focus is not on proving his former team wrong for replacing him.

“It’s not a redemption year,” he said, via ESPN’s David Newton“I know what I’m capable of. I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody else. I’m just trying to lead this locker room the best I can and win a bunch of ball games.”

With the competition settled, Darnold will now be relegated to the backup role after his underwhelming Jets tenure. Carolina has made it clear on multiple occasions, though, that they are not looking to trade him. As unsurprising as today’s announcement is, it marks another disappointing chapter in his NFL career. Nonetheless, the Panthers are set at the most important position in advance of a season where a significant improvement is desperately needed.

Baker Mayfield To Start Panthers Preseason Opener

It sounds like Baker Mayfield is getting the first crack at the Panthers’ starting QB gig. The team announced that their offseason acquisition will start today’s preseason opener against the Commanders.

[RELATED: Baker Mayfield Moving Ahead In Panthers QB Race]

Mayfield and teammate Sam Darnold have been alternating first-team snaps throughout training camp, but it will be Mayfield who will get the first look on Saturday. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler expects Mayfield to get one or two series before giving way to Darnold, who will also get one or two series (Twitter link). After that, the Panthers will likely lean on PJ Walker and rookie third-round pick Matt Corral for the rest of the exhibition.

On one side, it’s clearly telling that Mayfield will be playing alongside other definitive offensive starters, and throughout training camp, we’ve been given every indication that the former first-overall pick was in the lead for the starting QB job. However, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington cautions (on Twitter) that we shouldn’t take too much away from today’s game. Rather, the “true barometer” for the competition will come next week when Carolina practices against New England. According to Darlington, people with the team believe the QB decision will be made following that August 19 game against the Patriots.

Head coach Matt Rhule echoed that next week will be essential for the QB competition, noting that it was an “ongoing process” with no clear deadline.

“When we know, we know,” Rhule said (via Darin Gantt of the team’s website). “If we knew for sure, we would say it and just move on with it. When we, we know. Every day brings new evidence. Every day brings new insights. But at the same time, they’re both competitors. If one guy has a strong day, the next guy fights back the next day. I think it’s been healthy for our team. It’s been healthy for the staff. I think it’s been done the right way. I’m pleased with where it’s at.”

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.

[RELATED: Assessing Carolina’s 2022 Offseason]

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.

Latest On Panthers’ QB Situation

The Panthers have one of the league’s only quarterback competitions this summer and plan to draw it out a bit longer. Carolina doesn’t plan on making what head coach Matt Rhule calls a “major decision” on any position battles until after the team’s second preseason game on August 19, according to David Newton of ESPN. This, of course, includes the starting quarterback battle between incumbent Sam Darnold and trade acquisition Baker Mayfield

Darnold’s debut season in Carolina was the worst of his career according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). PFF has consistently graded Darnold among the worst NFL quarterbacks, ranking him 29th, 31st, and 35th in his first three seasons in New York. He continued his downward trajectory ranking as the 36th out of 37 ranked quarterbacks last year, finishing only over Ben Roethlisberger.

Mayfield, on the other hand, graded out very poorly in 2021 (30th out of 37), but has seen success in his healthier seasons in Cleveland, even taking them to the playoffs and earning their first postseason win since the 1994 NFL season in 2020. His career has been a rollercoaster celebrating the ups of his 2018 and 2020 seasons while stomaching the downs of his 2019 and 2021 seasons. Still, that’s two more impressive seasons than his competitor has seen in the NFL and should give him an initial edge.

Mayfield is the expected leader in the race right now based on that past success. The two have split reps on first and second team down the middle this summer, giving both a chance to work with the ones. At some point, though, the Panthers staff is going to want to give somebody more first team reps in preparation to be the Panthers’ starting quarterback for the regular season. Rhule seems to imply that a decision could ultimately be pushed even closer to the start of the season.

“I’m not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from Patriots week,” Rhule explained after today’s scrimmage. “The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are.”

