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Baker Mayfield trade: Panthers make a Hail Mary play

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

Signing Baker Mayfield is the equal of the Carolina Panthers sending a hopeful heave into the tip zone, in search of fortune to fall their manner.

It is a determined transfer for a determined staff, a staff in pressing want of quarterbacking salvation, however with out the leverage to land somebody that will match most concepts of the savior stereotype.

It was a change that took place as a result of the Panthers have a basic supervisor in Scott Fitterer, and a head coach in Matt Rhule, who’re each on the steamiest of scorching seats, because of a two-year stretch with 10 mixed wins and stagnant progress. And clearly, it additionally took place due to the wild flip of occasions that ended Mayfield’s time with the Cleveland Browns.

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The Panthers are hoping to seek out lightning in a bottle. But they’re additionally doing the fitting factor.

For when issues are dire and solely a drastic uptick will suffice, there isn’t a level taking part in it protected, no level sticking with what you understand. If ever there was a time to take a probability on an unpredictable character able to flashes of brilliance, it’s now.

Mayfield is not at all a good QB, however he’s simply what the Panthers want. He’s loud and lively and unafraid of the highlight. He’s used to coming in and attempting to show round a forlorn scenario as a result of that’s what he discovered with the then-hapless Browns made him the No. 1 decide in 2018.

There are shortcomings to Mayfield’s play, which is why Cleveland was prepared to maneuver on from him and go down the Deshaun Watson path, regardless of all the luggage and uncertainty that accompanies that specific journey.

It is the fitting transfer due to what it’s — a low-cost gamble with no long-term tether.

Mayfield turns into a free agent after the season, and the transfer will price Carolina simply $4.858 million, because of the Browns agreeing to pay $10.5 million, and Mayfield agreeing to a pay reduce to get issues over the road.

Sam Darnold stays on the Carolina roster, and coaching camp, which begins in a few quick weeks, shall be a true competitors. Expect issues to lean Mayfield’s manner, nonetheless. Why would the group go to the difficulty of swapping a fifth-round decide (fourth if he meets sure targets until they had been prepared to provide Mayfield a go?

Carolina is aware of what it’s going to get with Darnold. That stage is unlikely to be sufficient to spark the sort of turnaround that David Tepper, the richest proprietor within the NFL, is in search of. It could be that Mayfield, taking part in with a far weaker offensive unit than he had in Ohio, gained’t be as much as scratch both.

But you by no means know, and that’s the entire level. Mayfield’s very nature as a QB, all of the issues he has been criticized for, really work in his favor right here.

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He’s been accused of being streaky and inconsistent, typically over-performing towards the larger groups and struggling unexpectedly towards weaker ones. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks, and he generates consideration wherever he goes. 

He’s the sort of man who makes followers livid however who additionally makes them love him. Make no mistake, there have been some unhappy eyes in Cleveland as soon as the deal lastly obtained made, and never simply a few.

Furthermore, it is nonetheless unclear precisely what Mayfield is able to. He’s proven the power to take a staff to the brink of a Super Bowl, as in 2020. He’s proven that he’s unfazed by a narrative of previous failure, immediately uplifting the Cleveland fan base when he entered the league.

He’s additionally proven he can play particularly poorly at occasions, however opinions stay divided as to how a lot final season ought to depend towards him. 

Yes, he had solely the Twenty seventh-best quarterback score in 2021 and did not get the 8-9 Browns into the postseason. But he was additionally combating harm points, had a severely depleted offensive line and operating again corps, and misplaced star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a commerce.

“Even if Baker performs properly, the Panthers will not make the playoffs,” FS1’s Nick Wright mentioned on “First Things First.” “He’s seemingly subsequent season, whether or not it is on the Panthers or elsewhere, going to be on his sixth head coach and sixth offensive coordinator in his sixth NFL season. But he is the very best QB on the roster, and he’ll be the Week 1 starter.”

Panthers purchase Baker Mayfield from Browns

Nick Wright discusses if this commerce goes to work: “Even if Baker performs properly, the Panthers will not make the playoffs.”

Here’s the factor although. The Panthers aren’t essentially in search of their QB of the long run. They assume they’ve that in Matt Corral, who they took within the third spherical of the newest draft. 

If Mayfield is available in, will get flashy a few occasions, and results in a basic enhance within the vibe across the place, if he will get the document remotely near .500, then heads some other place after maintaining Corral’s seat heat? The Panthers can be very happy with that.

So, after we’re speaking about determined throws of the cube, all the pieces is relative. Yes, it’s a Hail Mary that Mayfield leads the Panthers to playoff glory. After all, they, and maybe he, are most likely simply not adequate for that.

But he’s a character and a participant who desires to win, and he’s the fitting match for the fitting time.

His signing isn’t the precursor to a gilded path and it certain as heck isn’t a surefire guess. What it’s a roadmap for an journey, for Mayfield all the time brings that. For Carolina — for now — that’s the very best they’re going to get.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the creator of the FOX Sports Insider e-newsletter. You can subscribe to the daily newsletter here.

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