When the Carolina Panthers end up making a move for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, Shannon Sharpe thinks everyone should lower their expectations.
The Panthers were the team most clearly associated with Mayfield, who could compete for the starting spot alongside Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral. While Mayfield certainly has advantages to improve the Browns, Sharpe doesn’t think the trade could help save head coach Matt Rhule’s job.
“How the hell can Baker Mayfield save Matt Rhule’s job and he can’t save his own?” He had a much better situation in Cleveland,” Sharpe told Undisputed on Tuesday. “Look at the receivers he had in Cleveland. Look at the running backs he had in Cleveland. Look at the offensive line he had in Cleveland. Look at the defense he had in Cleveland. He couldn’t save his job, but he will save someone else’s?”
The opinion that Mayfield could help save Rhule’s job came from NFL Network’s James Jones. He said the Rhule – who is aged between 10 and 23 – is risking his future by not striving for the former top overall pick.
“Having Baker Mayfield straight off the road no matter where he is in Cleveland makes this team better. He’s a better player and a better quarterback,” Jones said. “We’ve seen the best of Sam Darnold, we can’t give Darnold more chances. Baker Mayfield led this Cleveland Browns team to the playoffs and won away in Pittsburgh. … If you don’t get a quarterback, depending on Sam Darnold, you’ll be fired.”
Mayfield is in a precarious position after a tough, injury-ridden season. Mayfield completed 60.5% of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season. He underwent surgery on a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder this offseason but is expected to be ready to roll for training camp.
A healthy Mayfield should be an upgrade over Darnold, who rushed for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games with the Panthers last season as the team finished 5-12.
Carolina hasn’t been shy about saying they will upgrade at every position if the opportunity arises before the start of the season.
“If we can make a significant improvement at every position, then we absolutely should,” Rhule told reporters as the Panthers wrapped up minicamp on Thursday, June 16. “But we can also make a lot of improvements if our guys play better this year than they’ve done in the past and I like where he’s going.”
What stopped the Browns from striking a deal with Mayfield was his salary, which is close to $19 million for next season. And the Browns have no say in negotiations, so teams — including the Panthers — have been waiting to see how much of that number they can get Cleveland to eat.
But Cleveland has changed course a bit as the clock ticks down to training camp. MMQB senior NFL reporter Albert Breer recently said they were willing to sacrifice half his salary to close a deal.
“They’re willing to pay a fair chunk of Baker’s salary,” Breer said on Friday’s Rich Eisen Show. “Like 9 or 10 million dollars. So for people out there who think Cleveland is keeping Baker as Deshaun [Watson] Assurance they wouldn’t offer to cover a fairly significant portion of the guy’s salary if they wanted to hold him until there was more clarity on the Deshaun Watson case.