In quite a surprising turn of events, the Carolina Panthers are dumping Baker Mayfield. Ian Rapoport broke the news on Monday that Carolina was outright releasing the former No. 1 overall pick, apparently reconsidering the state of the team during their bye this past week.
Mayfield is now going to hit the waiver wire, and the team that claims him will owe him only $4.25 million, according to Pro Football Talk. Not a very high price considering he was owed north of $15 million this season. So that makes him an attractive buy-low proposition for the last month or so of the season. However, Mayfield's sudden release is pretty weird and there's a chance teams hold off on claiming him until they dig deeper into why Carolina decided to cut him outright with only six games to go.
Regardless of how he finds his way to a new home, Mayfield will undoubtedly have a few suitors because there is always someone who thinks they can fix him. Here are a few possibilities for Mayfield, either through the waiver wire or free agency.
San Francisco 49ers
The obvious option that everybody will talk about today. The Niners just lost Jimmy Garoppolo for the season and will have to start rookie third-stringer Brock Purdy at QB the rest of the way. Unless they go after Mayfield. He doesn't know the offense like Purdy does but has the arm talent to make the sort of throws the 2022 seventh-round pick cannot. Presumably. And if anybody can fix whatever has plagued Mayfield over the last two years, it's Kyle Shanahan.
The Niners are not in an enviable position but could very well decide the guy who went first in the draft is a better option than the guy who went last, even with how poorly Mayfield has played of late. Who knows if they'll do it. But they'll absolutely consider it.
The Texans are offensively bad and have given up all hope for this season. That became abundantly clear when they benched Davis Mills for Kyle Allen. Houston is down so bad they won't even let Mills try to get something going. Allen has somehow been worse. What do they have to lose by claiming Mayfield and throwing him out there for the last few weeks of the year?
The worst case is that he's as bad as their current quarterbacks. The best case is that he gets enough momentum going that the team can maybe think about bolstering the non-QB parts of the roster in the draft next spring. They probably wouldn't do that even if Mayfield played out of his mind but it's nice to have options, you know?
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have no need of a QB for the next few years. They are far better off rolling with John Wolford or Bryce Perkins to see if they can be turned into competent backups for Matthew Stafford in the near future. So why would they bring in Mayfield? Because they are apparently fourth in waiver wire order. The Niners are 25th. Los Angeles could very easily decide to be petty and claim Mayfield so their divisional rivals don't even have a chance to do so, regardless of whether or not they'd do it.
The Rams are actually in the exact position a team needs to be in order to do something like this. They can't tank because they owe their first-round pick to the Lions. They have no chance of being good because they're 3-9 with every good player on the IR. The one thing they can do in the dying throes of their season is take a final parting shot at San Francisco before preparing for next year. Not likely-- but not out of the question.