Former NY Jets QB Sam Darnold has been replaced
The Baker Mayfield saga in Cleveland has come to an end.
The Cleveland Browns have traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, according to Ian Rappaport and Tom Pelissero.
The guaranteed $18.5 million salary of Mayfield’s fifth-year option was divided up as follows: Cleveland will pay $8 million while saving $10.5 million; Carolina will pick up the option money at $5 million; and Mayfield will take a $3.5 million pay cut. Clearly, Mayfield was serious when he said the ship had sailed on Cleveland.
The conditional fifth-round selection can become a fourth-rounder with unspecified performance conditions.
Mayfield’s status has been in limbo ever since the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson in mid-March. The embattled Cleveland quarterback requested a trade at the time. He recently doubled down on that, saying, “We’re ready to move on, I think, for both sides,” although he left open a slim hope for reconciliation.
That door slammed shut today. Cleveland now rolls forward with the uncertainty of Watson’s unsettled civil lawsuits and possible suspension by the NFL. They retain Jacoby Brissett as their backup quarterback.
Some take today’s move to mean that Watson will play at least some football in 2022. It is far more likely that it was a salary dump for a disgruntled player, letting the chips fall where they may.
The trade unites the No. 1 overall pick from 2018 with the No. 3 pick, Sam Darnold. The Panthers now have two underachieving quarterbacks on their fifth-year option salaries, with Mayfield as the presumed starter. They also have third-round quarterback Matt Corral, who clearly needs some time to develop.
On a day like today, it's tough to forget what New York #Jets GM Joe Douglas did to Matt Rhule last offseason. Baker Mayfield fetches the Browns a conditional fifth. pic.twitter.com/NqytKQGwQf
— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) July 6, 2022
The fact that Mayfield commanded such a small return, merely a conditional fifth-round pick, underscores the tremendous job by Joe Douglas to unload Darnold last offseason for a second, fourth and sixth-round pick.
Another one of the NFL’s most fascinating offseason dramas has come to a close. Mayfield has a chance to get his career back on track in Carolina, while the Browns move on and hope to get their franchise direction back in line.
I always thought the Panthers’ deal for Darnold was in part a slap at the Jets in that it implied they thought the problem was with how he had been managed and the team around him. They found out otherwise. I think or hope this little episode helps retire the long-running image of the Jets as hopelessly incompetent, which is happening anyway with Douglas’ other moves. At any rate, the Panthers got burnt on the Darnold deal and they deserve it for sneering at the Jets the way they did.
To be fair, many people believed that the Jets were Darnold’s problem. He was a favorite pick for Comeback Player of the Year and breakout candidate. Many Jets fans believed so, too – they preferred trading out of the #2 pick and building a team around Darnold.
It does make Douglas look like a genius for trading Darnold, though. He had the ace up his sleeve in that he knew what Darnold was like in his rookie year under Todd Bowles, as well, and the (lack of) progress he had made mentally in the NFL.
It will be interesting to see how Mayfield does with Carolina. Granted, they drafted a top offensive line talent in Ekwonu, but he’s facing a very similar situation as Darnold did last year: an uber-talented but oft-injured RB, a potentially strong WR combo that saw one of its members underachieve and hint at possible retirement, and a defense that has the ability to be great but saw mixed results in 2021.