I was ecstatic when I heard that the Cleveland Browns had traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers. I wrote an article in April stating that the Panthers should trade away a few picks for Baker. The fact that it has taken them a few months to do so is a setback since teams have been getting together to prepare for the upcoming season, but better late than never.
It hasn't even been a week since the trade occurred, and there are already a few storylines to look into. With this move, the Oklahoma and USC fanbases have another reason to go at each other's necks. In 2017 the Oklahoma Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, was selected #1 by the Cleveland Browns. Two picks later, the New York Jets selected the quarterback out of USC, Sam Darnold.
Carolina fans were not impressed that Darnold was Carolina's answer to take the responsibility of being the team's quarterback for the 2021-'22 season. However, rumor has it he is still expected to be the starter. What happens this offseason will be interesting, to say the least. Of course, the Carolina Panthers could have avoided the constantly moving Carolina Quarterback Room if Carolina selected the now Chicago Bear, Justin Fields, in the 2021 draft.
Lucky for the Panthers, the cost to acquire Mayfield was not all that much. Baker decided to take a $3.5 million pay cut to make a trade work, which incentives can cover. Carolina sent over one conditional draft pick and is only paying Baker $4.85 million this year. Baker will still make the $18.8 million he was guaranteed this season, should he meet the incentives, which is why the Browns are paying him the other $10.5 million to play for a different team.
With all this happening, there is one more question that remains. What about Cam Newton? With Carolina acquiring Mayfield, we can almost say that Newton's time in Carolina is over for good. But, like Baker, Cam has been completely screwed by the team he gave so much to. While Jerry Jones had his faults, I do not believe he would have screwed over the organization's best player of all time the way David Tepper has (If you disagree that Cam is the organization's best player of all time, your other option is Steve Smith).
Unfortunately for Cam, it is unlikely any team will pick him up before the season starts this late into the offseason. So if I had to make a prediction, his best chance of signing with another team again is if someone gets hurt and a team needs to have a backup in the middle of the season. It's starting to look like his days in the NFL are over.
This is a contract year for Mayfield, and in his last full season healthy, he led a first-year head coach to the playoffs. Even more impressive, he won a playoff game for the Cleveland Browns, who the last time they won a playoff game was in the '90s under a coach you may know, Coach Bill Belichick.
I'm not sure where I should put the expectations on Carolina as a whole, but I expect Baker to have one of his best seasons, if not his best. He might even make Matt Rhule look like a competent coach. The bar isn't set very high in Carolina right now. Still, if there is any success that is a direct result of Baker being on the field, the Carolina Panthers should heavily pursue him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Finally, there may be stability in Carolina's quarterback room.
For now, we get to sit and wait for week one, when the Carolina Panthers will host Mayfield's former team, the Cleveland Browns.