Baker Mayfield’s time with the Panthers came to an end on Monday.
Carolina announced that it was waiving the fifth-year quarterback less than six months after the team acquired him in a trade with the Browns.
Mayfield reportedly asked to be released after falling to the third-string position on the Panthers’ depth chart. Carolina was happy to grant that request though the coaching staff was complimentary of the quarterback’s effort on his way out the door.
“Baker Mayfield has been a complete pro,” interim coach Steve Wilks said, per The Charlotte Observer. “Nothing but respect for him. This is a tough decision but I felt like it was the best decision for the team going forward… We wanted to give him [an opportunity] to seek whatever was best for him.”
Mayfield took that opportunity and became available as part of the NFL’s ever-turning quarterback market.
That said, Mayfield’s availability was unique compared to some other veteran quarterbacks that were released. Mayfield was on waivers, so any team that wanted his services had to claim him.
Simple enough, right? Yes, but any team that planned to claim Mayfield would also retain the rest of his contract. As such, it was unclear exactly how interested teams would be in claiming him.
Turns out, it wasn’t all that cost-prohibitive. The Rams — who had the No. 4 waiver priority — claimed Mayfield, and now they will be responsible for paying him the rest of the season.
Here’s a look at Mayfield’s contract, what he is owed and what could come next for the former Panthers quarterback.
Baker Mayfield contract
Mayfield’s contract is not as expensive as many realize. The veteran quarterback is making $15,358,000 for the season, per OverTheCap.com, but he is owed just $4,858,000 from the Panthers for the 2022 season. The Browns are eating $10.5 million in dead money — guaranteed salary paid to players no longer on a team’s roster — after trading Mayfield to the Panthers.
Mayfield is in the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, and the entirety of the 2022 salary is guaranteed. The Panthers were set to pay it unless Mayfield landed with another team.
Since the Rams claimed Mayfield off waivers, they are taking on the rest of his salary for this season. That amounts to $1,349,444, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
That’s not necessarily cheap for a backup quarterback at this point in the season. Still, the Rams needed some help at the position with Matthew Stafford (concussion) on IR and John Wolford (neck) questionable for “Thursday Night Football” in Week 14, so it makes sense that they would be willing to pay him.
The Panthers are certainly happy with that result. Why? Because the $1.35 million owed to Mayfield now comes off their books.
When is Baker Mayfield a free agent?
Mayfield will not be a free agent after being claimed by the Rams. He was scheduled to become one at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 6 — 24 hours after he initially hit waivers at 4 p.m. ET on Monday — before the Rams scooped him up.
Mayfield was subject to waivers, as all NFL players are after the trade deadline passes. Normally, vested veterans — NFL players with four-plus accrued seasons of experience under their belts — are not subject to the waiver process. However, the NFL changed this from the passing of the deadline until the end of the regular season.
So, the timing of Mayfield’s release meant he wasn’t able to immediately choose his next team. Instead, he had to wait an anxious 24 hours to see if any team was willing to pay him his current contract.
The Rams were willing to do that. So now, he will play for Los Angeles for the rest of the season.
And after the season, Mayfield’s contract will expire. At that point, he will become a free agent and will get to choose where he plays for the first time in his NFL career.