Baker Mayfield's saga in Cleveland finally has a resolution: He's headed to Charlotte.
The Browns and Panthers have agreed to a trade that sends Mayfield to Carolina in exchange for a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick (which can become a fourth-round selection), NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday. The deal is pending a physical. Carolina later announced the acquisition.
Cleveland will pay Mayfield $10.5 million this season, saving over $8 million in cash and salary-cap space, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. Carolina, meanwhile, will 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.
Mayfield's journey with Cleveland began with the No. 1 selection of the 2018 draft. Mayfield encountered plenty of highs and lows, but his tenure ultimately pivoted toward divorce with the Browns' pursuit and eventual acquisition of Deshaun Watson. As the Browns attempted to convince Watson to agree to a trade to Cleveland, Mayfield became disgruntled and requested a trade soon after Watson initially eliminated the Browns from consideration.
When Watson changed his mind and chose the Browns, the Mayfield era was all but finished in Cleveland. Since mid-March, the Browns have shopped Mayfield, but with little leverage in trade negotiations, the team kept Mayfield on its roster and away from the facility while awaiting an acceptable offer.
They received such an offer this week.
"We want to thank Baker for all his contributions to the Cleveland Browns," Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement announcing the trade. "From the moment he was drafted, he gave his all for this organization and this city. With his fierce competitive spirit, he excited the fanbase and accomplished things that no player at his position had done in Cleveland for a very long time."
Mayfield heads to Carolina, where fellow 2018 top-three selection Sam Darnold already resides on a nearly identical rookie deal. Both Mayfield and Darnold are in the fifth and final year of their contracts, both of which were set to account for $18.858 million in salary cap space. The deal for Mayfield lowers that number to around $5 million while also throwing Darnold's future into doubt.
Garafolo reported there will now be a training camp competition between the former top-three 2018 draft picks to determine who will start for Carolina; third-round rookie Matt Corral is also on the roster.
Darnold arrived in Carolina in 2021 via trade as a reclamation project for the Panthers, but failed to prove he was worthy of long-term commitment. Mayfield, meanwhile, struggled while playing through multiple injuries last season, leading the Browns to seek other options at quarterback before dealing him to the Panthers.
It seems as if 2022 is now Mayfield's turn as the Panthers' reclamation project. Mayfield underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and shoulder fracture, and if he can return fully healthy, he'll have one season to prove he can accomplish what Darnold couldn't.