The Panthers released quarterback Baker Mayfield on Monday. All teams have until 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday to make a waivers claim for the balance of Mayfield’s contract.
It’s five games, at a total financial investment of $1.349 million.
There are three categories of teams that could be interested. One, teams that would want him to play this year. Two, teams that would want to take advantage of the opportunity to spend five weeks with him, in order to evaluate whether to try to sign him for 2023. Three, teams that will want to keep him from landing with a rival.
Against that background, here are the teams to perhaps keep an eye on, in order of waiver priority.
Texans: They could have gotten Mayfield as part of the Deshaun Watson trade, and they didn’t want Mayfield. But that was when he was due to make $19.9 million for the full year. At $1.349 million for five games, why not kick the tires on him? Also, G.M. Nick Caserio was in New England when the Patriots apparently had interest in Mayfield, prior to the 2018 draft.
Rams: Matthew Stafford is on IR. John Wolford is the backup. Their next four games are scheduled for high-profile, nationally-televised, standalone spots. The league office is likely hoping that the Rams make a claim, since it will give people some reason to watch games that otherwise will be unwatchable.
Broncos: George Paton worked for the Vikings when G.M. Rick Spielman took a flier on Josh Freeman, after he’d been cut by the Buccaneers. Why did Spielman do it? Because there are too few franchise quarterbacks in the NFL. When you have a chance to potentially get one, you take it. Of course, the Russell Wilson angle makes that a little more delicate. But what if Mayfield currently is a better player than Wilson? That would have sounded crazy three months ago. It doesn’t today.
Saints: Andy Dalton is the starter for now. Who takes over next year? Why not bring in Mayfield for a five-week evaluation? Given that a healthy Jameis Winston is just hanging around, they could add Mayfield and waive Jameis.
Colts: During that podcast in the offseason with the dog on the couch next to him, Mayfield mentioned the Colts as a potential destination. The podcast was taped before the Colts landed Matt Ryan. On one hand, Jeff Saturday wants to do well enough to get the job. On the other hand, the Colts surely would like to put Ryan back in bubble wrap and avoid owing him another $17 million next year, if he can’t pass a physical by the middle of March. Also, it would be part of the broader quarterback evaluation for 2023.
Raiders: Coach Josh McDaniels worked out Mayfield just before the 2018 draft. Yes, Derek Carr has played extremely well in the past few weeks. But if McDaniels sees something in Mayfield, why not bring him in to see what he can do now, at least in practice.
Lions: John Dorsey drafted Mayfield in 2018, when Dorsey was in Cleveland. He’s now in Detroit. Rick Spielman’s brother, Chris, is in the front office. Between Dorsey’s knowledge of Mayfield and Rick’s attitude regarding franchise quarterbacks, why not bring him in and get to know him? Jared Goff has played well, but not well enough to slam the door on a dalliance with Mayfield.
Patriots: They had interest in Mayfield before the 2018 draft, sneaking in a late workout. From the perspective of paying $1.3 million and potentially getting extra compensatory draft-pick consideration if he leaves in free agency, it could be worth adding him to the roster for the rest of the season.
Buccaneers: When Bruce Arians was thinking about returning to coaching, he named the Browns as the only team he’d join. At the time, Mayfield was a rookie. With the position unsettled for 2023, does it make sense to squat on Mayfield, with the goal of signing him after the season? Maybe it does.
Commanders: They’re clearly looking for a long-term answer at the position. It’s a low-cost chance to evaluate a possible successor to Carson Wentz/Taylor Heinicke. Also, quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese served in that role in Cleveland during Mayfield’s very good rookie year. His departure was believed to be one of the big reasons for Mayfield’s regression in 2019.
Seahawks: At one point, the Seahawks were regarded as the favorite to trade for him. They currently don’t need him as a player. But putting in a waivers claim could keep the 49ers from getting him.
Giants: Daniel Jones is due to be a free agent. Who will their quarterback be in 2023? That said, claiming Mayfield would likely end the pursuit of OBJ, immediately.
Ravens: It’s probably too awkward to bring Mayfield to town, given the uncertainty with Lamar Jackson. But with Lamar currently week-to-week with a knee injury and with Tyler Huntley the starter and with the playoffs in the balance, why not pursue a five-game rental — along with the compensatory pick on the back end?
49ers: Coach Kyle Shanahan seemed to suggest on Monday that the 49ers are fine with who they have. But there would be no reason for him to be candid about any interest. Beyond the potential tampering ramifications, Shanahan would be inviting a team like the Seahawks to make the claim and keep Mayfield from landing there.
Chiefs: It’s highly unlikely that Mayfield would make it this deep into the priority list, but wouldn’t it make sense to have Mayfield as the understudy to Patrick Mahomes, not Chad Henne? Mayfield gave the Chiefs all they could handle in the 2020 playoffs and in Week One of the 2021 season — one week before derailing his season, and career, by suffering a shoulder injury while trying to make a tackle.