With about a month to go before training camp, the Cleveland Browns still haven’t traded Baker Mayfield, and the Deshaun Watson fiasco keeps getting uglier.
The Carolina Panthers reportedly have interest in Mayfield, but nothing has materialized, at least partly because they want the Browns to take care of “a sizeable percentage of his $18.8 million salary.”
A potential trade with them could bring back Sam Darnold, their incumbent starter at quarterback.
Hypothetically, it could kill two birds with one stone by both jettisoning Mayfield and giving Cleveland a backup for if and when Watson gets suspended by the NFL.
But is Darnold the right man for such a job?
The Case Against Darnold
Darnold, a native of Southern California, became a big star at the University of Southern California.
He led the Trojans to a win in the 2017 Rose Bowl, and the following season he was considered a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
When the New York Jets took him with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, big things were expected from him, especially when the Jets gave him a four-year deal with $30.25 million fully guaranteed right away.
But he has fallen well short of the expectations some had for him.
He threw for just 2,865 yards as a rookie, and he had almost as many interceptions (15) as touchdowns (17) that season.
In four pro seasons, his high water mark was his second year, where he posted 3,024 yards and 19 touchdowns in 13 games.
He has never had a passer rating of 85, let alone 90, so far in his NFL career, and his interception rate of 3.2 percent is simply too high.
Even worse, his career completion rate of 59.8 percent is very anemic.
The Panthers signed Sam Darnold. https://t.co/oWegam3MQ5
— Jason Hewitt (@JasonHewitt50) June 7, 2022
As disappointing and unreliable as Mayfield has been during his time in Cleveland, he is easily a better and more talented signal-caller than Darnold.
Baker would be the most talented QB Carolina has fielded since 18' Cam. He is far ahead of Teddy and Sam, and gives the Panthers the best shot at reaching the playoffs with a rebuilt o-line and top 10 defense. If you trot out Darnold week 1 you are admitting the season is a wash. pic.twitter.com/M0xRL58GoB
— Natalie Miller 🏈🏳️🌈 (@Nat_NFLDraft) June 13, 2022
If the Browns are to get Darnold in a Mayfield trade, they should, at the very least, ask for a draft pick in addition to him.
The Case For Darnold
If the Browns get very lucky and Watson is handed a minimal suspension that won’t last that long, perhaps they can get by with Darnold holding down the spot for a few weeks.
He may never develop into a Pro Bowl QB, but sometimes a change of scenery can result in such a player performing much better.
The other thing to consider is that with the Jets and Panthers, Darnold never had the type of skill players alongside him that the Browns have right now.
No disrespect to Le’Veon Bell or Frank Gore, both of whom were past their prime while with New York, but Nick Chubb would be easily the best running back Darnold has ever played with, and some think he could have a very special season this year.
In addition, Darnold has never really played with a talented and proven wide receiver like Amari Cooper, who has four Pro Bowls and three postseason appearances to his name.
Even better, as a backup, there would be less pressure on Darnold in Cleveland.
The question is whether he would be OK with being a backup.
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