Baker Mayfield to Carolina Panthers trade could be missing link to playoff berth

Carolina Panthers trade for Baker Mayfield

Quarterback Baker Mayfield is traded to the Panthers — the rumor that Wednesday finally became a reality — may not work. It can fail miserably.

But it’s definitely worth a shot, especially considering the relatively low price the Panthers paid for what’s a one-year lease on the NFL’s key position. It even has a chance to be the move that pushes Carolina to a playoff spot, if the new offensive line is as good as advertised and the defense plays as well as it should.

Mayfield instantly becomes the most dynamic QB quarterback the Panthers have used since Cam Newton. If you are Carolina and get the chance to take such a chance, you should do it, even if this is a short term gamble and not a long term solution. Mayfield, like Sam Darnold, is slated to be an unrestricted free agent by 2023. Taking over from Mayfield three weeks before training camp starts is the kind of audacious/desperate move by a GM in Scott Fitterer and a coach in Matt Rhule pretending their jobs depend on their 2022 record. And it’s appropriate, because they do. .

We all know that Panthers owner David Tepper is okay with pulling the plug on anything he thinks isn’t going well. The now-defunct Rock Hill Training Facility and former Charlotte FC coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, less than halfway through the team’s first season are just two recent examples. And while Tepper has preached patience with the Panthers, in his two seasons in Charlotte, Rhule has gone 5-11 and 5-12 and is on the warm chair.

This year it has to be successful, otherwise someone will go big. Probably two someone – both Fitterer and Rhule, and Rhule is probably on the shorter leash. There is no “Wait until next year” for the Panthers at this point, as no one knows who will be there next year except Carolina’s long-suffering fans, Sir Purr and the statue of Sam Mills.

Mayfield only cost Carolina a fifth-round parole in 2024 and $4.858 million in a salary cap in 2022, with Cleveland taking $10.5 million from Mayfield’s original 2022 contract and Mayfield agreeing to pay off another $3.5 million. to get the deal done. The deal will not be finalized until Mayfield passes his physical Thursday afternoon, but there are not expected to be any problems there.

If Mayfield plays about 70% of Carolina’s offensive snaps in 2022, the 2024 draft pick Carolina sent to Cleveland will be a fourth round instead of a fifth, a source with direct knowledge of the deal said. The three sides — Cleveland, Carolina and the Mayfield camp — had split about a million dollars in the past week, and all three came to a compromise at the end to get the financial part done.

The capital issued by the Panthers was cheap for a QB starting out, which is certainly what Mayfield should be. His ascent to the first team may not come before the suddenly symbolic Browns/Panthers season opener in Charlotte on September 11, given Sam Darnold’s lead in learning the system from Carolina’s new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. But it is inevitable.

Darnold has been worse than Mayfield in just about every statistical way since the two joined the league in 2018 (Mayfield as No. 1 pick, Darnold as No. 3), and you don’t trade for Baker Mayfield to let him sit at long on the Bank. The Panthers can call this a game whatever they want; Mayfield will eventually earn the job, somehow. But there are no plans to trade Darnold either.

Deshaun Watson v. Baker Mayfield

Mayfield wanted to leave Cleveland, of course, as the Browns made the morally abhorrent decision to trade for QB Deshaun Watson and then give him the most player-friendly contract in NFL history, despite the fact that the NFL will likely have Watson for a long time. will suspend. because of his inappropriate behavior during massage sessions.

The Panthers also went out of their way to get a hold of Watson, which was also morally repugnant. But at least they’ve ended up on the better side of this deal, with the player replacing Watson rather than Watson himself.

I mistakenly suspected that the flirtation with Mayfield would never reach the marriage stage for the Panthers, but here we are. By September, a crowded Panthers QB room will likely be sifted to Mayfield, Darnold and rookie third-round draft pick Matt Corral, who is unlikely to see a regular season break this season given the sudden influx of veteran talent. And that’s fine. This had to be a development year for Corral anyway. He may start in 2024 — the Panthers assured Corral on Wednesday that he’s their “long-term future” at quarterback.

Corral formed a swing on the QB position, but Carolina had to take another one. No NFL team gets far without solving the QB squared equation, and the Panthers haven’t come close since Cam Newton had his last good full year in 2017. That was also the last year the Panthers made the playoffs; they have since gone 22-43. Rhule never came close to fix it.

This was a good move for Carolina, just as it’s smart to order two items on a menu if you can afford it; you’re hungry and not at all sure about the first thing you ordered (in this case, Darnold).

McAdoo tore Mayfield in 2018

Carolina’s QB situation hasn’t looked good since midway through the 2018 season, Newton was hit helmet-first in the throwing shoulder by Pittsburgh’s TJ Watt and it all went south. Since then, the Panthers have started with stars like Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater and PJ Walker, Darnold and Newton 2.0 (batteries and long throws not included). And while they’ve all had a few moments, none of them have won consistently.

Mayfield also didn’t win consistently in Cleveland, but he won far more than Darnold with the New York Jets and Carolina. His star power isn’t all that important, but it can’t hurt a Carolina franchise struggling to keep its own fans in their own seats.

Mayfield’s relationship with McAdoo is worth checking out. In 2018, McAdoo told the New York Post that he thought Mayfield was the… sixth best QB in draft. Among his comments were these: “I didn’t see much professional football on his college tape. And if you’re small (Mayfield is listed at 6-foot-1), you have to be able to make up for it somehow, and personality doesn’t. I didn’t think he was a great athlete. This guy is kind of a pocket quarterback who’s small and with small hands, that’s what worries me.”

Four years later, McAdoo and Mayfield will try to revive their own careers, as well as Rhule’s and the Panthers as a whole. No pressure there, right?

But again, it’s worth a try. The Panthers have said all kinds of nice things about Darnold in the off-season, but they clearly don’t trust him enough to hand him the keys.

Mayfield is coming. And if nothing else, life as a Panther fan just got a whole lot more fun.

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