Are the Panthers right to play financial hardball for Baker Mayfield?

(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield
(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield /

Are the Carolina Panthers right to play financial hardball with the Cleveland Browns in pursuit of quarterback Baker Mayfield?

We appear to be in the endgame regarding the Carolina Panthers and whether or not they are going to land another veteran quarterback in the trade market.

Those in power within the organization have been frantically pursuing almost every available option this offseason with only third-rounder Matt Corral to show for it. But something else could be in the pipeline with training camp on the immediate horizon.

One name that keeps popping up is Baker Mayfield, who is unlikely to play for the Cleveland Browns again despite a probable suspension for Deshaun Watson after he settled 20 of 24 civil cases relating to sexual misconduct.

Mayfield has been the subject of real interest from the Panthers over a prolonged period of time. Talks progressed significantly during the draft before Corral came on board, with the financial element to the equation providing the biggest stumbling block throughout negotiations.

This remains a hotly contested debate between those in power within both organizations. A game of cat and mouse with neither side willing to budge right now.

Obviously, the Browns don’t want Mayfield complicating matters for Jacoby Brissett if Watson does get a lengthy ban as expected. It would also be wise for the signal-caller to get somewhere else in plenty of time to learn the playbook.

Cleveland is reportedly willing to pay around half of Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.85 million to get a deal over the line according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. But that is not enough for Carolina despite having $24.58 million in cap space available.

Carolina Panthers unwilling to budge on Baker Mayfield’s contract

This sentiment was echoed by Ellis Williams of the Charlotte Observer on Monday, who added that the Panthers and Browns are still around $4.5 million off from finding a middle ground. There hasn’t been any mention of compensation being an issue, so playing hardball on the financial side of things is a dangerous game for Carolina with the Seattle Seahawks also heavily linked with the Oklahoma product.

Had the Panthers not picked up Sam Darnold’s fifth-year option with $18.85 million attached, things would be different. Carolina also knows that Cleveland has little leverage when it comes to Mayfield – a bridge that was burned from the moment Watson agreed to join them.

Realistically speaking, the Panthers have probably allocated a certain amount of money to the quarterback room. Darnold takes up most of it and Corral has yet to sign his rookie contract, so as it stands they will only go to a certain sum for Mayfield.

There is no doubt Mayfield represents a significant upgrade on anything Carolina has currently. One could even argue he’d be the best signal-caller to walk through the doors since Cam Newton was released in messy circumstances.

The closer we get to July 26 when the Panthers descend on Wofford College, the more urgency will come around. But fans should also brace themselves for another season of Darnold if the front office is unwilling to budge.

After last season, that’s a pretty scary thought. Even if the Panthers have Christian McCaffrey back and made some tremendous improvements to their offensive line in free agency and the draft.

At the end of the day, Carolina didn’t restructure contracts and leave a huge sum behind just for it to sit there. But the Panthers want Cleveland to pay for their mismanagement of Mayfield when it’s all said and done.

Related Story. 3 last-ditch trade offers for the Carolina Panthers to land Baker Mayfield before camp. light