The Baker Mayfield era with the Cleveland Browns was a mixed bag that included a promising rookie season followed by a playoff win two years later, before ending with a whimper and a host of bad feelings on both sides.
The Carolina Panthers traded for Mayfield during the offseason, agreeing to pick up nearly $5 million of the QB’s guaranteed salary and send the Browns a conditional draft choice in return.
Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk on Monday, December 5, made the argument that the move looks solid for Cleveland in retrospect, as Mayfield exits Carolina at the end of Week 13 after starting just six games for the Panthers and playing in one other. The franchise waived Mayfield on Monday morning.
“The Browns getting a fifth-round pick for Baker Mayfield now looks like a pretty darn good deal,” Simmons wrote.
Baker Mayfield Hurts Browns Draft Compensation by Pursuing New NFL Team
In one sense, Simmons is absolutely right. Keeping Mayfield in the fold this season would have been as much of a headache as it would have been a distraction for a Browns franchise that hasn’t been short on either after dealing for controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson, who the NFL subsequently suspended for 11 games to start the year.
Furthermore, the Browns were never going to use the franchise tag to keep Mayfield beyond the 2022 season, meaning if they had been unable to trade him then Mayfield would have walked at the end of the year and Cleveland would have received nothing in return for the former No. 1 overall pick.
However, there is a separate perspective on Mayfield’s exit that one can assume. Not only were the Browns forced to pay their ex-quarterback $10.5 million to play poorly for another franchise this season, Mayfield’s lack of success and subsequent benching/eventual release made Cleveland’s trade compensation considerably worse.
Had Mayfield taken 70% of the snaps for Carolina in 2022, the Browns would have received the Panthers’ fourth-round draft pick next year, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. As it stands, Mayfield helped facilitate his own release from Carolina before hitting that mark, guaranteeing that the Browns’ compensation would be relegated to the Panthers’ fifth-round draft choice in 2023.
Mayfield’s complicity in his own demise in Carolina was detailed by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Monday.
“This was something that, really my understanding is, has been on the minds of the people involved for weeks here at a time that the Panthers had gone to P.J. Walker then, of course, had gone back briefly to Baker Mayfield, then eventually to Sam Darnold,” Pelissero reported. “With Walker getting healthy enough coming out of the bye that he can serve as the backup here, [releasing Mayfield] made sense. So Baker Mayfield met with [Panthers head coach] Steve Wilks and [Panthers general manager] Scott Fitterer this morning, they had a conversation, and it is a mutual parting of the ways for Mayfield.”
Baker Mayfield Pushing For Opportunity With Super Bowl Contender
Ian Rapoport, fellow pro football insider with NFL Network, speculated that it is not likely a coincidence that Mayfield pushed for his release from the Panthers just one day after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was lost for the season due to a broken foot.
“For Baker Mayfield to come to Carolina and say, ‘Now is a good time to waive me,’ you know that he had his eyes on the San Francisco 49ers,” Rapoport said Monday.
The Niners had already lost Trey Lance for the year to a leg injury of his own and are currently down to seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson, who the team just inked off of the Denver Broncos‘ practice squad Monday.
There is no guarantee Mayfield will get his wish and land in San Francisco. The process after a player is released is that he heads to the NFL waiver wire. Every team has a chance to claim that player, with priority order going to the worst performing teams first then on up to the best.
The 49ers are currently 24th on the waiver wire priority list and are competing for the NFC West Division title with the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, who could claim Mayfield before San Francisco ever gets the chance simply to keep him out of the Niners’ huddle.
Other teams higher on the waiver wire priority list could be incentivized to do the same thing if they, too, are fighting for a playoff spot. Or, a team that is already out of the playoff mix may simply decide to bring Mayfield in if he happens to be an upgrade over whoever they are currently starting under center.
Any franchise that claims Mayfield will owe him the $1.35 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract, which ends when the season does. If no team claims him and Mayfield clears waivers later this week, he will be free to select his own destination, at which point he would negotiate a new contract with that team for the remainder of the year.