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Why did the Carolina Panthers release QB Baker Mayfield? Where is he going next?

AS USA 12/6/2022 Jeffrey May
The Carolina Panthers release their backup quarterback 13 weeks into the season and Baker Mayfield is running out of good options in the NFL © Charlotte Observer (Getty) The Carolina Panthers release their backup quarterback 13 weeks into the season and Baker Mayfield is running out of good options in the NFL

This would not seem to be the time to release your quarterback, even if he has recently fallen to number three in the depth charts. Baker Mayfield got caught up in the Deshaun Watson dabacle in Cleveland and the former first overall draft pick found himself at a loose end. Carolina picked him up for a fifth-round draft pick in 2024 and there were big hopes for him in Charlotte.

It never panned out there, however, and he lost the starting role to Sam Darnold, eventually slipping to the number three spot behind PJ Walker.

Why release Baker Mayfield now?

While the timing is perhaps unorthodox, the Panthers had no real appetite to hang onto Mayfield. They have clearly hitched their wagon to Darnold for the rest of the season, so when Mayfield requested a release, they were all too happy to accept.

Clearly Mayfield thinks that there are further opportunities for him to find a starting job around the league, with rumors that Jimmy Garoppolo’s broken foot may have been the impulse for the request. With the 49ers now trialling last year’s “Mr Irrelevant” Brock Purdy under center, Mayfield may feel that he can find his footing in San Francisco.

Is Baker Mayfield good enough?

There is no doubt that Mayfield has the toolset to start in the NFL. His rookie season, Mayfield set the rookie quarterback record for passing touchdowns, since overtaken by Justin Herbert. He handed the Browns their first win in two seasons and showed spark along the way, bringing the Browns to the playoffs for the first time in two decades and giving them their first postseason win since 1994.

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The problem isn’t his ability, but perhaps his consistency. While there was no doubt that he could play at the highest level, Mayfield would have weeks where he looked as if he didn’t know which end of the field he was throwing towards. This may have been borne out of his conflict with the Browns management or perhaps a disconnect with the playbook, but for whatever reason, Mayfield lost the confidence and support of Cleveland to such an extent that they were willing to take a gamble on the kryptonite-laden Deshaun Watson.

What are Baker Mayfield’s options?

The good news for Baker Mayfield is that the league is full of teams who could use a hand at quarterback. The bad news is that many of them would rather look at their own home-grown talent pool rather than take a risk on someone who comes with a “reputation”. Just ask Colin Kaepernick if you don’t believe me.

Mayfield could be picked up off waivers by San Francisco, and that is clearly is best immediate bet, but if they don’t and we see the rest of the season out as it stands, then in the off season, he would be well placed to take over in Tampa or New Orleans. Both of those teams have quarterback issues on the horizon, Tampa with the impending retirement of Tom Brady, and yes, it will end for Brady soon, and New Orleans with the health issues of Jameis Winston.

Many of the franchises who could use help under center have picked up their own young draft picks, such as Pittsburgh, who took Kenny Pickett in the first round last year, and would prefer their own development plan to picking up a freelancer.

If Baker Mayfield doesn’t find a permanent home soon, he could find himself in the same boat as Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with all the ability in the world, but living as a permanent free agent.

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