Panthers, Browns, Garoppolo, Darnold, Draft, Salary, Seahawks

Wednesdays Baker Mayfield Deal came after months of negotiations. It appears that the ramp-up in mid-June Browns-Panthers talks resulted in an agreement fairly soon, but the ball fell to the quarterback’s spot. Mayfield’s agreement to take $3.5 million off his salary satisfied the Panthers.

The teams had that deal in place for nearly a month, according to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones and former Browns GM Michael Lombardi (Twitter connections). When the Panthers presented the slight pay cut to Mayfield, they pointed to the potential for the former No. 1 overall to make the difference by boosting his value to the free agent market in 2023, Jones adds. Mayfield, who was linked to a salary of $18.9 million, can also make the money back through 2022 incentives. Mayfield follows Odell Beckham Jr. sacrificing some money to facilitate a Browns exit.

Notwithstanding the interest in that interconference trade, ESPN.com’s David Newton adds that the deal will still precede a Mayfield-Darnold contest. Mayfield is favored to win a training camp contest against the incumbent Sam Darnold, who was drafted two picks behind him in the 2018 draft. As for the conditional draft pick the Browns will receive, Mayfield’s former team needs to make sure he defeats Darnold. The election becomes a 2024 fourth-rounder if Mayfield plays at least 70% of the Panthers’ snaps, The Athletic’s Joe Person tweets. Otherwise it becomes a fifth.

The winner of this fight will take the reins of a Panthers team that could have a much better offensive line – one that has added left tackle Ikem Ekwonucenter Bradley Bozeman and guard Austin Corbettwhich the Browns picked a round after Mayfield in 2018 — compared to his 2021 version and a receiving corps of DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson and 2021 second-round selection Terrace Marshall Jr. The prospect of a healthy Christian McCaffrey has been mocking the Panthers and their fanbase for two years now, but the former All-Pro running back is also returning to his place. Mayfield appears to be planning to gather Panthers skill players for a pre-camp practice, Newton tweets.

At the draft, the Browns were unwilling to pay much more than $3 million of Mayfield’s salary. They ended up moving to $10.5 million. The Panthers didn’t want to spend more than $5 million on Mayfield, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, leading to the wage cut request. But the Panthers managed to add a former No. 1 pick and resisted the temptation to reach for one of this year’s QB prospects with the No. 6 pick – who became Ekwonu.

During Mayfield’s pay cut and the Panthers’ agreement to pick up some of the costs, the Browns paid more than $8m. The Browns have transitioned from a reality in 2022 that fielded a healthier Mayfield to the trot Deshaun Watson — after a brief suspension — to face the prospect Jacoby Brissett is needed for a full season of QB1 work. The Browns did not intend to give Watson a one-year suspension — which has become the NFL’s preferred ban — when they acted for him, and neither they nor Mayfield appeared to be making any headway toward repairing the relationship.

As already mentioned, a Jimmy Garoppolo Trade was out of the question for the Panthers. They had expressed reservations about the 49ers QB’s injuries and, based on extensive haggling over Mayfield’s contract, didn’t cover Garoppolo’s $24.2 million salary. Carolina viewed Mayfield as a higher-elevation option than Garoppolo, according to Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson (on Twitter). Wednesday’s transaction cost Garoppolo, who has struggled with more injuries than Mayfield in the last four seasons, a prime landing spot. The 49ers may now have to wait out a training camp injury to offload Garoppolo in a trade. Some NFL raters expected San Francisco to simply let Garoppolo go, whose base salary is guaranteed in Week 1.

Seattle would make sense as a Garoppolo destination, but chatter from the Pacific Northwest remains focused on the ongoing Drew LockGeno Smith Contest. The Seahawks had “lukewarm interest” in acquiring Mayfield, notes Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta. Although the Browns’ move from Mayfield to Brissett is a demotion, the Seahawks are moving out Russell Wilson either Lock or Smith would top that. The Broncos, giving up their 2023 first- and second-round picks, are giving the Seahawks options next year — which is expected to be a better quarterback draft — but the team appears to be on the doorstep to take Wilson’s old job to a strict one hand over to checked passers-by.