After months of hard feelings, rumors, speculation and negotiations, the Browns on Wednesday came to an agreement with the Panthers to send Mayfield to Carolina in exchange for draft compensation and a money split on his $18.9 million guaranteed contract for 2022.
“A new QB in Carolina: The #Panthers are acquiring former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield from the #Browns for a 2024 conditional 5th-round draft pick, sources tell me and @TomPelissero,” Rapoport tweeted. “Deal is pending a physical. All parties split financials to make it happen.”
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Browns Save Millions in Mayfield Trade With Panthers
The details of the deal were not exactly what the Browns were looking for, but unloading Mayfield represents real savings in Cleveland.
The organization will pick up $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary this season, saving north of $8 million in the process. Those savings will bump the Browns’ already NFL-leading salary cap total to above $48 million, per Over The Cap.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network tweeted out the full financial details of the swap Wednesday.
“More: The #Browns will pay Baker Mayfield $10.5 million this season, which means they trimmed over $8 million in cash and salary-cap space,” Garafolo pointed out. “The #Panthers will pay Mayfield $5 million. Mayfield agreed to trim $3.5 million off his base salary.”
Mayfield’s decision to sacrifice millions is indicative of how badly he wanted out of Cleveland, just as the Browns’ willingness to pick up more than $10 million on his outstanding tab was a sign of how ready the organization was to move on. Talks of a Mayfield deal between the two teams stalled over NFL draft weekend when Carolina pushed for Cleveland to pay upward of $14 million on his remaining contract.
But Mayfield’s generosity wasn’t purely altruistic or simply in the name of a new beginning. Garafolo cited an unnamed source Wednesday who said that the quarterback will be able to earn back the base salary he forfeited in the trade via various performance incentives.
Browns Could Face Mayfield in Season Opener
Adding another layer of intrigue and irony to Wednesday’s trade is that the Browns will open the 2022 regular season on the road against the Panthers on September 11.
If Mayfield wins the starting job in Carolina, Cleveland will face their four-year starter in their very first contest after trading him. Furthermore, the Browns are likely to run out backup QB Jacoby Brissett under center in Week 1 due to the likely suspension of Deshaun Watson — the player the team traded for to replace Mayfield.
Had the Browns kept relations with Mayfield positive, it may well have been he starting for Cleveland in Carolina. Now, however, the exact opposite appears the most likely outcome.
Garafolo pointed out that Mayfield doesn’t have the job locked up just yet, after the Panthers traded with the New York Jets for Sam Darnold last season. Darnold struggled in 2021, though, posting a 4-7 record as a starter and throwing just nine touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions.