Four weeks ago, the Browns and Panthers talked about a possible trade for quarterback Baker Mayfield. The deal didn’t happen because the two teams couldn’t come to an agreement as to the amount of Mayfield’s $18.8 million guaranteed salary that would be paid by the Browns.
The gap was too large. While it’s unclear what the Browns were willing to pay, the Panthers reportedly wanted the Browns to shoulder most of the financial burden.
As noted by Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers wanted the Browns to pay $13-14 million. That would have kept Carolina’s obligation in the range of $5-6 million.
Another important factor, that currently isn’t known, becomes the trade compensation that the Panthers would have sent to the Browns. The less the Panthers give by way of pick(s), the more of Mayfield’s salary the Panthers would be willing to pay. Conversely, the higher the price in picks, the lower the salary.
The Panthers ultimately pivoted to quarterback Matt Corral in the draft. In a post-draft interview with #PFTPM, Panthers G.M. Scott Fitterer suggested that the door potentially remains open on a trade for a veteran quarterback.
“I would say quarterback or any other position, if there’s someone out there that we think can help us, we’ll keep our minds open,” Fitterer said. “We have the money set aside to make several different moves and that was important for us to do. We want that flexibility but if someone can help us, regardless of position, we’ll make a move at some point.”
The Browns need to decide whether to trade Mayfield or to keep him around. They possibly may need Mayfield. However, Mayfield quite possibly may have no desire to remain in Cleveland — even if Deshaun Watson ultimately is suspended for a full year.
With Mayfield guaranteed to make $18.8 million even if the Browns release him, the Browns could decide to keep Mayfield around into the regular season and up until the trade deadline. Whether Mayfield goes along with that approach becomes a different issue. Whether it’s in the team’s best interests to have yer another potential distraction becomes a different issue, too.
Through it all, the clock is ticking. Mayfield needs to play and play well somewhere in 2022 to set the stage for a solid free-agent payday in 2023. For now, it’s fine. Before too long, it won’t be.