GM: Mayfield, Darnold will compete to be starter

Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold will have an open competition to start at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, general manager Scott Fitterer said Tuesday.

“This is an open competition. The reason why we added Baker is to make the group better as a whole,” Fitterer said Tuesday during a media availability to introduce Mayfield, who was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns last week.

Mayfield said Tuesday that he embraced the competition and said that Darnold had already reached out to him and he’s looking forward to competing with his new teammate and challenging each other.

He said, like all NFL players, he’s not expecting to be a backup and acknowledged that Darnold has the same mentality. He said ultimately, however, he will “fill whatever role is expected of me and be a great leader and a great teammate.”

Mayfield agreed to take a $3.5 million pay cut to be traded to the Panthers, which he admitted “wasn’t easy.” Fitterer said that the Panthers and Browns quickly agreed on draft-pick compensation but Mayfield’s contract was the biggest obstacle in the trade discussions, which began during the NFL draft.

The Browns will receive a fourth- or fifth-round pick in 2024 in exchange for Mayfield. Fitterer confirmed that Mayfield needs to play 70% of the snaps for the draft pick to become a fourth-rounder. The Panthers will pay $4.85 million of Mayfield’s salary, while the Browns will pay $10.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Mayfield agreed to convert the remainder of his $18.8 million salary into incentives to facilitate the deal but can earn back that money based on team performance, a source said.

Fitterer said that the Panthers are not looking to trade Darnold and that no teams have called about his availability. He said the trade for Mayfield was made with the “short term” in mind and discussions on longer-term deals for Mayfield or Darnold won’t happen until later in the season.

Mayfield said Tuesday that he will continue to wear No. 6 with the Panthers after reaching a deal with Panthers punter Johnny Hekker. He said “Six is special to me” because it was the number given to him when he was a walk-on at Texas Tech and “symbolizes his story.”

Mayfield said being traded by the Browns was “unexpected” but he has “no animosity” toward the organization, which “gave me the first four years of my career.” The Panthers host the Browns in Week 1 and Mayfield said that game will be “special.”

As for his advertising campaign with Progressive Insurance, that appears to be over after his trade to Carolina as he will no longer call Cleveland’s Progressive Field home. Mayfield called it an “opportunity missed.”

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