Baker Mayfield trade watch: Carolina Panthers pass on a quarterback in NFL Draft

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FILE Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield plays in an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022, in Pittsburgh. No longer part of Cleveland’s future, Mayfield is not participating in the team’s voluntary offseason program as the team tries to work out a trade. On Tuesday, coach Kevin Stefanski was reluctant to address the polarizing QB at all. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)

The franchise considered the most likely trade destination for Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield did not address the position in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.

The Carolina Panthers, picking No. 6, selected N.C. State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu. The Panthers do not have a pick in the second or third rounds.

The Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons were the other finalists in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback with the Houston Texans, Watson first eliminated the Browns, then changed his mind when General Manager Andrew Berry offered Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.

The controversial trade was executed on March 18, making Mayfield expendable. But the Browns found no immediate market for the first overall pick in 2018 because of the $18.858 million he’s guaranteed for 2022.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during a conference call last week that the Panthers seemed like the best fit for Mayfield.

“I was talking to a GM this morning,” Jeremiah said. “He was kind of making the case that if you look at Carolina’s options, he thought that Baker Mayfield was probably the most attractive of all the different options that they would have, whether it’s in this draft or going the veteran route. And it wasn’t [the GM from] Cleveland. It wasn’t Andrew Berry, so I don’t want [anyone] to think I’m doing his bidding for him.”

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Dec 25, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field after the Browns lost to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle and Carolina seem like the two teams most likely to deal for Mayfield, especially if the Browns are willing to pay part of Mayfield’s salary.

On a recent “Ya Neva Know: You Know What I Mean?” podcast, Mayfield was asked where he might end up and his answer was the Seattle Seahawks. Mayfield said he’d expected the destination to be the Indianapolis Colts, but that was quashed when the Colts traded for four-time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan, 36.

The Panthers have only two quarterbacks — Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker — and Darnold is in a similar situation to Mayfield.

Acquired in an April 5, 2021 trade from the New York Jets, Darnold played in 12 games last season and threw for 2,577 yards and nine touchdowns with 13 interceptions and a 71.9 rating. He also rushed for 222 yards and five scores.

A USC product who was the third overall pick of the Jets in 2018 behind Mayfield, Darnold has played in 50 career games and has a 17-32 record as a stater (4-7 last season). His 76.9 career rating includes 54 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. Darnold carries the same $18,858 million guaranteed salary as Mayfield before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Atlanta Falcons don’t find Matt Ryan’s replacement at No. 8, tab receiver Drake London

After trading Ryan, the Falcons seemingly found their bridge quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who spent the previous two years with the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Falcons didn’t overreach in the 2022 quarterback class for someone to supplant Mariota, selecting wide receiver Drake London of USC with the eighth overall pick.

The first Heisman winner at the University of Oregon, Mariota was the second overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2015. He hasn’t started a game since Oct. 13, 2019. His career has been plagued by injuries and a revolving door of coaches before he lost his Titans job to Ryan Tannehill.

Updates to come.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Possible Baker Mayfield trade partner Carolina Panthers pass on QB