Browns and Panthers Quarterback Dilemmas Solved With One Trade

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The Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers will both run their mandatory minicamp this week as the final act before players and coaches get a break until training camps open in late July.

And both these teams share more than minicamp dates now because both have quarterback problems.

And both can solve the other’s quarterback issues.

Before we detail those already well-known issues allow me to present the solution:

Baker Mayfield for Sam Darnold.

Straight up.

There, glad to help two franchises in need. Because I just solved some problems both are managing, and in some instances, kind of mismanaging.

We know that as it stands today the Browns and Mayfield have beef. The team has moved on to Deshaun Watson as the starter and Mayfield, all roiled about that, has demanded a trade out of town. Both sides have agreed Mayfield will be excused from this week’s mandatory minicamp.

The Browns have been trying to get maximum value for Mayfield in trade but have been way, way too demanding in playing their hand while everyone understand Cleveland is in a tough spot because it’s going to be very awkward if training camp comes around and Mayfield is still on the roster.

At that point the Browns cannot tell Mayfield to stay home because they would face the wrath of an NFL Players Association grievance. So time isn’t Cleveland’s friend.

Watson’s legal standing and looming decision from the NFL about possible sanctions for violating the personal conduct policy pose another problem.

In short, the Browns have zero guarantee Watson will be their starting quarterback when their season begins and Mayfield is not a fallback position.

Mayfield has told multiple people he has no interest ever playing for the current Cleveland front office.

So the Browns have Jacoby Brissett as their fallback.

This is the reason trading Mayfield for Darnold makes sense for them.

They get a quarterback with experience. With abilities that perhaps are still not fully honed and can be improved. And they get a quarterback who can, at the very least, compete with Brissett for the backup job and possibly beat him out.

(It can be argued Darnold is an upgrade over Brissett but that would be decided on the practice field).

The trade makes sense for the Browns because they are not likely to get the second- or multiple third-round picks for Mayfield they initially wanted prior to the draft.

That definitely isn’t going to happen with a team taking on Mayfield’s guaranteed salary of $18.85 million for 2022.

So why would the Panthers take on that salary?

Well because in a straight-up trade they don’t have to give up any draft picks for Mayfield. And they would gladly take on his $18.85 million guaranteed salary because they would be sending Darnold and his guaranteed $18.85 million salary to Cleveland.

So Mayfield and his $18.85 million salary to Carolina.

And Darnold and his $18.85 million salary to Cleveland.

The second part of this trade is why would Carolina make this trade?

Because Mayfield is better than Darnold. It’s an upgrade. Or at least it should feel that way.

Mayfield has actually helped a team reach the playoffs — he did so in 2020 with the Browns — and when healthy he’s arguably a solid starting quarterback.

No, he’s not better than Watson, which is one of the reasons his days in Cleveland are over. But perhaps new surroundings with a new organization and coaching staff help him improve.

That could be good for the Panthers.

They’d be replacing Darnold with a quarterback who has a higher career quarterback rating and completion percentage for the same price they’re paying now.

This is the part in this column where Browns fans are asking, “Why would Cleveland want to do this again?”

And I remind the Dawg Pound this exchange is basically a trade of your now-discarded starter for an insurance policy should the new guy get suspended while not upsetting the current salary cap situation and having no future year salary cap ramifications.

The Browns, by the way, have said their backup plan if Watson goes down is Brissett. Did they watch Brissett play last year in Miami?

No bueno.

Brissett has been way more careful with the football over his career than Darnold. But that caution hasn’t helped Brissett’s teams move the ball and score nearly enough.

Last season Brissett averaged 116 passing yards per game. Darnold, admittedly less disciplined with the football, averaged 210.6 passing yards per game.

The point here is not to trade for Darnold so he can definitely take over for Watson if/when the suspension comes. The point for Cleveland is to add a viable option at the sport’s most important position in case Brissett performs like, well, Brissett while Watson is away.

And what if Watson doesn’t get suspended? What with Darnold then?

If gives the Browns a year to evaluate him inside their building. Too expensive, you say?

Not any more expensive than simply cutting Baker Mayfield and getting nothing for him in return.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero


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