There’s a very strong chance Baker Mayfield won’t still be a member of the Cleveland Browns after the 2022 NFL Draft is complete. For whatever reason, his trade market has been slow to develop, but that’s expected to change over the next few weeks as teams finalize draft plans. Once the first round of the draft wraps up, most organizations will have a strong sense of who their ideal QB1 will be in 2022.
For some, they could warm up to the idea of Mayfield becoming the answer to that question. Maybe even the Panthers. Which could mean Matt Rhule wants a direct competition, pitting Sam Darnold head-to-head with the 2018 No. 1 overall pick, where the best man wins.
In that line of thought, here are three trade scenarios that send Mayfield to the Panthers.
Browns pay part of Mayfield’s salary, get draft picks
One roadblock to a Mayfield trade is teams don’t want to take on his fully-guaranteed salary for 2022. Franchises may have interest in Mayfield the player, but not Mayfield’s salary.
- Baker Mayfield salary: $18.8 million
The issue for the Panthers is they’ve already previously committed to paying Darnold the same amount when they picked up his fifth-year option after trading for him a year ago. This is why if the Browns offer to cover some of Mayfield’s salary at the time of the trade, the Panthers may be more inclined to talk.
Being willing to pay a portion of the salary will only increase trade offers from interested teams. It comes down to what the Browns value more–draft picks or cap space. Depending on whether they feel Deshaun Watson will be suspended for any part of the 2022 season, the Browns could go either way. Preserving the cap space allows a stronger roster to be built this season, while more draft picks keeps building toward the future, or a push to compete in 2023.
As far as what type of draft picks the Browns can get back in a Mayfield trade, the Panthers don’t currently have much to part with, but trading down from No. 6 while collecting a few more assets could change things. Basically, if the Panthers trade down in the first round, keep an eye out for a Mayfield trade to be announced shortly after, unless they land a QB.
Baker Mayfield, picks head to Panthers
Another potential scenario is one that has the Browns being stubborn, not willing to pay Mayfield’s salary, choosing to unload him while paying a team draft picks to take on his contract. In this case, the Browns may have to package one of their two third-round selections (78 or 99) to coax a team in agreeing to such a trade.
- Baker Mayfield stats (career): 61.6% completion, 14,125 passing yards, 92 passing TD, 56 INT, 29-30 W/L record
Maybe they even tie the compensation into Mayfield’s 2022-23 performance, whether it be based on playing time, wins, or starts. Any trade for Mayfield should likely include some of these provisions as his season could go either way. Still, for a team hoping to add competition to their QB room, Mayfield remains one of the best options available and he won’t cost a team a first-round pick, but he does impact the cap in a fairly large way.
Panthers pay low price to add potentially high-impact player
There’s no telling what a final trade will look like. Since it’s taking so long for the Browns to find a partner, maybe the final price is something minuscule, like a sixth or seventh-round pick, simply to shed his salary and get Mayfield off the roster, avoiding a potentially awkward locker room.
The Panthers or any other team needing another competent QB would likely gladly take on the chance that Mayfield can tap into some of the success he experienced as a rookie for such a low price. For the Browns, they’d still have to pay Mayfield his full $18 million salary even if they release him, so getting anything in return is better than nothing.
Maybe this is what the Panthers, and other teams are waiting on. If all it costs, aside from his contract, is anything resembling a fifth-round or later pick, why not take a low risk on a player who could bring large rewards?