It has been a whirlwind 24 hours on the NFL's quarterback carousel, Sunday's sizzling Week 13 action largely overshadowed by a season-ending broken foot to San Francisco 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Lamar Jackson, the star passer for the Baltimore Ravens and league's MVP in 2019, was also hurt, though his knee injury doesn't seem likely to cost him more than one start – if that, pending whatever his MRI results reveal.
Now factor in Monday's news, the Carolina Panthers deciding to waive fifth-year quarterback Baker Mayfield – they traded for him in July – and the chaos could potentially just be building.
The obvious speculation leads to Mayfield joining the Niners, who currently have rookie Brock Purdy – "Mr. Irrelevant" as the final pick of the 2022 draft, he finished Sunday's win over the Miami Dolphins – and journeyman Jacob Eason as the only healthy passers on their roster. Josh Johnson, 36, is expected to be signed off the Denver Broncos' practice squad.
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Still, if you include Johnson, the Niners' QB depth chart would have a mere nine NFL starts to its credit ... all of them Johnson's. Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Browns, has 67 pro starts, including two during the 2020 playoffs.
Hardly ideal to try and drop an unfamiliar QB1 into your building going into Week 14, but that could be a choice the 49ers are wrestling with, given the NFC West leaders – San Francisco is currently seeded third in the conference's playoff field – were regarded as a bona fide Super Bowl threat as Sunday dawned.
Claiming Mayfield would only cost about $1.35 million, the prorated remainder of his already renegotiated 2022 salary – theoretically little obstacle for a team in San Francisco's seemingly dire circumstance. And the former Heisman Trophy winner would likely be a good fit in what's a run-based offense that relies on play action but is teeming with weapons.
Yet here's the rub: the NFL's waiver order, like the draft's, is set inverse of the overall standings, meaning the worst clubs would get first crack at claiming Mayfield once he hit the wire Monday afternoon ... and 23 had a record worse than San Francisco (8-4) at Week 13's conclusion.
So which other clubs might potentially get involved in the Mayfield sweepstakes, such as they are, whether or not he goes unclaimed and reaches free agency? Here are four potential candidates in addition to the 49ers:
At 1-10-1, they have the league's worst record and would get first shot at Mayfield, a native Texan. And given GM Nick Caserio's propensity to kick the tires on scores of unemployed players, Mayfield could be a legit option given Houston has been playing retread Kyle Allen after benching 2021 third-rounder Davis Mills. Might be an opportunity for the Texans to bolster their scouting reports and better inform their options ahead of the 2023 draft ... even if suboptimal for Mayfield.
Perpetually on the lookout for a potential franchise quarterback, why not take a look at Mayfield? Sure, their season has been revitalized by backup Taylor Heinicke, but he – like Mayfield – is set to be a free agent. And, for what it's worth, claiming Mayfield without playing him might just help Washington (7-5-1) at San Francisco's expense, both teams already jockeying for limited playoff berths over the season's final month.
New York Giants
At 7-4-1, they're a half-game ahead of the Commanders following Sunday's tie. Even beyond that, their circumstances very much mirror Washington's: in the NFC postseason scrum with a starting quarterback (Daniel Jones) unsigned for 2023 ... and possibly trying to outlast a potentially crippled 49ers squad for a wild-card berth.
The most intriguing case of all. They were frequently mentioned as a landing spot last offseason for Mayfield, even by the quarterback himself when he was still on Cleveland's roster. At this point, longtime backup Geno Smith – yet another passer currently ticketed for free agency in 2023 – has established himself as a nifty near-term option for the Seahawks, probably even better than the man Smith replaced, Russell Wilson. And yet Seattle is currently 7-5, which has them one game back of the 49ers in the NFC West while clinging to the conference's third and final wild card. If any team stands to benefit from keeping Mayfield away from the Bay, it's Seattle – which is just a bad break or two from missing the playoffs ... or a good break or two, like the Niners faltering, from hosting a postseason matchup.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Baker Mayfield to 49ers? Four other teams that might make sense for QB