Baker Mayfield is in No Man’s Land (Daily Sports Thought 3/21)

This NFL offseason has been one of the wildest of all time. It is certainly the craziest of all the offseasons I have seen in my 23 years of life (not like I was able to comprehend all of them). The quarterback carousel has been the most interesting part of the past few months. Really, it has been more like a game of musical chairs. All these quarterbacks are switching teams and scrambling to find a starting spot somewhere across the league. But we all know how musical chairs works, in the end, there is one person left without a seat. And in this game of quarterback musical chairs, Baker Mayfield is the one left without a spot.

The Browns’ chair is now occupied by Deshaun Watson after a big trade with the Texans. Other teams have also filled their quarterback vacancies, in somewhat of a domino effect. The Commanders acquired Carson Wentz from the Colts. The Colts acquired Matt Ryan from the Falcons. The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota as a free agent. In other, more singular moves, the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson, the Saints resigned Jameis Winston, and the Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky.

Now, the biggest name left without a chair is Mayfield. Although he is technically still a member of the Browns (and making a fully-guaranteed $18.8 million this season) he has made it clear that he wants out. If any quarterback is going to pull a Ben Simmons and sit out the season, it seems like it would be Baker. But all hope is not lost for the former number one overall pick. While there aren’t a lot of empty chairs left out there, there are some places that would offer him a chance to play.

The number one option for Mayfield would have to be Carolina. It is not clear if the Panthers have any interest in Mayfield, but they have expressed interest in nearly every other available quarterback this offseason. They wanted Watson but that did not work out so now they may move on to angling for his current backup. This probably wouldn’t make the Carolina front office extremely happy with their offseason but it would give them someone to start over Sam Darnold, which is a must. It would be funny to see the first two quarterbacks drafted in 2018 both end up on the same team for their second stops. Mayfield would be a clear upgrade under center for the Panthers (at least I think so) and would help Matt Rhule try to save his job.

The other semi-obvious option for Mayfield is the Seahawks. Now without Russell Wilson, Seattle actually needs to worry about the quarterback position for the first time in a decade. Pete Carroll and others in the organization have made it seem like they are comfortable giving Drew Lock the reins this year but if they are looking to make a move for a different guy, Mayfield would be the best choice. The only other obvious trade candidate at quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo but there is no way that intra-division trade would ever happen. That leads to Seattle turning to Mayfield if they don’t go with Lock or a rookie. Despite endorsing Lock, members of the Seahawks’ organization have also shown interest in Mayfield. This could be a good fit (it could also be an awful fit) but it’s not clear if Seattle is willing to part with draft picks for a quarterback instead of going into a rebuild.

Baker better hope that either Carolina or Seattle really sees something in him because those two teams might be his only chances to start in 2022. Without either of those teams making a move, Mayfield might have to settle for a spot on the bench or end up getting cut. It is always possible that a starting quarterback role comes open unexpectedly. The Seattle job wasn’t expected to be available. Maybe Tom Brady will un-unretire or maybe Aaron Rodgers will retire after seeing who is left in the receiver room. We can’t assume that the game of quarterback musical chairs is finally over. There is still the draft. There is still some more free agency. There are still injuries that will unfortunately pop up. Something will definitely happen with Mayfield over the next few months. It could be a good thing, or it could be a not-so-good thing. Best of luck to you Baker, hopefully, you end up in a good place for you.