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One less QB for Bengals to worry about as Baker Mayfield traded to Panthers

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The latest quarterback move to shake up the NFL affected the AFC North and has seemingly given a boost to the Cincinnati Bengals in their quest to repeat as division champions.

The Cleveland Browns ended their saga with quarterback Baker Mayfield, sending the former No. 1 draft pick to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional draft pick in 2024. The Browns will also pay $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary, while the Panthers will only be responsible for $5 million (Mayfield actually agreed to cut $3.5 million from his salary to help facilitate the trade).

This is certainly good news from a Bengals perspective, as that’s one less solid quarterback available in the division. Yes, obviously Deshaun Watson is still around and no timing has come down yet from his disciplinary hearing, but you have to think he’ll be suspended at least half of the season, if not the entire season.

That leaves only Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs on the roster for the Browns. Now, Brissett isn’t the worst backup in the world. He’ll at least keep that offense stable, especially with all the talent he has around him. And their defense can very well be a top-ten defense this season.

But there is undoubtedly a drop off in talent, enough to possibly keep the Browns from being a full-blown contender in the AFC North, a division that will already be a gauntlet. Even if Watson only gets, say, an eight-game suspension, that’s still eight games without him that the Browns will potentially have to play some catch-up in the division and the hole may be too much to overcome by the time Watson does come back.

Pittsburgh is certainly still a question mark with what sort of quarterback play they’ll get this season as well. So could the AFC North race eventually be just a two-bourse race between the Bengals and the Ravens? It also just so happens that those teams meet in Cincinnati in Week 18. The division could very well be determined inside Paul Brown Stadium on January 7 or 8.

With Mayfield now in Carolina and the uncertain future of Watson, the outlook of the AFC North, and Cincinnati’s chances of repeating, have changed dramatically.

List

Ranking AFC North quarterbacks for the 2022 season