2022 QB Carousel: Could Carolina Retrieve Cleveland's Disgruntled Savior?


In 2018, Baker Mayfield was selected to be the savior for the Cleveland Brown's franchise; He delivered with a 7-8-1 rookie season that was the winningest single season percentage for the team since 2007 (10-6), with former Panthers backup Derek Anderson at the helm. It seemed that the former Heisman trophy winner was bringing a winning mentality to Cleveland when he led them to an 11-5 record in 2020 alongside a star weaponry that included Jarvis Landry, OBJ, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt. Alas, his winning ways were not enough for a ball-hungry Odell Beckham Jr, prompting a trade and stirring tension within the locker room.


The 2021 season did nothing but further point towards a dissonance between head coach and quarterback Baker Mayfield, who requested a trade in mid-March 2022, stating that "the relationship is too far gone to mend (ESPN)." Cleveland had been in the mix for superstar QB Deshaun Watson at the time, eventually agreeing to a trade bringing in the former Houston Texan in exchange for a bounty of picks and an astounding 5 year $230 million extension on the heels of 20+ then-pending sexual assault allegations. Most recent news suggests that Watson could face indefinite suspension, with the league recommending at least another year away from the game.


At this time, no one has reported the team as trying to mend the relationship with Mayfield but rather exploring trade destinations with the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks most recently. With Carolina's QB room inspiring little to no confidence (aside from the potential of 3rd-round pick Matt Corral), what could Baker bring to the offense this year?



1. Great Storylines For Fans and Journalists Alike

Coming into the NFL in the same year, many presumed USC QB Sam Darnold would be taken first; Cleveland had other plans in mind and shocked draft pundits after drafting Mayfield No. 1 in the 2018 NFL Draft. Neither have really performed up to their billing, being outshone by fellow draftees Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. However, it would still make for an interesting training camp battle between the two, a battle that many would and should expect Mayfield to win outright, assuming he's playing with a healthy shoulder.


If he indeed finds himself on the Panthers starting lineup Week 1, he should have ample opportunity to enact revenge on his former team in Bank of America Stadium against presumed starter Jacoby Brissett. A decisive win agsinst Cleveland could give the team great morale heading into the season.



2. Competent QB Play...Playoffs?

It's been quite a while since the Panthers have seen anything close to average to above average play from their signal callers, and a healthy Baker Mayfield can do just that and more (see above). Following a shoulder injury in Week 2 that worsened in Week 6, the young passer played hurt, putting himself and his team into some sticky situations that they couldn't dig themselves out of fast enough. It's worth noting his spectacular play before the injury took place, stats that could've put him in the borderline-Top 10 QB conversation at season's end. With a weak NFC playoff race, I don't think it's too crazy to say the Panthers could slide into the Wild Card with the talent surrounding Mayfield, both on offense and the young potential on Phil Snow's defense.



3. A Chance At a New Contract

Whether intentional or not, it seems that Matt Rhule has made it his job to try and revive the careers of quarterbacks who've seen their original franchises give up on them. First he signs Teddy Bridgewater, then Sam Darnold, and now Baker Mayfield? Perhaps. As passionate as the Panthers fanbase is, and the power of positive media, he could see his play take to new heights in new surroundings with talented weapons in CMC, DJ, and Co (probably not Robby).


Great play from the Sooner in 2022 could muddy the waters for Fitterer's long term plans at quarterback, with rookie QB Matt Corral receiving high praise from the front office during the draft process, but it seems that too much talent at the league's most important position could be a good problem for the Panthers to have. Besides, a third rounder like Corral could use some time to learn from a veteran like Mayfield and could potentially help. A good season from the Brown's former first round pick could garner big money in free agency; it's just a matter of whether he stays in Carolina or pursues big bucks elsewhere.



Do you want to see Baker Mayfield in black and blue this season? Why or why not? How much do you think the win totals could differ compared to Darnold or Corral? Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

 

Organization, and ImageObject. “Cleveland Browns.” Browns Home, 20 Jan. 2021,

https://www.clevelandbrowns.com/team/history/year-by-year-results.


“Baker Mayfield Requests Trade from Cleveland Browns, Says It Is in 'Best Interests of Both

Sides to Move on'.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 17 Mar. 2022,

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33528225/baker-mayfield-requests

trade-cleveland-browns-says-best-interests-sides-move-on.

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