The Cleveland Browns have a quarterback problem. This sentiment may be interpreted in a variety of manners. Baker Mayfield has undeniably struggled all throughout 2021. The former No. 1 overall selection experienced one of his worst seasons professionally. Mayfield won't appear in Sunday's meaningless regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns have already been eliminated from playoff contention and Mayfield is now heading for surgery on a painful torn labrum injury suffered in Week 2. Mayfield remains under contract for the 2022 season after general manager Andrew Berry decided to exercise the fifth-year option on Mayfield's rookie contract last offseason. Mayfield will earn $18.8 million in 2022, but his immediate future as a Brown remains murkier than ever before. The relationship between Mayfield, Berry, head coach Kevin Stefanski, and the Browns has seemingly soured in recent months, with the Browns refusing to make a long-term financial commitment to Mayfield as their quarterback of the future. Reports of growing animosity between Mayfield and Stefanski continue to fester, and the two sides could be headed for a messy breakup this offseason. If the situation reaches the point of no return, these three teams should express interest in acquiring Mayfield via trade this summer.
CAROLINA PANTHERSMatt Rhule has struggled to find consistent quarterback play throughout his tenure as Carolina's head coach. The decision to acquire Sam Darnold from the New York Jets has seemingly blown up in the face of general manager Scott Fitterer. Darnold experienced an injury-riddled campaign, but was hardly effective while on the field, having completed just 58.7% of his passes while throwing seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 appearances. Fitterer inexplicably exercised the fifth-year option on Darnold's contract before he took his first snap as a Panther, meaning Darnold is under contract in 2022 for $18.8 million. It shouldn't stop the Panthers from seeking an upgrade this offseason. The Panthers shockingly reunited with former Carolina legend Cam Newton in early November, but Newton has failed to perform in a manner suggesting he's capable of serving as their quarterback of the future. From Teddy Bridgewater to P.J. Walker, the list of failed signal-callers that have played under center in Carolina over the past two seasons looms unfortunately large. The Panthers may be wary of taking a gamble on Mayfield after so many failed attempts, but they must keep swinging for the fences. Mayfield would likely provide the Panthers with better quarterback play than they've received over the past two years.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTSNo team has experienced more adversity at the quarterback position throughout 2021 than the New Orleans Saints have. Sean Payton is an excellent head coach that's somehow navigated his Saints through the difficulties of playing four different starting quarterbacks this season. It began with a resurgent Jameis Winston under center, who led the Saints to a surging 5-2 record before unfortunately suffering a season-ending knee injury in a Week 8 victory over Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since then, Payton has been forced to start Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill, and rookie quarterback Ian Book due to several injury or COVID-related issues. Payton's Saints somehow remain in playoff contention and could claim a postseason berth with a win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 paired with a San Francisco 49ers loss. It speaks to Payton's capabilities as a head coach despite mounting uncertainties at the quarterback position. Winston came to New Orleans ahead of the 2021 campaign on a one-year contract and is currently set to hit free agency. While the Saints would likely welcome him back on another team-friendly deal, his knee injury further muddies these waters. Payton has consistently flashed the ability to win football games while receiving just average to below-average play from his quarterbacks. Mayfield would provide an upgrade from what Payton has had to deal with this season.
DETROIT LIONSThe Detroit Lions currently own the second-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but will fail to encounter a quarterback worthy of spending that selection on. The Lions are much more likely to select a defensive stud in Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux. It means that Dan Campbell's Lions will have to turn to the veteran quarterback market in hopes of upgrading the position. While the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson may be available, Detroit's chances of luring a quarterback of that caliber to the Motor City is less than zero given their current situation. They'll instead have to set their sights on a more modest player looking to rebuild their reputation, and Mayfield fits the mold. One may argue that Mayfield hardly represents an upgrade on current starter Jared Goff, but the Lions are unlikely to view it through that lens after experiencing the Goff rollercoaster first-hand throughout 2021. Mayfield is the type of quarterback that would embrace the opportunity to play for a passionate and blue-collar market like the one he'd encounter in Detroit. After all, he quickly became a beloved figure in the state of Ohio, and Michigan isn't all that different. We could absolutely see the Lions pursuing Mayfield this offseason.
- Sep 19, 2023
- Sep 11, 2023