The 2022 NFL season is less than three months away, and it’s still unclear where former No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield will play. But if it were up to the Panthers, the disgruntled Browns quarterback might already be in Carolina. As minicamps kick off around the league this week, the Browns and Panthers remain in talks regarding a potential Mayfield trade, CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones reported Tuesday, and Carolina in particular has “urgency” to finalize a deal.
“The main issue remains Mayfield’s salary and how much or how little (the) teams (will) pay,” Jones wrote. “There’s urgency on Carolina’s side to execute the deal soon so Mayfield can get some time in minicamp with the Panthers. For the Browns, it’s the best offer they have. Talks (are) ongoing.”
This has been the same story since prior to April’s 2022 draft, when the Panthers were identified as front-runners to land Mayfield but proceeded to spend a third-round pick on Mississippi QB Matt Corral. Mayfield, whose split from Cleveland has been forecast since the Browns’ aggressive pursuit and acquisition of ex-Texans QB Deshaun Watson, is due $18.85 million on the final year of his rookie contract. The Panthers’ prior talks with Cleveland stalled because Carolina reportedly wanted the Browns to absorb the majority of that salary as part of a trade. The Browns have also declined to outright release Mayfield up to this point in an effort to avoid paying the QB’s full salary, even though the team has already replaced both he and his backup for 2022.
Panthers owner David Tepper may be desperate for more help under center, but he will not pay all of Mayfield’s $18.85M salary in 2022, according to Jones. Because he’s already paying the same amount to Jets castoff Sam Darnold, their latest gamble at QB, it’s possible he wouldn’t even be willing to absorb half of Mayfield’s 2022 payout, Jones speculates.
One thing that could help facilitate a trade is Mayfield agreeing to a pay cut, a move former Panthers starter Teddy Bridgewater deployed to land with the Broncos prior to the 2021 season. At this point, however, there’s been no indication that Mayfield is prepared to do so, having publicly and privately critiqued Cleveland’s handling of the QB situation this offseason. As the season draws closer, it’s perhaps more likely one of the three parties — the Browns, Panthers or Mayfield — will compromise.