It’s a rumor mill spinning so fast that it could provide energy to the entire West Coast.
Mayfield’s tenure in Cleveland is over.
We’ve known that much for at least three months now.
The whispers midseason about Mayfield’s long-term viability in Cleveland slowly grew into a crescendo of speculation and intrigue, until the Browns blew the gasket with a trade.
Back in March, the Browns apparently godfathered the Texans, offering three first-round draft picks plus to land Houston’s former signal caller Deshaun Watson.
Cleveland knew Watson faced numerous sexual assault and misconduct lawsuits, which to date total 24, with more expected.
While Watson won’t face criminal penalties, Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office has yet to weigh in with its own sanctions.
Though when the sanctions do come down, expect them to be harsh.
This offseason, the league has already handed out several lengthy suspensions, including a full season for Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley and a six-game suspension for Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Ridley’s suspension came as a result of his involvement in betting on football games; Hopkins’ suspension is for violating the league’s PED rules.
If that’s the metric to measure suspensions against, how do you think the league office will handle 24+ allegations of sexual misconduct?
With the Watson trade, it became obvious that Mayfield needed to find a new home.
Most recently, it was reported that trade talks between the Panthers and Browns are “heating up” with a deal potentially in the works for a weekend completion.
Fan reaction, as you might guess, ran the spectrum:
The #Browns ditching Baker Mayfield (the first decent QB they’ve had in 2 decades) just to have it blow up in their face is the most Cleveland Browns thing i’ve ever seen
— Blake Antkowiak (@SSDBlake) June 8, 2022
“Where would we be if Baker Mayfield had shut it down and had surgery after the Houston game” has to be one of the most fascinating what-ifs in recent sports history. #Browns
— Ed Greenberger (@EdGreenberger) June 8, 2022
Dear Panthers: PLEASE DON’T TRADE FOR BAKER MAYFIELD. Now on @undisputed
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 15, 2022
Baker Mayfield is 100x better than Sam Darnold.
I also don't want to trade, literally anything, for Baker Mayfield.
— ⚛ Wíñńïňğ Čúłťůřē ⚛ (@BigCheeseTC) June 14, 2022
.. please include Sam Darnold in the trade for Baker Mayfield. pic.twitter.com/CIjhm0CUfe
— Michael Rimmer (@AVL_Mike) June 14, 2022
— Isaac Eisenbarth (@ike5353isaac) June 14, 2022
Guys, as soon as the Browns get a real and reasonable offer for Baker Mayfield, they'll trade him. There's zero reason to be rushed or make a move for the sake of making one. Been that way for 6+ weeks now, and the layout always made it so they'd be fine waiting if necessary.
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) June 14, 2022
The Panthers will be elated to have Baker as their QB. He will be the best QB they have had in a long long time. A healthy Baker is a hell of a good QB and a great leader. It blows my mind how many people forgot that after 1 season of playing with a bad injury. #Browns
— Zack Cunningham (@zack0978) June 14, 2022
Please for the LOVE of everything FOOTBALL, can the Panthers trade for Baker and let Deshaun Watson play week 1!!! PLEASE OH HEAVENLY FOOTBALL GODS! 🙏🏻 #Browns
— WatsonSZN! (@_TalkSportsCLE) June 14, 2022
One of the biggest hangups in any Mayfield deal is the former Heisman winner’s salary.
Next season, Mayfield will earn $18.8 million.
That’s a hefty tag for someone not guaranteed a starting position.
At some point, someone simply has to ask: is any of this Mayfield news “new”?
It seems every ten days, a “new” report on Mayfield emerges, with (generally) either the Panthers or Seahawks interested.
Mayfield’s not playing in Cleveland; the Browns know this.
If the Browns had any sort of quality offer on the table, they’d certainly take it, right?
The question now becomes, how much is Cleveland willing to pay to cut its headaches in half?
Watson isn’t going anywhere, especially not with a fully guaranteed five-year $230 million deal.
So why not pony up and pay $12 million in Mayfield’s salary?
Carolina In My Mind
The Panthers have their own quarterback conundrum.
Carolina has lingered in playcalling purgatory for several years now, dating back to the team’s decision to move on from Cam Newton.
None appear to have sealed the deal with coach Matt Rhule, who may very well be coaching his final season in Carolina.
The Panthers also just selected Ole Miss QB Matt Corral in the 2022 draft.
Is Baker better than what Carolina has now?
Will Carolina be more competitive with Mayfield?
Perhaps, but only marginally more.
With Tom Brady and the Buccanneers still holding down the fort in the Bay, Carolina’s chances likely hinge on a wild card spot.