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A New Beginning in Carolina: Baker Mayfield to the Panthers 

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It has finally happened: The Cleveland Browns are now finalizing a trade with The Carolina Panthers for the services of Baker Mayfield, sending Mayfield to Carolina in exchange for a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick (which can become a fourth-round selection), first reported by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The deal is pending a physical. 

The Cleveland Browns will have to pay Baker about $10.5 million for this season, saving over $8 million in salary-cap. For Carolina’s side, they’ll pay the fifth-year QB around $5 million. Mayfield, who was originally owed $18.858 million, agreed to a $3.5 million pay cut, but can earn back what he gave up in incentives if he plays well. 

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

As widely publicized, the Cleveland Browns attempted to trade for Deshaun Watson to bring to Cleveland. Mayfield soon became very disgruntled; requesting a trade even after Watson initially eliminated the Browns from consideration. The Browns would then, somehow, have Watson agreed to a trade soon after. With Deshaun changing his mind and choosing the Browns, the Mayfield era was coming to an end in Cleveland and with today’s move, it’s officially over. 

The Browns selected the former Heisman Trophy winner No. 1 in the 2018 draft, making an iconic debut in Week 3 during Thursday Night Football that rallied the Browns to their first victory in 635 days. He also went on to finish second in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting while breaking the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdowns; A record later broken in 2020 by the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert, who finished that season with an absurd 31 touchdown passes. 

Phil Long/Associated Press

The good times ended when Baker suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder in Week 2 of the 2021 season. Instead of playing it safe & sitting out or undergoing season-ending surgery, Mayfield played through the injury and struggled for much of the season. One season after finishing in the top 10 in QBR in 2020, he fell all the way to 27th in 2021, the largest QBR dropoff (-30.4) of any passer in the league. 

With Mayfield leaving in the trade today, the Browns now have to believe in backup QBs Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs at quarterback for most of the season for the Browns in a pivotal playoff year.  The new franchise quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson, might not be available to the Browns at all this season with a suspension due to sexual assault accusations made last year – As Watson has been accused in civil lawsuits by 25 women of actions ranging from sexual assault to inappropriate behavior during massage sessions.  

Deshaun Watson’s hearing before the NFL and NFL Players Association’s jointly appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, finished after three days on Thursday; meetings are expected to continue as of July 11th

For the Matt Rhule era in Carolina, it’s been a disappointing couple of years for the former college head coach. With a roster brimful of talent at nearly every position, Carolina believes they are just a quarterback away from contention. Questions remain: Can Baker Mayfield be the QB that can save Carolina from obscurity? 

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