In addition to the QB1 battle, there are a couple of other positions that have battles to be decided after the team’s time in Foxborough. Wide receiver Terrace Marshall is expected to take a big step in his second season and push Robby Anderson for the WR2 spot behind D.J. Moore. The return of cornerback Jaycee Horn presents a logjam atop the depth chart of the position. The Panthers will have to decide if they like Horn or last year’s trade acquisition C.J. Henderson on the outside. If they choose Horn, Henderson will have to compete with Keith Taylor in the slot. In they choose Henderson on the outside, Horn will likely man the slot.

It will be interesting to see how Carolina approaches the third preseason game. The last game of the preseason is traditionally a game full of backups and roster bubble guys as the starters tend to rest in order to prevent injury. If the Panthers are waiting until that game to make crucial depth chart decisions, they may be forced to give the finalized first string some reps together in their last game action before the regular season. Regardless, it sounds like Panthers fans will have to wait until late August to know exactly what the Panthers’ depth chart will look like.

Latest On Baker Mayfield’s Panthers Deal

The Panthers are only responsible for $4.86MM of Baker Mayfield‘s 2022 salary. The Browns are paying $10.5MM. While the recently traded quarterback agreed to a trade-facilitating pay cut, incentives are present in his deal that would allow him to recoup some of his $3.5MM cut.

Team- and statistical-based incentives are present here, with Field Yates of detailing the escalator package Mayfield agreed to with Carolina (Twitter link). Though, most of them are not likely to be earned. The most realistic team-based bump would come if Mayfield plays 75% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps and the team wins 10 games. Additional incentives are in place for Panthers divisional-round wins, a Super Bowl LVII appearance and a Super Bowl win.

If the Panthers rank in the top 10 in total offense (or top five in the NFC), Mayfield would earn $300K, Yates notes. An additional $300K bump would come if the Panthers’ offense ranked in the top 10 (or top five in the NFC) in scoring. Mayfield attempting at least 224 passes and ranking top 10 in the NFL (or top five in the NFC) in completion percentage would result in another $300K bonus. A $500K Pro Bowl incentive also exists here.

Mayfield is 0-for-4 in Pro Bowl invites, leading to the original $18.9MM fifth-year option price tag. He has also not previously ranked in the top 10 in completion percentage in a season, topping out at 24th (63.8) during his 2018 rookie year. The Browns also fell short of the points and yardage thresholds in each of Mayfield’s four seasons, adding to the uphill climb here.

The recently traded QB has banked $32.7MM, through his four-year rookie deal. While it looks like he will have to wait until 2023 to cross the $50MM career-earnings barrier, the trade to Carolina stands to put the ex-Cleveland starter in a better position to cash in on the 2023 open market. The Panthers also have exclusive negotiating rights until next year’s legal tampering period, but GM Scott Fitterer said the team is likely a ways away from going down that road.

NFC South Rumors: Mayfield, Henderson, Jones, Buccaneers

After months of anticipation and speculation, the Panthers finally made the move to acquire Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield via trade. In the 27-year-old’s first press conference for Carolina, the new passer announced that he has “tweaked his throwing mechanics,” according to Anthony Rizzuti of USA Today.

The change in throwing motion is a direct result of the time Mayfield had to miss last year due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

“When it comes to my shoulder…my throwing motion was extremely violent,” Mayfield explained. “I’ve made some small changes and worked with a great QB coach, Jeff Christensen. He’s helped me get back to a form that…I haven’t thrown the ball this well in a long time. And throwing motion looks a little different and I’m thankful for that.”

Here’s a few other rumors from the NFC South, starting with another note out of the Tar Heel state:

  • The Panthers’ cornerback situation was a bit chaotic last year. After drafting Jaycee Horn in the first round of last year’s draft, and subsequently losing him to a right foot injury, Carolina was forced to acquire both C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore via trades. Henderson spent most of his first season with the Panthers adjusting to his second NFL defensive system in as many years in the league. This offseason, though, he’s reportedly begun to show the talent that got him drafted in the first round in 2020, according to ESPN’s David Newton. If Henderson can develop into a consistent starting talent, this would allow defensive coordinator Phil Snow and secondary coach Steve Wilks to have Horn move inside to play more nickel in passing situations, trusting Henderson and starting cornerback Donte Jackson on the outside.
  • Falcons’ defensive mainstay over the past few years, linebacker Deion Jones, will have a bit more than an injury recovery to battle with this offseason, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta experienced an influx of inside linebacker talent this offseason, bringing in veterans Rashaan Evans and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency and drafting rookie Troy Andersen in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Jones will be coming off shoulder surgery and head coach Arthur Smith told Ledbetter that “everybody is going to have to earn a spot” at the position.
  • The Buccaneers will have a lot to figure out in their secondary this offseason, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. The team was able to return starting cornerback Carlton Davis on a three-year deal back in March but has two options battling to start opposite him. Both being in contract years, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting will both be working to try and earn a similar new deal to Davis’. Tampa Bay will operate primarily in a nickel-look defense, meaning all three can be on the field, but when they revert to a base formation either Dean or Murphy-Bunting will have to earn that time. Not to mention, in the off case that one or both struggle at any point, veteran safety Logan Ryan is ready and waiting with his years of cornerback experience in his back pocket.

