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The Panthers have traded for Baker Mayfield

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have made their long awaited move at quarterback, agreeing this morning to terms with the Cleveland Browns in a trade for Baker Mayfield. The Browns will be eating a significant portion of Mayfield’s contract while only receiving a conditional fifth round pick in return.

The fifth round pick has the potential to become a fourth round pick pending the course of the 2022 season. That’s a fine price for a starting quarterback, which is what Mayfield is for the Panthers. It is still somewhat stunning to see the Panthers take a swing at upgrading their quarterback position without, for once, mortgaging any significant piece of their future in the process. They will also not have to eat the entirety of Mayfield’s contract.

The Panthers getting Mayfield for approximately $5 million this season is a steal. Mayfield reportedly surrendered $3.5 million of his fully guaranteed 2022 salary to facilitate the deal. That is money he can earn back by hitting specific incentives.

Whether or not the Panthers can get out from under Sam Darnold’s fully guaranteed contract at this point is irrelevant. The Panthers now have a quarterback room full of limited potential and limited risk, which is absolutely an upgrade from yesterday.

The short term outlook of the team is that they now have a quarterback who is an upgrade over Darnold. There is, of course, a world of difference between “better than Darnold” and “good enough to win.” The Panthers get to take 2022 to see where Mayfield falls on that map and then look forward to finally answering their quarterback question in 2023 and beyond with both cap space and draft capital to spare.

This is the result of patient leadership and is a refreshing sight out of Bank of America Stadium. Say what you will about the last few years of floundering, this action can inspire some genuine hope in fans—if not in the product on the field this year then at least in the guys making the decisions about what comes after.