How will Sam Darnold respond to the Carolina Panthers finally striking a deal with the Cleveland Browns for quarterback Baker Mayfield?
The news probably came as no surprise to Sam Darnold. An inconsistent first season with the Carolina Panthers forced the team’s hand into looking at potential upgrades, eventually settling on acquiring Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns for what could become a 2024 fourth-round pick and just $5 million in guaranteed money.
Mayfield hasn’t joined the Panthers to sit on the sidelines. It would be a huge shock if he wasn’t their starter in 2022 and considering the team also drafted Matt Corral at No. 94 overall, Darnold‘s future aspirations look murkier than ever before.
The Panthers took a big risk by giving up three draft selections over a two-year period to get Darnold from the New York Jets. A positive opening to the campaign left many wondering if a renaissance could emerge, but things went downhill quickly once more was asked of the signal-caller after Christian McCaffrey began suffering injury problems.
Darnold looked like a lost sheep at times behind a less than stellar offensive line. There are some fundamental flaws to his game that haven’t been rectified in the slightest and with so much at stake for head coach Matt Rhule next season, sticking with the former USC standout was simply not an option.
Whether Mayfield can fare any better is the big question. But it’s hard to deny that the Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t bring more to the table than Darnold.
If the Panthers do keep Darnold on the roster for training camp, it’s an incredibly interesting dynamic with the three projected candidates to make the team. Carolina wants a competition – or so they say – which could bring the best out of all involved in the stifling heat of Spartanburg.
Sam Darnold must respond well to Carolina Panthers’ trade for Baker Mayfield
How Darnold responds to Mayfield’s arrival will tell us plenty about the man’s character. In truth, it could go one of two ways.
Either he takes on this challenge with determination and improves in pursuit of another chance in Carolina or elsewhere.
Or the signal-caller regresses and begins sulking at his lack of prospects moving forward.
It’s a fine line, one suspects. And there is also a chance Darnold doesn’t make it to camp if another team calls or the Panthers take the bold step of releasing him and finding a way to absorb his fully guaranteed $18.85 million in 2022.
If Darnold had performed better last season, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The Panthers aren’t blameless in all this, either, but it’s hard to envisage a scenario where both parties don’t go their separate ways in the coming weeks.
Darnold must respond effectively and work hard. Trade interest has been non-existent in the former No. 3 overall selection to date, but if a camp injury occurs or another team feels like a better backup option is needed, then the phone could ring at some stage.
This would be the ideal scenario for Darnold, who is now surplus to requirements and might even find himself at No. 3 on the depth chart when it’s all said and done.
Yet another miscalculation by the Panthers at the most important position on the field. Everyone associated with the franchise will be hoping the same stigma doesn’t befall Mayfield this time next year.