CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the Cleveland Browns traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers last month, it created the potential for the Browns to face their former quarterback in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.
It now appears that scenario is set to become a reality.
According to Jeff Howe and Joseph Person of The Athletic, the Panthers are poised to name Mayfield as their starting quarterback for their Week 1 matchup against the Browns on Sept. 11. The 27-year-old Mayfield had entered training camp in a competition with fellow 2018 first-round pick Sam Darnold for Carolina's starting quarterback spot and has emerged as the apparent front-runner in the race in recent weeks.
Speaking to the Panthers' official website following the trade, Mayfield admitted that facing his former team would add some "personal meaning" to his Carolina debut.
"I'm not going to sit here and be a robot and tell you that's not one I've marked on the calendar already," Mayfield said. "One, that's not who I am. To me, it's about winning games. Whoever we have marked on the schedule, I'm going to try to win. Obviously, this one has a little more history and personal meaning, but for me, it's about winning and setting the tone for the rest of the year, and however I can help this team do that, I'm going to do."
Asked by the team's website if he's the type to hold grudges, the Oklahoma product replied with a grin: "I try not to."
Mayfield's exit from Cleveland was hardly a clean one, as the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft had requested a trade after it became public that the Browns were pursuing then-Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in March. While Cleveland initially denied Mayfield's request, it later reversed course upon successfully completing a trade to acquire Watson.
It ultimately took the Browns four months to find the right deal to trade the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, receiving a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick, which could become a fourth-round pick from the Panthers. Cleveland also agreed to continue paying $10 million of Mayfield's salary, with the quarterback agreeing to take a $3.5 million pay cut to facilitate the trade.
As for the Browns, Cleveland will likely be starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback when it faces Carolina. Earlier this month, former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson issued a six-game suspension for Watson, after determining that the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback violated the league's Personal Conduct Policy following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
The NFL is currently appealing Watson's suspension in an attempt to extend it.