A quarterback that never felt like a race won’t be a race for many a time.
As expected, Baker Mayfield is expected to be named the starter in Carolina. TheAthletic.com reports that it is inevitable. However, no time limit was applied when the notification was issued.
The Panthers traded for Mayfield after the offseason. Just the fact that the deal was done created speculation that the Panthers wanted Mayfield to play over Sam Darnold. But when former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who now works as a broadcaster for the team, said Darnold was ahead of the competition, some began to wonder if the Panthers simply added Mayfield in a buy-low proposition. The fifth rounder is paying just $5 million of his salary. (The Browns are paying $10.5 million.)
Then, after camp opened, the coaching staff split the first-team reps, giving Darnold a seemingly fair shot to win the job while also giving Mayfield a chance to get comfortable with a new offense on a new team. Despite not making the full rep team, Mayfield has convinced the coaching staff — and possibly the locker room — that he’s a better option, at least when the Browns come to town for a week.
While Mayfield will start every game, Darnold will actually make more money this year. He has a fifth-year option salary of $18.8 million with a 17-game sweety of $1.1 million. Mayfield, who originally had the same fifth-year salary, agreed to a pay cut of more than $3 million. Even if he can get it back with incentives, he should have a special year (more than $1 million is tied to reach and win the Super Bowl), the 17th game check is gone for good.
Of course, Mayfield isn’t planning on not pocketing nearly $20 million in 2022. He is planning to do more in 2023 and beyond. He needs to play to get there. And he does, at least when the season starts.
After that, it is. He must be effective. He also needs to stay healthy. His this-is-my-job attitude in Cleveland allowed him to play with a bad throwing shoulder when he shouldn’t have been on the field. In Carolina, especially with the coaching staff thinking about 2023 and beyond, they won’t receive such an honor.