The Carolina Panthers shocked us towards the end of their bye week when they decided to release team captain and former starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. NFL Network’s Ian Rapport was the first to report the news. It was reported that Mayfield requested his release because he was likely to be third on the team’s depth chart behind Sam Darnold and PJ Walker. He is looking for an opportunity to possibly play this year or even get a head start on where he could play in 2023.
Carolina traded a conditional fifth-round pick for Mayfield during the summer. That fourth-round pick would have become a fourth-round selection if Mayfield had played 70% of the team’s offensive snaps. Mayfield ensures that the Panthers only give up a fifth-round pick to the Browns. Back in 2018, the Cleveland Browns selected Mayfield with the first overall pick. The former Heisman winner was the face of the franchise and led the team to their first playoff birth in 18 years. He also led the team to their first playoff win in 23 years.
Despite doing all of this the Browns felt that Mayfield was holding back their roster and made a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson this offseason. This left Mayfield without a guaranteed starting job with another team. After months of speculation the Browns finally traded Mayfield to a Panthers team that was getting extremely desperate to figure out the long term answer at quarterback. Mayfield beat out former starter Sam Darnold in camp for the starting job before the start of the regular season.
He started six games and played in seven overall this season for Carolina. Mayfield had arguably his worst season as a pro this past year. He completed 57.8% of his passes for 1,313 passing yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions. Mayfield suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 5 and was benched for PJ Walker following his return from injury.
It is hard to expect Mayfield to play more than a few snaps the rest of the season. Most team’s are content with the layout of their quarterback room and could feel that Mayfield could complicate things. The team that claims Mayfield on waivers or signs him as a free agent could view Mayfield as a high upside backup for the 2023 NFL season. Here are the team’s that should consider adding Baker Mayfield to their roster.
San Francisco 49ers
The team that every football fan thought about when they saw that Mayfield was going to be released was the San Francisco 49ers. Last Sunday Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a broken foot that ultimately will end his season. Now that San Francisco has lost their top two quarterbacks to season-ending injures, 2022 seventh-round pick Brock Purdy is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback going forward.
Purdy played well against Miami in relief of Garoppolo. He completed 25 of his 37 passes (67.6%) for 210 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. San Francisco has an unbelievable supporting cast of players on both sides of the ball that still make the 49ers dangerous. They will make Purdy’s job simple. He doesn’t have to be the reason they win, however, he can’t be the reason they lose. Many expect San Francisco to be fine, but there are questions about the legitimacy of the 49ers being Super Bowl contenders.
ESPN’s Carolina Panthers reporter David Newton heard from multiple league sources that Mayfield asked for his release most likely because “teams like the 49ers are possibly looking for a veteran quarterback”. Mayfield might have seen this opening as an opportunity to possibly earn a starting job for a Super Bowl-caliber team.
The comments Kyle Shanahan made when asked about Mayfield were interesting. Shanahan said “We look into everything. That surprised me right now. We’ll discuss it this afternoon. Always been a fan of his but I feel pretty good about our players and where we’re at right now” when asked about the possibility of adding Mayfield.
He could be brought in as a low-risk-high-reward insurance option behind Purdy in case he struggles. San Francisco added veteran journeyman Josh Johnson from Denver’s practice squad earlier this week, but could carry dress on game day three quarterbacks going forward. This would be Mayfield’s best opportunity to see playing time again this season.
Los Angeles Rams
The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams are on pace to have the worst record by any team following a Super Bowl victory in the history of the league. At 3-9 their season is essentially over. To make matters worse the Rams’ first-round pick will be going to the Detroit Lions as a part of the trade that landed them Matthew Stafford. Last week the Rams decided to play Stafford on Injured Reserve which essentially ends his season. Los Angeles will likely start John Wolford in the team’s final five games. Bryce Perkins will likely serve as Wolford’s backup.
As it currently stands, the Los Angeles Rams have the fourth highest priority when it comes to waivers. A team lacking draft capital like the Rams could see Mayfield as the likely most talented player to hit waivers for the rest of the season and decide to bring him in simply because they can. There is a case that Mayfield could be an upgrade over Wolford and/or Perkins. He could also possibly serve as Los Angeles’ backup quarterback going forward. Considering Stafford’s injury history throughout his career that is a valuable position on the roster.
Back in the 2019-20 season Los Angeles had a high profile former first round pick quarterback as a backup quarterback. Former 2014 third overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars Blake Bortles backed up Jared Goff that season. The Rams administration could look to do something similar by bringing in Mayfield.