Latest On Panthers, Baker Mayfield

Now that Baker Mayfield is officially a Carolina Panther, his second NFL team has exclusive negotiating rights with him until the 2023 legal tampering period begins. That window, which closes in mid-March, could be critical not long down the road. For now, the Panthers are not looking at this acquisition through a post-2022 lens.

The Panthers have not discussed an extension with Mayfield, GM Scott Fitterer said Tuesday. Considering Mayfield is being pitted against Sam Darnold in a competition and has barely two weeks to learn OC Ben McAdoo‘s system ahead of training camp, extension talk is premature. The Panthers also helped sell the idea of a $3.5MM pay cut to Mayfield by pointing out how he can up his free agency stock after a year in Charlotte.

We’ll let it play out throughout the season and we’ll make decisions later in the season whether it’s November or December, once there’s a track record behind [Mayfield] in this offense and this organization,” Fitterer said, via David Newton of “… I just want to take it short term for now.”

Mayfield was connected to an extension worth more than $30MM per year in 2021, but he and the Browns tabled those talks. A disastrous 2021 campaign led to Mayfield’s value plummeting and the Browns moving to replace him. The former No. 1 overall pick will make more than $15MM this season, but the Panthers are responsible for only $4.86MM. That said, incentives could bump that number up by a few million.

Mayfield, 27, is expected to be the Panthers’ next starting quarterback. His beating out Darnold would put the latter in limbo. The Panthers cut Cam Newton and traded Teddy Bridgewater, eating some of the latter’s contract to move him. Carolina has seen considerable turnover at the game’s most important position.

Darnold, 25, is due $18.9MM fully guaranteed — a figure north of Mayfield’s, now that the former Heisman winner has taken a pay cut — and that number would be a non-starter for teams eyeing Darnold in a trade. The Panthers are not planning to move Darnold, Fitterer said (via The Athletic’s Joe Person, on Twitter). No trade calls have come. The Panthers now have Mayfield, Darnold, P.J. Walker and Matt Corral under contract.

Among Browns coaches and front office staffers, Mayfield support had waned, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin. The fallout from the Odell Beckham Jr. trade and the “adult in the room” comment that surfaced just before the Browns’ controversial Mayfield-to-Deshaun Watson switch indicated the four-year starter was wearing out his welcome in Cleveland. When asked about the “adult in the room” comment, Fitterer said Tuesday “a lot of people” among the Panthers went to bat for Mayfield, via’s Jake Trotter (on Twitter).

The Panthers and Browns haggled over Mayfield’s salary split for several weeks, despite Fitterer and Matt Rhule wanting the QB to be a Panther by the team’s minicamp. During the draft, the Browns were believed to be willing to pay just more than $3MM of Mayfield’s salary. They ended at $10.5MM. Those April negotiations also appear to have featured a better draft pick coming Cleveland’s way, per Fitterer, whose team backed out of those mid-draft talks and traded up for Corral. The sides ended up agreeing on compensation that will either be a 2024 fourth- or fifth-round pick.

The draft pick compensation came first in order for us to talk to Baker and kind of take that next step,” Fitterer said Tuesday (h/t Yardbarker). “We had to work with Cleveland to figure out what the right number was. Obviously, we talked to Cleveland during the draft — those things have gotten out — the compensation was higher at that point.

