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Can Baker Mayfield lock down starting QB role in Carolina?

Mayfield traded to Panthers

Months after his trade request, Baker Mayfield has finally found a new home. The Cleveland Browns traded the former first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional fifth-round pick. In Carolina, Mayfield will now have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job, something he wasn’t going to be able to do in Cleveland.

There were rumors Mayfield was going to stay in Cleveland for this upcoming season as the Browns’ newly acquired QB, Deshaun Watson, has a suspension looming over his head. However, someone finally bit and met the Browns’ demands. The main hang-up with Baker was his contract, as he is owed nearly $19 million this coming season.

Mayfield exploded onto the scene in Cleveland and was able to lead the Browns to the playoffs in 2020. He was the hero of Cleveland for a short time, but last year he struggled through injuries. With a separated shoulder, Baker and the Browns missed the playoffs. Mayfield only threw for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His subpar performance left the Browns looking for new options and when they traded for Watson, it was clear Baker was done in Cleveland.

It looks to be a good deal for the Panthers. They didn’t give up that much and they have dealt with a quarterback carousel over the past couple of years. He will compete with 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold for the starting position, and whoever wins it should be in an alright position to succeed. The Panthers have a lot of offensive talent, but bad QB play has plagued them in past seasons.

If Mayfield wins the job, he will have one of the best running-backs in the NFL in his backfield in Christian McCaffrey. Between McCaffrey and a stud wide receiver in D.J. Moore, Mayfield could potentially have the best supporting cast he’s had in his young career. The issue will be, which Baker shows up for the Panthers? If he plays like he did two years ago, Baker will be re-signed and should be the QB of the future in Carolina. If he struggles like last season, Baker’s time as a starting quarterback may be done.

Regardless, that risk is worth it for the Panthers. They went 5-12 last year and coach Matt Rhule is firmly on the hot seat. After trying multiple guys at QB to no avail, this could be Rhule’s last chance to save his job. Mayfield and Darnold are number one and two respectively across the NFL in interceptions thrown since 2018, so it will be no easy task for Rhule.

Either way, this was still a smart move for the Panthers. The Browns will be fine with Watson at QB and may struggle to replace him for his suspension, but there was no long-term plan with Mayfield at the helm. It was clear that he needed to go. Mayfield has a large personality and still feels like he can start in this league. Whether he can, remains to be seen.

Right now the Panthers are +12500 to win the Super Bowl, and that seems about right; they have next to no chance. Winning eight games would be a success for them. However, the Panthers are +1100 to win their division, and that could be worth a bet. The Buccaneers, with Tom Brady, will be a daunting task, but if the Mayfield experiment works, the Panthers will be up there with the Bucs. It’s a lot to project, but at these odds, it’s worth a small wager.

The Panthers are also -105 to win more than six games, and that’s a good bet as well. While it’s not a Super Bowl-winning roster, Carolina should have been better than they were last season. They should take a step forward with Mayfield and should have a semi-successful season. Six games is not a lot to win, and as long as Mayfield doesn’t completely implode, the Panthers will cover that line.

This trade was a long time coming, but it is still interesting. Just one year ago, Baker was a revered figure in Cleveland, but that just goes to show you how quickly the NFL moves on. Now, Mayfield has one last chance to prove himself, and looking at the NFL schedule, he will have an interesting test in week one: the Cleveland Browns. We are only 64 days away from kickoff and the hype can hardly grow any larger.

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