After months of speculation, the Cleveland Browns finally trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers for a future conditional pick that’s currently slotted for the fifth-round pick, but which could move to the fourth round dependent upon playing time.

Baker Mayfield Cleveland Browns Trade Carolina Panthers
Quarterback Baker Mayfield, then with the Cleveland Browns, celebrates a victory against the Steelers. (Image: Ron Schwane/AP)

The Panthers host the Browns in Week 1 of the upcoming NFL season, which adds drama to the Mayfield trade. The bookies installed the Panthers as a +1 home dog to kick off the season.

“Baker’s competitiveness, toughness and ability to persevere were all characteristics that endeared him to our city as well as his teammates,” said Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry. “He will always have a unique place in Browns history for what he accomplished and we wish him well as he continues his career.”

In 60 games spread over four seasons, Mayfield threw 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions. He went 29-30 as a starter with the Browns. Mayfield completed 61.6% of his passes and threw for 14,125 yards with at least 3K yards in every season.

Mayfield underwent surgery to correct a socket injury on his non-throwing shoulder, which occurred in Week 1 of last season when he dislocated his left shoulder while trying to tackle an opponent after tossing an interception. The injury lingered all season and Mayfield struggled while attempting to play through the pain.

Mayfield coin flip: Panthers or Seahawks

Both the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks were interested in Mayfield. The miserly Seahawks didn’t want to spend any draft picks to acquire Mayfield in a trade and were hoping the Browns would cut him so they could swoop in and pick him off waivers without being on the hook for his lucrative contract.

The Seahawks were in a tough spot after trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. They got Drew Lock in return from the Broncos and he’s the tentative starter. Now, it looks like the Seahawks will have to wait and see if they can acquire Jimmy G from the San Francisco 49ers for peanuts.

The Panthers had Cam Newton on the roster last season after Sam Darnold missed time with a fractured shoulder blade. It looked like they were going to stick with Darnold this season, prior to the Mayfield trade. Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ head coach, always liked Darnold and lobbied to bring him to Charlotte in a trade with the New York Jets.

Darnold had a great start in the first couple of weeks last season, but a shoulder blade injury derailed his season. He finished with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games while completing 59.9% of his passes for 2,527 yards.

Class of 2018: Mayfield vs Darnold

Mayfield, the former #1 pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, will compete for the starting quarterback job with Darnold after the trade.

Back in 2018, in a QB-heavy draft class with four quarterbacks selected in the first round, there was plenty of speculation on which quarterback would go #1. In the end, the Browns locked up Mayfield with the #1 pick, the Jets selected Darnold with the #3 pick, the Buffalo Bills drafted Josh Allen with the #7 pick, the Arizona Cardinals selected Josh Allen with the #10 pick, and the Baltimore Ravens got a steal with Lamar Jackson as the #32 pick overall, and final selection of the first round.

As of today, Allen and Jackson are still starting for their original teams. The trio of Mayfield, Darnold, and Rosen are no longer with the teams that drafted them. Both Darnold and Mayfield were traded to the Panthers, while Rosen bounced around with five teams. After playing in 14 games as a rookie with the Cardinals in 2018, Rosen has thrown just one touchdown since 2019 with the Miami Dolphins. He also had stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers in 2020, and the Atlanta Falcons last season.

Mayfield becomes only the third quarterback selected with the #1 pick (in the Super Bowl era) to spend less than five seasons with the team that drafted him. The Raiders released JaMarcus Russell after just three seasons in Oakland in 2009. The Indianapolis Colts traded Jeff George to the Atlanta Falcons after just four seasons.

Browns: Dump Mayfield, still have Watson drama

In a surprise move, the Browns secured Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans for a huge haul of draft picks. The Browns also gave Watson a five-year contract worth $230 million, which includes the largest guarantee in NFL history at $80 million, despite the ongoing civil lawsuits he faces from massage therapists.

The NFL launched its own investigation into the matter and was seeking a one-year suspension. The Browns tried to negotiate a deal for a lesser sentence while the league conducted a three three-day hearing last week. There’s no timetable on when the NFL will issue a suspension.

If Watson is suspended, Jacoby Brissett will start in his place.

Last offseason, Watson demanded a trade from the Texans due to the franchise’s overall incompetence. The team refused to cave into his demands and paid him to sit out the entire season. There were numerous times when the Texans almost traded Watson, with the Miami Dolphins coming close to landing him prior to the trade deadline. However, the Texans’ ultimate asking price was too high and the Dolphins moved on.

The Browns are +2800 odds to win Super Bowl 57 next season. The Panthers are +13000 odds to pull off a stunning upset with a Super Bowl victory.