Jonathan Alexander of the Charlotte Observer published an article on May 23 that outlined exactly what broke down in trade negotiations between Cleveland and Carolina and led the Panthers to look instead to Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral. The widespread assumption had always been that the issue came down to money, but just how much money was key.
The Panthers had conversations with the Browns during the draft last month, according to two sources with knowledge of those discussions. But those conversations didn’t get far because the two parties couldn’t agree on the right price.
In a trade, Carolina wanted Cleveland to pay the majority of Mayfield’s $18.9 million guaranteed salary, somewhere in the range of $13-14 million. Those conversations stalled and Carolina traded up to get Corral, who was their favorite quarterback in the 2022 draft class, with the 94th pick.
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Seattle Seahawks Also Disagree on Money in Mayfield Trade Talks With Browns
The Browns bucked at paying that amount, knowing that Mayfield is likely to start if the team sends him to Carolina. Cleveland, at least for now, is unwilling to bankroll another franchise’s starting QB to the tune of paying 75% of his salary. Perhaps more importantly, the Browns aren’t yet in a position that they feel they must take pennies on the dollar back for Mayfield in terms of draft compensation.
As such, Cleveland is using the only piece of leverage it possesses in trade discussions for Mayfield — time. At some point, an injury is going to occur or a front office/coaching staff with jobs on the line and short a starting-caliber QB is going to bite on a Mayfield deal.
But the Browns’ time leverage is a double-edged sword. At some point, if Mayfield isn’t traded, he is going to need to start showing up around the Browns’ facilities to earn his paychecks. It’s unlikely he’d be welcomed there considering the circumstances, even though Pro-Bowl running back Nick Chubb came out this week with words of support for his (presumably) former quarterback.
The Panthers and Seahawks have shown interest in acquiring Mayfield, but the Browns haven’t been willing to absorb enough of his fully guaranteed … salary.
The Panthers and Seahawks still haven’t ruled out acquiring Mayfield, but they’ll need the Browns to take on a much greater portion of his contract than they’ve offered so far. It’s unclear how far apart the sides have been, but the Browns want their contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return.
The Browns don’t have much, if any, negotiating leverage, and the Panthers and Seahawks are using that to their advantage. As a fifth-year player, Mayfield’s minimum base salary would be $1.035 million, which means the Browns could eat as much as $17.823 million in a trade. The Panthers and Seahawks are obviously pushing for something closer to that number.
Panthers Brass Hasn’t Ruled Out Mayfield Trade as OTAs Begin Across NFL
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer both spoke to the team’s quarterback situation in mid-May. While neither outright said the Panthers would continue to pursue Mayfield, it is clear reading between the lines that they have not slammed the proverbial door all the way shut on the idea.
“We want to have a really strong quarterback room,” Rhule said to members of the media during rookie minicamp. “So I don’t think we would say no to a veteran at this point.”
Fitterer also spoke to the media following Carolina’s selection of Corral in the draft.
“I never put an absolute on anything,” Fitterer said. “[But] we came into this weekend with the intention of getting a quarterback, and that’s what we did.”