In the end, Baker Mayfield’s saga in Cleveland will come to an end: He will join the Carolina Panthers.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday that the Browns and Panthers have agreed to a trade that sends Mayfield to Carolina in exchange for a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick (which can become a fourth-round selection).
A physical inspection of the vehicle is still pending. Carolina subsequently made the acquisition public.
A reported $10.5 million salary for Mayfield will save Cleveland more than $8 million in cash and salary-cap space this season. A fifth-year quarterback in Carolina can expect to earn around $5 million per year.
As part of the deal, Mayfield agreed to a $3.5 million pay cut, but he still has the opportunity to earn back the money he gave up in incentives.
Cleveland selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. The Browns’ pursuit of and eventual acquisition of Deshaun Watson shifted the trajectory of Mayfield’s tenure away from marriage.
During the Browns’ efforts to get a deal done with Watson, Mayfield became disgruntled and requested a trade soon after Watson had ruled out the team.
The Mayfield era in Cleveland was all but over when Watson decided to switch teams and sign with the Browns.
With little leverage in trade negotiations, the Cleveland Browns kept Mayfield on their roster and away from their training facility while waiting for an acceptable offer to come in.
This week, they received a similar offer. On a nearly identical rookie contract, Mayfield joins fellow 2018 top-three pick Sam Darnold in Carolina.
As their contracts come to an end, Mayfield and Darnold will be owed a combined salary-cap space of approximately $18,858 million. Adding Mayfield to the mix reduces that figure to around $5 million, while also putting the future of Sam Darnold in question.
When the Panthers traded for Darnold in 2021, they thought he was a reclamation project, but he didn’t live up to expectations. Last year’s struggles with multiple injuries prompted the Browns to look elsewhere for a quarterback before they traded Mayfield to Carolina.
As of this writing, Mayfield appears to be the Panthers’ reclamation project for the upcoming season of 2022.
Mayfield had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and a fractured shoulder, and he’ll have one season to show he can do what Darnold couldn’t: succeed as a starting quarterback.