Now that it changed with Matt Corral being added to the group, us going through the spring and Sam playing really well throughout the spring, we just didn’t have that urgency to necessarily go out there and add someone right away. So we worked through that compensation, we reached that [fifth-round pick] going into a [fourth-rounder] in two years, and we thought that was fair.”

Panthers QBs Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold In “Open” Competition

As many expected, the Panthers finalized a trade sending Baker Mayfield to Carolina last week. The former No. 1 pick is expected to represent an upgrade over last year’s top quarterback, but he could be named the starter only after the remainder of the offseason. 

In a press conference, general manager Scott Fitterer announced that Mayfield and Sam Darnold will take part in an “open competition,” as detailed by Joe Person and Larry Holder of The Athletic. Fitterer further described the circumstances now surrounding the team’s QB room as being “a very healthy situation.”

The Panthers were consistently linked to Mayfield this offseason, in large part due to Darnold’s struggles in his first year in Charlotte. The 25-year-old put together a 4-7 record, completing less than 60% of his passes and throwing more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (nine). Mayfield struggled last season as well during an injured-plagued campaign, but if healthy, he would profile as having more upside given some of his past performances in Cleveland.

Nevertheless, Person tweets that Fitterer expects the snaps during training camp to be split in a “fairly even” manner. Part of the reason for that could of course be Mayfield’s late arrival; the Panthers wanted to get the trade done before minicamp. To that point, Person adds that the team set an internal deadline of July 5 to finalize the swap (Twitter link). Mayfield will be playing catch-up relative to Darnold especially in the early stages of camp, but he has already begun preparing himself for the competition to win out the starting job.

“I want to be a starter, I want to be a franchise-level quarterback for years, and hopefully, it’s here in Charlotte,” he said, via the team’s website“And I want a level playing field, and I want to elevate the guys around me and be the best version of myself… I know it’s not going to be easy by any means, I’ve got to go earn it, but I’m looking forward to the competition and the challenge.”

When camp opens up later this month, this positional battle could be one of the Panthers’ top storylines to watch.

Panthers HC, GM Wanted Baker Mayfield At Team’s Minicamp

The Browns and Panthers engaged in trade talks for Baker Mayfield for nearly three months, and although the expected result finally emerged this week, Matt Rhule and Carolina GM Scott Fitterer wanted it to happen sooner.

Prior to Mayfield accepting a $3.5MM pay cut, with the possibility of recouping that money through incentives, the Panthers wanted the fifth-year quarterback to reduce his fully guaranteed salary by $7MM, Joe Person and Zac Jackson of The Athletic report (subscription required). Although this component of the trade caused a delay, both Rhule and Fitterer wanted this trade to be completed before the Panthers reported for minicamp.

Mayfield arriving ahead of Carolina’s minicamp would have given him more time to begin learning new OC Ben McAdoo‘s playbook, and the four-year Browns starter being at Panther minicamp obviously would have begun his competition with Sam Darnold earlier. Panthers owner David Tepper, however, was determined not to overpay for a “depressed asset,” with Person and Jackson adding the fifth-year Panthers owner being “dug in” led to Mayfield remaining with the Browns during minicamp time.

Mayfield recently expressed frustration the Browns did not trade him ahead of minicamp, but it is now known he was aware of the situation involving the Panthers when making those comments. The Browns are covering $10.5MM of his salary; the former Heisman winner is on the Panthers’ payroll at $4.86MM. While it should be expected Mayfield prevails in his upcoming competition with Darnold, the latter has a several-month head start in McAdoo’s offense — including on-field work at OTAs and minicamp. Mayfield has shown far more than Darnold on the field, and while that might win out, the timing of this trade did not do the newcomer any favors.

Carolina’s hopes at a $7MM pay cut became a non-starter for Mayfield, but Person and Jackson note the quarterback’s agent and Panthers VP of football administration Samir Suleiman worked out the $3.5MM incentive package. That made the 27-year-old passer more amenable to reducing the fully guaranteed $18.9MM salary.

The Browns initially sought a Day 2 pick for Mayfield — an asking price similar to the 49ers’ early Jimmy Garoppolo goal — and did hold talks with other teams about the quarterback, but the Panthers were the only serious suitor. The Colts, whom Mayfield eyed after the Browns entered the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, quickly landed Matt Ryan. The Seahawks did not make a “real trade inquiry,” per The Athletic.

