Baker Mayfield Heads to the NFC

Oct 3, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) passes while Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) pursues at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of the Cleveland Browns making a very controversial trade to acquire QB Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans, Baker Mayfield decided he did not want to stick around the franchise. He promptly requested a trade, and after weeks of speculation, the fifth year QB will be a Carolina Panther in 2022.

The Panthers acquired Mayfield from the Browns in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. This move takes place about 15 months since Carolina acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets for second, fourth, and sixth round picks. They also selected Ole Miss QB Matt Corral in the third round of the 2022 draft.

In order to make the move possible, Cleveland will pay Mayfield $10.5 million, cutting $8 million in cap, while Carolina will pay the 27-year-old around $5 million. Mayfield took a pay cut of about $3.5 million to make the trade happen.

Overall, this is a very team-friendly deal for the Panthers after a 5-12 season in which the Panthers threw everything against the wall and waited for something to stick. It never did. They started Darnold for 11 games, Cam Newton for five, and P.J. Walker for one. In Mayfield, they get a QB that helped lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002 and won their first playoff game since 1994.

Since their Super Bowl appearance in 2015, the Panthers have only had one playoff appearance. That came in 2017 when they lost to the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round. The team has also lost 11+ games in each of the last three seasons without finishing better than third in the NFC South division. In Mayfield, they get off the hook by not spending a great amount of draft capital, nor do they have to pay him a extraordinary amount of money.

This trade is pertinent to Vikings fans as well with Minnesota in their own journey to re-join the playoff picture in 2022. The Panthers will not be Super Bowl contenders by any means, but they could put themselves into the mix for one of the three wild card spots, assuming Mayfield comes back healthy this year. The NFC gets a little more interesting.

Not only that, but it eliminates the possibility that Baker Mayfield will be a Viking in 2022. It was a strange proposition anyway, especially with Cousins signing a new extension through 2023, but the chance is now nil. We’ll see if talks reignite this offseason when Mayfield enters free agency.