If Mayfield lands in Los Angeles he wouldn’t start more than a game or two at the end of the year. He may not even play a snap. But Los Angeles could view Mayfield as an option to backup Stafford in 2023. By claiming Mayfield Los Angeles could be attempting to get one over on their division rival San Francisco 49ers who desperately need to add a quarterback in they want to keep their Super Bowl hopes alive. Claiming Mayfield limits San Francisco’s quarterback options going forward.
Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t the only notable quarterback to suffer an injury during Week 13. Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback and former MVP Lamar Jackson suffered a knee injury early against the Denver Broncos. The injury took Jackson out for the rest of the game. Early reports about Jackson say that he is week-to-week and is dealing with a mild knee sprain. Jackson is expected to miss at least Week 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Baltimore signed veteran quarterback Brett Hundley to their practice squad. He will likely back up Tyler Huntley for the duration of time that Jackson is hurt. Huntley emerged as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL when he started for the Ravens during the final four games of the 2021-22 season.
So if Baltimore has a former MVP in Lamar Jackson and one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league in Tyler Huntley, why would they sign Baker Mayfield? The reason is that both are free agents this off-season. Baltimore could view Mayfield as an insurance policy of either or both quarterbacks leave this offseason.
Realistically the Ravens are going to franchise tag Lamar Jackson and likely get outbid for Tyler Huntley by a team who views him as a fringe starter (depending on how he plays the rest of the season). So in that scenario, Baltimore could bring Mayfield in as a cheap high upside backup to replace Huntley.
If there is a scenario where Jackson doesn’t end up staying with the Ravens this offseason Mayfield would at a minimum be a veteran quarterback with multiple years of starting experience who could be the team’s starting quarterback next year. This situation is probably worst case scenario for the Ravens but the possibility of this happening is more likely that they’d prefer.
Prior to Baltimore’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 Baker Mayfield acknowledged his good relationship with Lamar Jackson. During a press conference Mayfield jokingly made comments about Jackson’s mother being intimidating when telling a story about the Heisman ceremony they both attended. Not only did they both share a moment at the 2018 Heisman ceremony but both spent a lot of time together being top quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson could convince the coaching staff/front office to put a claim in for Mayfield to get him in the building.
It is also worth noting that one of Mayfield’s best pass catchers during his Heisman season in 2018 is current Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. If Mayfield was forced into action for the Ravens there is a sense of relief that he already has chemistry with the team’s top pass catcher.
New Orleans Saints
Similarly to the Los Angeles Rams, the New Orleans Saints are in a tough situation when it comes to the salary cap, draft picks, and falling short of expectations. On top of all of that, the Saints don’t have a plan at quarterback. They are currently starting Andy Dalton at quarterback and have Jameis Winston on the bench. It seems extremely unlikely Winston will play for the Saints for the rest of the year. New Orleans could try to get rid of Winston’s contract who is on the books for $11 million next season.
New Orleans could see Mayfield as a veteran that they could bring in for cheap that could start a few games for the team over the next few years as a bridge starter. They could bring him in this offseason and have him compete for the starting job next year. It is unlikely that Mayfield is the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. However, he could be the best option for a team without a first-round pick or cap space to bring in an expensive veteran.
It is clear that what the Indianapolis Colts are doing at quarterback is not working. Indianapolis’ offense has been a mess this year. Matt Ryan has not been the player the team thought they acquired when they traded for him during the offseason. Ryan leads the league in interceptions with 13 despite only playing in 11 games. Indianapolis replaced Carson Wentz with Ryan because they felt that he could run the offense better and make fewer mistakes than Wentz did last year. Wentz only had seven interceptions all of last year with the Colts
There is a realistic possibility the Colts try to trade Ryan or that he retires. There is also a possibility they try to convince Ryan to play at least one more season because they are not in a great position to land their franchise quarterback of the future. They’ve already seen what they have in second year quarterback Sam Ehlinger and it doesn’t look extremely promising.
The team that is clearly punting on the season by bringing in future Hall of Fame player and former ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday as their interim head coach has no reason to not bring in Baker Mayfield. Rather than evaluate what they have on their roster for next year Jim Irsay is “throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks”. They are in limbo between trying to trying to win and completely scrapping everything from this season. If Mayfield gets up to speed the Colts could start Mayfield to see if he could potentially be a veteran they’d want to keep on their roster going forward. Indianapolis has nothing to lose and enough to gain to bring him in to a dysfunctional quarterback room.