You can finally close the book on the Baker Mayfield-to-Seattle rumors.
Mayfield is instead headed to Carolina, with the Browns and Panthers pulling off a trade Wednesday that included salary concessions from both teams and Mayfield to make it work.
Carolina will send a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick that can become a fourth-rounder, according to the NFL Network, while the Panthers will also pay $4.85 million of Mayfield’s salary this season. The Browns will pay $10.5 million while Mayfield agreed to take a $3.5 million pay cut from his base salary (he can reportedly make the money back if he hits certain incentives). The pick will become a fourth-rounder if Mayfield plays 70% of the Panthers’ offensive snaps in 2022.
Seattle had been oft-rumored as potentially interested in Mayfield, with some reports indicating their interest was strong and others, such as one from the NFL Network on Tuesday, saying Seattle was never really too involved.
All indications, though, are that the Seahawks were mostly waiting to see if Mayfield might be released and then potentially pursuing him but otherwise had lukewarm interest.
The Seahawks instead have insisted throughout the offseason they are more than content to go into the 2022 season with Geno Smith and Drew Lock battling to replace the traded Russell Wilson as their starting quarterback.
The Mayfield trade appears to further validate that the Seahawks aren’t just paying lip service in saying they want to give the Smith-Lock duo a real shot in 2022.
Mayfield became expendable when the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and then signed him to a record-breaking deal in which all $230 million is guaranteed. Mayfield indicated after it was first revealed the Browns were pursuing Watson that he no longer wanted to play for Cleveland.
The Browns also signed Jacoby Brissett to be Watson’s backup and potentially a fill-in if Watson is suspended by the NFL.
Mayfield had just one year remaining on his contract, a fully guaranteed deal worth $18.8 million. Because no team wanted to take on all of that contract, the Browns had few options and some speculated Cleveland might eventually just release him. Instead, the Browns get back only a mid-round choice two years from now, illustrating that there wasn’t much of a trade market for Mayfield.
Are there quarterbacks left the Seahawks could still pursue?
That Mayfield is now in Carolina might cause speculation that the Panthers might now be willing to dump Sam Darnold, who was the third pick in the 2018 draft and acquired by the Jets a year ago. But he has the same contract situation as Mayfield — a fully guaranteed $18.8 million in 2022 on what is the last year of his rookie deal. And early indications are that the Panthers will keep Darnold and let him and Mayfield battle for the starting job (Carolina also drafted Matt Corral out of Ole Miss in the third round).
And Jimmy Garoppolo’s future with the 49ers remains uncertain as he enters the final year of his contract and San Francisco eventually expected to turn the QB job over to second-year player Trey Lance.
But from the minute the draft ended and the Seahawks did not add a quarterback, signs have pointed to Seattle content to go into the season with what it has at QB knowing it can be particularly aggressive to add to the position in 2023 if needed.
Seattle has two first round picks and two second-rounders next year, giving the Seahawks ample flexibility to move up if needed to take a QB at the top of the draft. Seattle will also have significant cap space in 2023 with Wilson’s contract going fully off the books.
Seattle has a $26 million dead cap charge for Wilson in 2022 — meaning money the team has already paid him — with the Seahawks currently having $16.3 million in cap space left this year.
But Seattle has more than $58 million in cap space available for 2023, third-most in the NFL according to OvertheCap.com, and is in position to make a run at whatever quarterbacks might become available.
For now, though, you can scratch Mayfield off the list of potential future Seattle QBs, assuming he was ever on it in the first place.