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Carolina trades for QB Baker Mayfield in move reeking of desperation

Let’s all laugh at the Panthers, and hope we get to keep laughing.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers love trading for underachieving quarterbacks as of late, with Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield now headed out to Charlotte.

The Panthers, steeped in desperation to save the Matt Rhule era from going off the rails in its third season, have acquired Mayfield in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick. They’ll pay less of his salary, too, making this a pretty low-cost deal for a former top pick.

While you might be assuming the move means it’s Baker Time in Carolina, the Panthers are, for some bizarre reason, still apparently very high on the other first-round QB in their building, Sam Darnold.

The Panthers now have quite a quarterback battle on their hands, one between a guy who mainly did well in 2021 while rushing before falling off a cliff, a 2022 third-round pick with unwieldy mechanics, and a guy who Carolina receiver Robby Anderson commented on social media “Noooo” when news broke that the team might be interested in trading for his services.

Carolina has been playing “oh my gosh, will someone please be as good as Cam Newton” for the past few years now, even fielding a past-his-prime Newton last season in an attempt to capture any residue of stardust left from the quarterback’s heyday. To be blunt, it has not gone particularly well for our rivals to the east to find a signal caller worth starting, which we love.

Rhule is going to enter the fall as one of the coaches on the hottest seats in the league, and now, his future is tied to a Sam Darnold/Matt Corral/Baker Mayfield quarterback battle. Mayfield has had his moments, sure, but if people in the league really thought he was a long-term top-flight starter, Carolina probably wouldn’t have only had to throw a conditional fifth Cleveland’s way. The Browns were clearly willing to be done with Mayfield, and they’re the Browns, a team who hasn’t found success at quarterback since the 1990s. Given that Deshaun Watson may be heading for a long suspension, it’s striking they didn’t even want him around as a fallback option. Mayfield has had plenty of good moments in the NFL, but has not looked like the kind of superstar the Browns thought they were getting to this point.

Now, you may point out the Falcons aren’t much better off than the Panthers in the QB department, and for now, you’d be right. But, at the very least, the Falcons have some framework of a plan in place with Desmond Ridder, who has already been impressing the organization with his leadership and ability to soak in the playbook. Unlike the Panthers, the Falcons aren’t suffocating in the dying embers of a failing regime, desperate for anyone to step up and play well at the game’s most important position. They’re finally starting to rebuild, with Marcus Mariota’s capable bridge status and Ridder’s potential enough to justify the strategy.

Carolina now has to tie its immediate future to the most depressing quarterback battle in the NFL, and we wish them...well maybe not well, but we wish them. If it works out, Mayfield is a decent-to-good starter and Rhule saves his job, we’ll eat Carolina crow. Based on this team’s recent history at the position, though, we’re not planning to grab that fork and knife any time soon. The only fork that might be used is the one being stuck in this era of Panthers football, and Rhule in particular.

While Mayfield might have a new place to shoot his insurance commercials, it’s going to be an upward climb for him to be the savior of Panthers football. The days of SuperCam feel very far away. For that, we won’t complain.