Baker Mayfield Fallout: Panthers, Browns, Garoppolo, Darnold, Draft, Salary, Seahawks

Wednesday’s Baker Mayfield trade came after months of negotiating. It appears the mid-June ramp-up in Browns-Panthers talks led to an agreement fairly soon after, but the ball fell into the quarterback’s court. Mayfield agreeing to trim $3.5MM from his salary satisfied the Panthers.

The teams had this deal in place for nearly a month, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones and former Browns GM Michael Lombardi (Twitter links). In pitching the slight pay cut to Mayfield, the Panthers pointed to the potential for the former No. 1 overall pick making up the difference by boosting his value for the 2023 free agent market, Jones adds. Mayfield, who was attached to an $18.9MM salary, can also earn back the money through 2022 incentives. Mayfield follows Odell Beckham Jr. in sacrificing some money to facilitate a Browns exit.

The interest in this interconference trade notwithstanding, David Newton of adds the deal will still precede a Mayfield-Darnold competition. Mayfield will be favored to win a training camp contest against incumbent Sam Darnold, who was chosen two picks after him in the 2018 draft. As for the conditional draft choice the Browns will receive, Mayfield’s former team will need to root for him to beat out Darnold. The pick will upgrade to a 2024 fourth-rounder if Mayfield plays at least 70% of the Panthers’ snaps, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Otherwise, it will become a fifth.

This battle’s winner will take the reins of a Panthers team that could feature a much better offensive line — one that added left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, center Bradley Bozeman and guard Austin Corbett, whom the Browns chose one round after Mayfield in 2018 — compared to its 2021 version and a receiving corps of D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson and 2021 second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. The prospect of a healthy Christian McCaffrey has taunted the Panthers and their fanbase for two years now, but the former All-Pro running back is returning to his spot as well. Mayfield appears to be planning to gather Panthers skill players for a pre-camp workout, Newton tweets.

At the draft, the Browns were not prepared to pay much more than $3MM of Mayfield’s salary. They ended up moving to $10.5MM. The Panthers did not want to cough up more than $5MM for Mayfield,’s Albert Breer tweets, leading to the pay-cut request. But the Panthers managed to add a former No. 1 pick, resisting the temptation to reach for one of this year’s QB prospects with the No. 6 choice — which became Ekwonu.

While Mayfield’s pay cut and the Panthers agreeing to cover part of the cost saves the Browns upwards of $8MM in cap space, this still could mark a massive descent for Cleveland’s quarterback position — for 2022 at least. The Browns have gone from a 2022 reality of deploying a healthier Mayfield to trotting out Deshaun Watson — after a short suspension — to facing the prospect of Jacoby Brissett being needed for a full season of QB1 work. The Browns did not foresee a season-long Watson suspension — which has become the NFL’s preferred ban — when they traded for him, and neither they nor Mayfield appeared to make inroads toward repairing the relationship.

As previously noted, a Jimmy Garoppolo trade was not in play for the Panthers. They had expressed reservations about the 49ers QB’s injuries and, based on the extensive haggling over Mayfield’s contract, were not taking on Garoppolo’s $24.2MM salary. Carolina viewed Mayfield as a higher-floor option than Garoppolo, per Charles Robinson of (on Twitter). Wednesday’s transaction cost Garoppolo, who has dealt with more injuries than Mayfield over the past four seasons, a prime landing spot. The 49ers may now need to wait on a training camp injury to unload Garoppolo in a trade. Certain NFL evaluators have expected San Francisco to simply release Garoppolo, whose base salary becomes guaranteed in Week 1.

Seattle would make sense as a Garoppolo destination, but chatter out of the Pacific Northwest continues to center around the ongoing Drew LockGeno Smith competition. The Seahawks had “lukewarm interest” in acquiring Mayfield, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times notes. Although the Browns going from Mayfield to Brissett represents a downgrade, the Seahawks moving from Russell Wilson to either Lock or Smith would surpass that. The Broncos giving up their 2023 first- and second-round picks gives the Seahawks options next year — what is expected to be a better quarterback draft — but the team appears on the doorstep of giving Wilson’s old job to a highly scrutinized passer.