CLEVELAND — After four seasons in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield's time with the Browns has come to an end. On Wednesday, the Carolina Panthers announced that they have acquired Mayfield in a trade, sending Cleveland a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick.
Per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Browns will still pay Mayfield $10.5 million following the trade. Meanwhile, Carolina will pay Mayfield $5 million, with the Oklahoma product agreeing to trim $3.5 million from his previously fully guaranteed $18.5 million salary.
"Baker Mayfield infused our organization with tenacity and grit during his time as our starting quarterback," Browns general manager Andrew Berry said in a statement. "Baker's competitiveness, toughness and ability to persevere were all characteristics that endeared him to our city as well as his teammates. He will always have a unique place in Browns history for what he accomplished and we wish him well as he continues his career."
Mayfield's departure from Cleveland comes more than three months after he requested a trade from the Browns, which the team initially denied. But after Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans, the Browns made their former quarterback available, with the Panthers being the team most consistently linked as a suitor for the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Despite the trade, Mayfield won't have to wait long to see some of his former teammates; the Browns will face the Panthers in Charlotte in Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.
Wednesday's trade brings an end to Mayfield's four-year career in Cleveland, which was defined by its ups and downs. After being selected with the top pick in the draft, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner enjoyed a standout debut season, setting the NFL's single-season record for touchdown passes by a rookie (27) while leading the Browns -- who went 1-31 in the two seasons prior to drafting him -- to a 7-8-1 record.
Cleveland, however, would fail to capitalize on lofty expectations the following season, with Mayfield's sophomore slump playing a sizable role in the team's disappointing 6-10 record. But after another slow start in 2020, Mayfield bounced back to help lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002, as well as their first playoff victory since 1994 with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Round.
In 2021, Cleveland once again entered the season with sizable expectations, only to once again fall short as Mayfield struggled throughout an injury-plagued campaign. In addition to his underwhelming play on the field, the 27-year-old signal-caller endured adversity off of it when star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s father posted an 11-minute video to his Instagram account showcasing all of the times that Mayfield missed opportunities to throw to his son.
The Browns later came to terms on a release with Beckham, who had requested a trade of his own. The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver went on to win a Super Bowl as a member of the Los Angeles Rams.
Entering the offseason, there was no shortage of uncertainty surrounding both the Browns and Mayfield, as the quarterback underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. His request for a trade came as Cleveland pursued a trade for Watson, who is facing a potential suspension from the NFL after several women accused him of sexual misconduct during his time with the Texans.
But while the Browns initially denied Mayfield's request, landing Watson changed the calculus of Cleveland's quarterback situation. Should Watson be suspended to start the 2022 season, free-agent signee Jacoby Brissett is currently in line to be the Browns' Week 1 starter vs. Carolina.