The New York Jets were between a rock and a hard place this past offseason with their quarterback decision.
They could choose to keep Sam Darnold and roll the dice heading into 2021 with an improved supporting cast. Or they could pivot to the second-best quarterback not named Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL draft and let them battle it out in camp.
They ended up picking the last option, trading away the former No. 3 overall pick, and starting fresh with Zach Wilson out of BYU.
That has now opened up the door for another team to hit the eject button.
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A Pathway Has Opened
ESPN insider Dan Graziano was asked about the Baker Mayfield situation in Cleveland and whether a scenario existed where he wasn’t the starting quarterback in 2022.
Graziano brought up the Darnold situation with the Jets in 2021 as a good example for the Browns to look at:
“If the Jets could get something for Sam Darnold in a trade last offseason, it’s not ridiculous to think Cleveland could get something for Mayfield if it decided to move him.”
That trade that was referenced, featured the former USC stud going to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for three draft choices (2021 sixth-rounder and a second and fourth-rounder in 2022).
Shortly after that trade, Carolina doubled down on their Darnold investment by exercising his fifth-year option for the 2022 season which fully guaranteed his $18.9 million contract.
Similarly, the Browns exercised Mayfield’s fifth-year option which will count $18.6 million against the cap. That is a fully guaranteed number and complicates the entire scenario.
The difference between the Darnold trade and a potential Mayfield one is the fifth-year option. The Jets dealt Sam away after his third year (prior to the fifth-year option) and Mayfield would be dealt after his fourth year with that option already exercised.
That is a detriment to anyone that would be willing to pull the trigger on a deal to acquire the talented passer.
A Dangerous Roller Coaster
It has been a wild roller coaster ride for Mayfield. After throwing 35 interceptions in his first two seasons, the former No. 1 overall pick has only 19 the last two years.
He has always had an affinity for turnovers, but Mayfield always countered that with a ton of production (95 total touchdowns in four years) which made it worth it.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated this season with only 15 touchdown passes compared to 17 total turnovers. That includes a back-breaking four picks in their Week 16 loss versus the Green Bay Packers, 24-22.
If the Browns are going to trade away Mayfield they may have to get creative to pull it off.
In a recent Bill Barnwell prediction article, the Panthers had to eat a majority of Darnold’s guaranteed $18.9 million contract for another team to take on his contract. To put it bluntly, it was a salary dump with minimal return.
The good news is Baker has shown a lot more chutzpah than Darnold ever has, which may constitute a greater return via trade.