The quarterback carousel has been spinning all offseason, with teams like the Steelers, Browns, Colts, Broncos, Commanders, Falcons, and Seahawks all on track to open next season with new starters under center. That's not to mention teams like the 49ers, Bears, and Texans, all of whom are expected to start the passers they drafted last year but had on the bench to begin the 2021 season.
There is still at least one domino left to fall in the quarterback market, though, with Cleveland still having Baker Mayfield on its roster, even after trading for Deshaun Watson earlier this offseason. There's been speculation that the Browns could keep Mayfield and have him start while Watson serves any suspension handed down under the personal conduct policy in the wake of him being accused by 20-plus women of sexual misconduct, but that seems unlikely given the financial realities involved, as well as the potential locker-room awkwardness.
That's what makes the recent report from The Athletic that both the Seahawks and Carolina Panthers have not yet ruled out making a play for Mayfield at some point this offseason an interesting one. From Jeff Howe:
The Panthers and Seahawks have shown interest in acquiring Mayfield, but the Browns haven't been willing to absorb enough of his fully guaranteed $18.858 million salary. There had indeed been some progress in the negotiations between the Browns and Panthers before Carolina traded up for quarterback Matt Corral — a move the Panthers felt compelled to make with a QB prospect they liked still dangling out there.
The Panthers and Seahawks still haven't ruled out acquiring Mayfield, but they'll need the Browns to take on a much greater portion of his contract than they've offered so far. It's unclear how far apart the sides have been, but the Browns want their contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return.
It's worth noting that the last time a team was essentially paid to take on a quarterback's salary was when the Browns received a second-round pick from the Houston Texans in exchange for absorbing Brock Osweiler's $16 million onto their books.
But Cleveland took on that whole contract, which is what allowed the Browns to receive an asset in return rather than giving one up. If the Browns are willing to absorb some of Mayfield's salary on his way out the door, that could increase their return in this deal. If they insist on the acquiring team paying Mayfield's entire salary, they may have to attach assets to shed him from their cap sheet. Considering opposing teams are reportedly not too thrilled with the structure of Watson's contract, they're likely not going to be in any mood to help the Browns here, which complicates things even further. This is a situation that could drag out through the offseason and into training camp, where it may be an injury, rather than compensation, that motivates a team to trade for Mayfield.