NFL Exec, Ex-Teammate Weigh in on Baker Mayfield’s Potential ‘Last Chance’

Baker Mayfield

Getty Los Angeles Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, December 9 — hosted by Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s).

While some teams have their sights set on the postseason heading into Week 14, others are already looking ahead to the offseason and the future.

Likewise, some star players are down to their final few weeks of the season to audition for jobs with their current teams or the other 31 across the league.

Are the Rams Baker Mayfield’s Last Hope?

Q: What are you hearing about how others feel about Baker Mayfield? Do some believe this is his final chance?

Like a rock star taking the stage across the street at the Los Angles Forum, Baker Mayfield put on a show in his Los Angeles Rams debut in front of a nationally televised audience on Thursday Night Football, kicking off Week 14 by leading a thrilling 17-16 comeback win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mayfield finished 23-of-35 passing for 230 yards with 1 touchdown, leading the Rams charging back from down 16-3 with 12:25 remaining thanks to a pair of touchdown drives for a desperately needed victory.

“I think he’s going to do great there, and be super confident going in,” a current NFL player, and former teammate of Mayfield’s told Heavy, ahead of the former No. 1 overall pick’s Los Angeles debut.

For his efforts, after being claimed off waivers on Tuesday, December 6, Rams head coach Sean McVay awarded Mayfield a game ball for his efforts roughly 48 hours after his Tinseltown arrival.

Mayfield’s former teammate wasn’t surprised by what he saw Thursday night.

“I told you,” the player texted Friday. “There aren’t many quarterbacks that will go in with confidence like he will, to have success and have the grit and toughness to gather a group around him so quickly. He’ll be high-fiving and head-butting guys, fitting in right away. That’s just who he is, and you saw that.”

With the Rams committed to Matthew Stafford through at least the 2025 campaign, it would seem these final three weeks are an audition for Mayfield to prove to the rest of the NFL that he’s more than an under-performing No. 1 overall pick, now on his 3rd team in 12 months.

So, what will Mayfield do for an encore? Not everyone inside the league believes this will be easy.

“I’ve got to believe this is his last chance to show he’s a starter,” an NFC executive told Heavy. “It’s not going to be easy, learning a new system without a solid running game, either.”

Mayfield defied expectations in his debut, but in order to prove he’s a capable starter, he’ll need to find a way to sustain success down the stretch for the 4-9 bottom-dwelling Rams.

Could the Steelers Actually Trade WR Diontae Johnson?

Q: The Steelers signed Diontae Johnson to a 2-year contract extension worth $37 million that kicks in next season. He hasn’t scored a touchdown and isn’t playing like a No. 1 WR, so do the Steelers have an out should they try to trade him?

Diontae Johnson certainly has yet to live up to his new deal, even after the Pittsburgh Steelers made a strong vote of confidence in their receiver room by trading Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears at the NFL trade deadline.

Inconsistent quarterback play from Mitchell Trubisky, and ultimately the developing rookie Kenny Pickett hasn’t helped, but Johnson has already dropped 5 passes as Pittsburgh quarterbacks have a 54.2 passer rating on his 102 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.

“He’s definitely under-performed,” an NFL agent familiar with the wide receiver market told Heavy.

Johnson’s contract allows for a bit of an out; trading the 26-year-old post-June 1, 2023, would create $10.5 million in cap space, while triggering dead-money charges of $5.83 million in both 2023 and 2024, according to Spotrac.

As the Steelers enter the offseason with only $8.68 million in cap space, it is difficult to imagine Pittsburgh not exploring every option to create additional spending flexibility.

“I don’t know if they’ll take the outs they have, but they’re definitely there,” the agent explained. “They could even try to restructure again.”

Do the Buccaneers Need More Help on Offense?

Q: Should the Buccaneers cut Kyle Rudolph and find another free agent TE or OL?

Since signing Kyle Rudolph on July 26, the 12-year veteran has been a virtual non-factor in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense.

Rudolph, inactive for the first four games of the 2022 campaign, has caught only 2 passes for 20 yards, while appearing in six games this season.

However, Rudolph is a strong veteran voice in a tight end room where rookie Cade Otton has emerged as a reliable playmaker.

Otton has caught 32 passes for 309 yards with a pair of touchdowns while averaging 9.7 yards per catch. Additionally, eight-year veteran Cameron Brate is averaging 8.6 yards per reception.

This is a bit late in the season for teams to go shopping for free agents, and the cupboard is essentially barren when it comes to the tight end market. Besides, Rudolph is a steady leadership presence and proven depth player for the Buccaneers, so it’s unlikely they would be moving on anytime soon.

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