Fans love it when a guy bets on himself, in large part because it’s not our money.
For Baker Mayfield, who reduced his 17-game guaranteed salary in Cleveland of $19.9 million to $15.358 million in order to facilitate a July trade to the Panthers, the best is going bust. Through four games, he has yet to perform in a way that will position him for a significant new contract in Carolina, or elsewhere.
He has a passer rating of 75.0, which needless to say is not good; the only two starters behind him are Mitch Trubisky (who may not be a starter any longer) and Justin Fields. Mayfield is completing 54.7 percent of his passes, with an average yards per attempt of 6.4 (26th in the league). He has four touchdown passes and three interceptions, and he ranks 27th among all quarterbacks in yardage, with 747.
It’s far from franchise-quarterback numbers. It’s bad enough to potentially get him benched, once Sam Darnold is ready to return from an ankle injury. It’s also bad enough to keep Mayfield from getting a free-agent contract to be a starter — unless a team signs him to be a placeholder until it drafts someone in round one.
The separate question is whether a team would even want Mayfield to be the veteran presence while a rookie gets up to speed. Would he embrace that role? Would he believe it’s beneath him?
Would he want so much on the open market that no one will even offer him a contract?
Mayfield entered the league in 2018 with extreme bravado and the ability to back it up. So far in Carolina, he’s not. And it’s not too early to wonder whether he’ll even be on a team next year at this time.
Yes, he’s good enough to have a roster spot. Between his financial expectations and his personality, however, it may be a Cam Newton-style situation where there’s simply no good fit for the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.