It’ll be time to put up or shut up for quite a few Carolina Panthers in 2022, including the head coach himself. But which individual is facing the most pressure out of them all this season?
Pro Football Focus reporter Doug Kyed brought this question around the league, asking various sources about who they believe has the most to prove. For the Panthers, they came up quarterback Baker Mayfield—who has been given new life after the Cleveland Browns unceremoniously moved on from the former No. 1 overall pick this spring.
“This must have been a humbling offseason for Mayfield, who was replaced as the Browns’ starting quarterback, had to take a pay cut and was dealt for a conditional future fifth-round pick,” Kyed writes. “A source close to the Panthers said they eventually made the trade because it was too good of a deal to pass up. Mayfield, who’s legitimately competing with Sam Darnold in training camp, must now show he’s still a starting-caliber quarterback.
That deal saw Carolina reel in Mayfield for just the conditional 2024 fifth-round pick—which will likely turn into a fourth based off his playing time—while eating only $4.8 million of what was once an $18.8 million salary. And although the fifth-year passer can earn back up to $3.5 million more in incentives, it’s still a heck of a bargain for a team so desperate under center.
As for Mayfield, this upcoming campaign will serve as a critical audition for his career. The 27-year-old, in what’ll be a prove-it campaign, still has the chance to show he’s an NFL-caliber starter—and a solid one at that.