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Baker Mayfield trade rumors: Why talks between Browns, Panthers stalled

Sporting News logo Sporting News 5/26/2022 Kevin Skiver

Free agency and the NFL Draft have come and gone, and the Panthers still very much have a quarterback problem. They have Sam Darnold on his fifth-year option, which they picked up after trading for him last offseason, and behind him are P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral.

Elsewhere, Baker Mayfield is predictably absent from the Browns' OTAs as he continues to try to be traded after Cleveland traded for Deshaun Watson this offseason. While Mayfield and Panthers seem like a potential fit, there is one major sticking point: money.

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Cleveland exercised Mayfield's fifth-year option, meaning he'll be paid the same $18.86 million Darnold is getting this season. The Panthers, unsurprisingly, don't want two quarterbacks being paid franchise money, so they reportedly want the Browns to pick up part of Mayfield's contract.

Per The Charlotte Observer's Jonathan M. Alexander, the magic number was between $13 million and $14 million, which ultimately was too steep for the Browns. Without the Browns picking up that amount, the Panthers apparently backed off talks.

History of Baker Mayfield trade rumors

Talk of a Mayfield-Browns divorce increased when the Watson-to-the-Browns rumors began to pick up steam. Mayfield's future with the team was cast into question before Watson officially joined Cleveland when Mayfield made a cryptic social media post saying he didn't know what was going to happen next.

After the Browns landed Watson, Mayfield doubled down. He has given no indication he's amenable to playing for the Browns again, which is pertinent with a Watson suspension looming.

Mayfield not showing up to OTAs is a pointed reiteration that, in his mind, he isn't a backup or an emergency option.

The Panthers and Seahawks appear to have gotten the most traction in Mayfield trade talks, although both teams could just be doing their due diligence because of need. The Panthers rumors began to pick up steam before the draft, but the Seahawks have never seemed committed to pursuing Mayfield.

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Will Baker Mayfield be traded?

If Alexander's report is true, then the Browns still believe they have leverage in Mayfield trade talks. As NFL training camps approach, that perception may change, and a team with a shallow quarterback room could pursue Mayfield.

It would be surprising to see Mayfield on the sideline with the Browns in the upcoming season. There is a good chance he is traded sometime this summer rather than in the immediate term. At the moment, the Browns' reported demands don't appear to be realistic.

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