The Carolina Panthers have sent mixed messages on their interest in a trade for displaced Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield but are monitoring the situation and remain interested at the right price.
The Panthers have been a constant figure in trade talks for Mayfield but have not been overly motivated to make a deal happen. Carolina is currently gauging what they have in incumbent starter Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral, who was selected in the third round.
For a trade to happen, it all comes down to the numbers, which have been the sticking point in negotiations from the outset. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer can see a trade happening within the next few weeks if the Browns adjust the amount their willing to take on.
“For Carolina to do it, my sense is the Browns would have to eat a healthy majority of Mayfield’s $18.858 million number for 2022,” Breer wrote on May 23. “So for now, they’re monitoring that situation, with how the spring goes for Darnold and Corral, one way or the other, over the next month a big variable that could change their posture with Cleveland. Of course, if the Browns eat more salary sooner, I think the possibility exists he could be moved to Carolina (or Seattle) in the next few weeks.”
Browns Don’t Have Leverage in Baker Mayfield Trade
The number the Panthers are hoping for is somewhere in the range of $13-14 million, per Jonathan Alexander of the Charlotte Observer. That’s certainly a healthy amount but the Browns essentially hold no leverage in the situation. If they choose to cut Mayfield, they’ll eat the entirety of his guaranteed salary. By eating a chunk of it and agreeing to a trade, they’ll be able to at least recoup for the former No. 1 overall pick.
While Mayfield’s name has mostly been dragged during the trade saga due to a rough 2021 season. However, he’d be a significant upgrade for a handful of teams around the league — specifically the Panthers and Seahawks.
After setting the rookie touchdown record in 2018 and leading the team to their first postseason berth in nearly two decades in 2020, Mayfield tossed just 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions last season, slumping down the stretch as the team finished 8-9. That being said, Mayfield played the majority of the season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder — an injury he had surgery on in January. He’s expected to be ready to go by the time training camp rolls around.
Panthers Still Gauging Their Own Quarterback Situation
The Panthers have been clear that they don’t feel that they need to make a quarterback trade, showing some confidence in Darnold and Corral.
“We’re happy with the group we have,” Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said on April 30. “I never put an absolute on anything. [But] we came into this weekend with the intention of getting a quarterback, and that’s what we did. And we’re going to go with this group.”
The Panthers started OTAs on Tuesday and head coach Matt Rhule liked what he saw out of Darnold.
“You’ve seen a guy that showed up that has a little more edge to him,” Rhule told reporters on Tuesday, May 24. “Sam is very, very focused.”
And Mayfield is not the only quarterback the Panthers have an interest in. Former Panthers MVP Cam Newton is still in the mix, albeit it comes with some conditions. Newton would not enter camp as the starter and would have to agree to a smaller salary, per The Charlotte Observer.