December 5, 2023

Baker Mayfield and Browns finally parted ways on Wednesday, as Cleveland dealt the former #1 draft pick to the Panthers in exchange for a conditional pick for the fifth round of 2024. The move closes two different quarterbacks, both chaotic: Carolina has finally added to a disappointing pool of signal callers ahead of the 2022 training camp, while Cleveland officially paved the way for Deshaun Watson to be their only outstanding investment under the center.

However, which side won the Mayfield deal? Here’s how the deal is categorized:

Brown: D

Let’s start with this: You can’t unlink the circumstances that led Mayfield out of the trade itself. Most likely, there would not have been a divorce had it not been for Cleveland to deliver her wagon to Deshaun Watson even while the former Texas star still faces charges of sexual assault or misconduct from more than two dozen women. To be fair, Watson has not faced criminal charges for his alleged serial abuse, but he is still expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2022 season under the NFL’s suspension. Even if you’re willing to take the risks on and off the field associated with it all, Mayfield would almost certainly have been a better fill-in than Jacoby Brissett’s backup for an otherwise-created roster for a now-defunct playoff. And that doesn’t even explain his familiarity with the system, or his device that has captured so many fans in Cleveland.

Therefore, the Browns can only blame themselves on Mayfield, a 27-year-old professional with multiple playoff starts, and one late player in the future. why? Because they are responsible for alienating him to the point that reconciliation was implausible. Was it wrong for them to seek a promotion this season, especially after Mayfield’s fall-back in an injury-strewn 2021? not necessarily. But when your valuable replacement is Watson, a polarizing QB player who hasn’t played in two years and might not play for another one, you better be sure you have a back-up plan that doesn’t include selling your previous first pick for a conditional two-fifth year down the road. The move saves Brown $8 million in 2022, with the Panthers agreeing to pay Mayfield nearly $5 million and Mayfield himself cutting his salary, but there is no getting around the mismanagement that forced them to eat any of his salary.

Keep in mind that earlier in the season, the Colts scored two key third-round goals for Carson Wentz, whose split with Indianapolis had been publicly anticipated, and whose recent numbers similarly viewed him as a mediocre player. Incidentally, Wentz is costing his acquisition team $28 million in 2022, as opposed to the $5 million that the Panthers will pay Mayfield as a pilot starter. Whatever you think of Mayfield as a long-term option, you can’t get around the fact that the Browns are losers here.

Cheetahs: A-

Why not? Mayfield’s arrival in no way means the end of a dysfunctional series of QB gambling from Matt Rhule-Scott Fitterer-David Tepper’s system. In fact, his inconsistency as a rookie over four seasons probably puts him on a par with the Carolina signal callers of late, most notably Teddy Bridgewater. It seemed more serviceable than a special thanks to a mercurial tour of Cleveland. But the peak of his career was much more promising than that of Sam Darnold, who will officially “compete” to retain the position this summer. And he’s coming up with a deal that costs Carolina just $5 million for a one-year lease.

The fifth 2024 player sent by the Panthers to the Browns could become fourth based on playing time, but even that’s not hard to swallow if Mayfield proves he can keep the team competitive. If all he brings is under-center efficiency, then there is a legitimate path for Team Rhule to play a spoiler in the NFC, considering the underappreciated pieces the Panthers have on both sides of the ball, from Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore and an improved offensive line to Brian Burns and Derek Brown and Jesse Horn in “D.” Add to that the uncertainty of Saints and Falcons, and you might speak for yourself in an unexpected bid from the NFC South, especially with Mayfield spurred to rebuild his value ahead of the free agency for 2023.

Worst case scenario, Mayfield flounders and proves no better than his immediate surroundings, the Panthers let him walk in 2023, and proceed with the QB reset (and potential system reset) that were destined for them anyway. Best-case scenario, Baker brings some much-needed items into their QB room, actually taps into some of the talent around him, and the Panthers get a head start in securing a potential long-term start-up without having to spend extra capital. to start over.

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