Can the Carolina Panthers make the most out of Baker Mayfield?

Can the Carolina Panthers make the most out of Baker Mayfield?

After months of back-and-forth, the Cleveland Browns have finally granted quarterback Baker Mayfield sweet release from the franchise that selected him first overall in the 2018 draft, watched him develop into a near-top-tier quarterback in 2020, and then, saw it all collapse as Mayfield struggled last season through injuries, personnel attrition, and coaching inflexibility. The wisdom of the Browns’ trade for Deshaun Watson will be debated ad nauseam for all kinds of reasons, but now, Mayfield is out of that particular Dysfunction Junction.


On Wednesday, the Browns made a deal with the Carolina Panthers that sent Mayfield there in exchange for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick. That could rise to a fourth-round pick based on Mayfield’s playing time. Why such a low return for the Browns? Well, the Panthers will take on $10.5 million of Mayfield’s $18,858 million salary in 2022, the Panthers will pay Mayfield $5 million, and Mayfield has agreed to eat the rest.


If you ever wondered how much Mayfield wanted out, there’s your answer. It’s an absolutely abysmal deal for the Browns no matter how you slice it. The probability of Watson suiting up in Week 1 (when the Browns host… the Panthers) is somewhere between slim and none, and slim just left town. That of course is due to the upcoming suspension Watson faces for multiple accusations of sexual assault. Cleveland will most likely start backup Jacoby Brissett in Watson’s stead for however Watson is suspended — not the worst possible outcome, but certainly suboptimal for a team that was thought not too long ago to have Super Bowl aspirations. And the Browns have nobody to blame but themselves.


That aside, how can Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo bring out the best in Mayfield — to make this trade the thunderous franchise win it should be? I have already written about how Mayfield’s talents can be optimized in a vacuum; I’m far less sure about this particular fit — and whether this is the right offense

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