Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield will have to do a lot to earn back the $3.5 million he sacrificed to facilitate a pre-training camp trade from Cleveland to Carolina. Even if he earns every penny, there’s another cost relating to the trade that he won’t earn back based on anything he does in 2022.
As a league source explained it to PFT, Mayfield actually would have made $19.9 million in guaranteed salary under his fifth-year option, not $18.8 million. That amount also would have included a check in the amount of $1.1 million for the 17th game.
By agreeing to a reduced salary based on a 17-game season, there will be no extra check for the 17th game. Which means that the $1.1 million is simply gone, for good.
While that’s a huge amount of money for the vast majority of the population, it’s not much in the grander scheme of things for Baker. In lieu of making $19.9 million in 2022 while waiting to be traded or released at some point later in the year, he was able to get his fresh start in July. That will, if he wins the starting job in Carolina and plays well, set him up for a much better contract in 2023.
The money he gave up this year therefore becomes an investment in his ability to make a lot more later. But that’s also why he should have asked the Panthers to agree not to tag him after the season. If he has a really great season in 2022, the Panthers may keep him from getting to the open market, forcing him to do it again in 2023. And possibly again in 2024.
And if the Panthers decide to give him a long-term deal, it won’t be the same kind of contract he would have gotten on the open market, with multiple teams vying for his services.
These are issues for another day. For now, he needs to win the starting job in 2022. If he doesn’t, he won’t have to worry about being tagged next year. But he also will have given up $4.6 million without earning much if any of it back.