According to multiple reports, the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns continue to engage in serious discussions regarding a potential trade for quarterback Baker Mayfield. The latest report indicates the Browns may be willing to pay half of Mayfield’s 2022 salary in order to facilitate the trade. The predictive outcome is that Mayfield becomes a Panther before training camp begins in late July. If so, the Panthers will look to trade or release one of their three current signal-callers. Quarterback PJ Walker would be the logical choice.
It’s difficult to envision a team trading for Sam Darnold given that he’s due a fully-guaranteed $18.858 million in 2022 via the fifth-year option. The Panthers also have no financial incentive to release Darnold. General manager Scott Fitterer isn’t going to trade or release rookie quarterback Matt Corral, who may eventually receive an opportunity to prove he’s capable of becoming Carolina’s franchise quarterback. If Mayfield arrives in Cleveland, it leaves Walker as the odd man out, as the Panthers won’t carry four quarterbacks on their active roster.
With Mayfield-to-Carolina rumors continuing to run rampant, we’ve identified three potential landing spots for Walker.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Los Angeles Rams may feature the most concerning situation at backup quarterback across the entire league. Rams General Manager Les Snead rosters John Wolford and Bryce Perkins behind starter Matthew Stafford. Wolford has 42 career passing attempts under his belt, two of which were intercepted (he’s never thrown a regular-season touchdown). In 2021, Wolford went 1-of-4 with one turnover. Perkins has never attempted an official NFL pass after entering the league as an undrafted free agent following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. Perkins had an up-and-down college career while playing for three different programs (Arizona State, Arizona Western, and Virginia).
There’s also a fairly notable connection worth exploring in Los Angeles. Current Rams offensive assistant Jake Peetz served as Walker’s quarterbacks position coach in Carolina during the 2020 campaign. Peetz is extremely familiar with Walker both as a player and person.
Walker would upgrade Los Angeles’ backup quarterback position. That improvement, paired with a notable staff connection, makes acquiring Walker a move the Rams should consider making.
There aren’t any concerns with this quarterback situation. Buffalo Bills starting quarterback Josh Allen is one of the most talented and productive signal-callers in the league. Case Keenum is a viable backup that was acquired by Bills General Manager Brandon Beane via trade earlier this offseason. Veteran Matt Barkley is currently Buffalo’s No. 3 quarterback, but Barkley has struggled to stick on a roster in recent seasons.
New Bills Offensive Coordinator Ken Dorsey previously worked as the team’s quarterbacks coach before receiving a promotion to OC. Dorsey takes the development of quarterbacks very seriously and is partially credited with rehabilitating Mitchell Trubisky’s reputation as a signal-caller.
Dorsey could find a new intriguing project in Walker, who would push Barkley for a potential roster spot. Furthermore, Buffalo’s new quarterbacks coach is Joe Brady, who worked alongside Walker as Carolina’s offensive coordinator in 2020 and through a portion of the 2021 season. Brady and Dorsey take pride in improving the mechanics and fundamental skill set of a quarterback. The 34-year-old Keenum won’t be around forever. A shared history may make Walker a target in Buffalo, even if his initial path includes a stint on the practice squad.
On the surface, Pittsburgh’s depth chart at quarterback appears rather settled. The Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett with a first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, making him the favorite to serve as their starter for the foreseeable future. Now retired general manager Kevin Colbert also signed Trubisky to a two-year bridge contract. Trubisky is expected to serve as Pittsburgh’s Week 1 starter under center. Veteran backup Mason Rudolph is also in the mix, but recent reports indicate Rudolph could be traded before training camp begins. Rudolph’s potential departure could free up a spot for Walker.
The Steelers actually attempted to sign Walker prior to his stint with the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL. The Steelers were likely impressed by Walker’s stint in the developmental league. Walker finished the 2020 XFL season with a 5–0 record while tossing 1,338 passing yards and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions. He led the league in both passing touchdowns and passing yards.
The Steelers have likely kept tabs on Walker ever since, although Walker preferred to reunite with Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule upon his return to the NFL, who he previously played for at Temple. With both Walker and Rudolph potentially on the move, the Steelers could reignite their interest in acquiring Walker.