What NFL team will SIGN Baker Mayfield in 2023?
Updated: Feb 28
Up-and-down would be the best way to describe Baker Mayfield’s NFL career in a nutshell. Midway through the 2022-23 NFL season, the 27-year old former first overall pick looked like he could potentially be out the league sooner than later after an unsuccessful stint with the Panthers. He started the season 1-5 with an 18.2 QBR, the second lowest QBR in history at the time since the stat started being tracked in 2006. He was eventually put on waivers and claimed by the Rams, where he learned the Rams playbook at what seemed like lightning speed. He led them to a 2-1 record in his first three starts, including a 51-14 onslaught victory against the Broncos that ended up getting their coach fired. His incredible mastery of the playbook allowed the Rams to overcome a 16-3 deficit on Thursday Night Football. That victory was even more incredible since Mayfield joined the Rams less than 72 hours prior to the win. He was claimed off waivers on Monday and only had one day of practice to learn Sean McVay’s complex playbook.
After basically destroying then rebuilding most of his value this season, it raises a few questions to say the least. Given the right situation, is Baker Mayfield good? Kind of good? Mostly bad? You could argue over half the league has an imperfect quarterback situation, and there will most certainly be a lot of shakeup with that position in the 2023 offseason. Where does Baker fit? He’s proven he can’t necessarily carry a franchise on
his talent alone. But in the right situation, does he bring enough to the table to lead a team on a playoff run?
It hasn’t all been negative with Baker. For his career, he has 102 touchdowns to 63 interceptions. He’s thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in each season, including this season with 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also plays relatively carefully with the ball. Other than 2019 when he ranked 5th in interceptable passes, he consistently ranks near the bottom of that category. He is currently this season’s leader in completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) at +13%, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He’s ranked in the top 10 in deep ball completion percentage 3 times and is number 1 in that category this season at 52.2% per Player Profiler. He’s also been a part of a playoff team, and won a high scoring game where he threw for 263 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He hasn’t necessarily lived up to his being picked number 1, but has had more success so far in the NFL than a lot of quarterbacks can say they’ve had.
Now, onto the not so good. Since his first season in 2018, he’s only produced one winning season, which was in 2020. He has a 31-36 record so far as a starter. He’s never ranked in the top-10 in passing yards, passing attempts, or passing touchdowns. He has ranked in the top-10 in interceptions thrown 3 times. His highest EPA (expected points added) in a season was in 2020 at +93.1 where finished 16th in the league. He’s finished 18th, 27th, 20th, and 36th each of his other seasons. His yards per attempt has decreased nearly every season. He finished his rookie season at 11th overall with 7.7 YPA, then 14th, 18th, 16th and 32nd in yards per attempt this season with 6.5. He’s also trended the wrong way in other volume categories such as deep ball attempts per game, where he finished 4th in his rookie season to sitting at 33rd this season. He’s
also had a hard time building chemistry with star wideouts. Notoriously with Odell Beckham Jr., who’s father made a highlight reel of all the times Beckham Jr. was open during games throughout their time together on the Browns and posted it onto social media. Odell would go onto force his way out of Cleveland near the end of the 2021-22 season. He was never able to click with Panthers stud wideout D.J. Moore during his time with him this season as well. In the 7 games Baker played in this season for Carolina, D.J. Moore had 22 catches for 245 yards and 1 touchdown. Moore had a 45.8% catch percentage with Baker as quarterback and has is 60.7% this season with P.J. Walker and Sam Darnold. Baker ended his Panthers stint with a career low 57.8 completion percentage, 6-6 touchdown-interception ratio, and a 1-5 record.
He’s had some moments, but Baker Mayfield is by all accounts a below average quarterback at best. Baker needs to sign with a talented and stable franchise. Sean McVay is the 7th head coach he’s had in his career, the most for any NFL quarterback in his first 5 seasons according to Pro Football Focus. He’s had no real continuity since he’s been in the league. It’s a big part of what went wrong in Cleveland and Carolina. He even talked about losing his confidence towards the end of the 2021-22 season on the “Ya Neva Know” podcast. (Use soundbite from the podcast). Confidence and swagger were two of Baker’s most glaring attributes coming out of Oklahoma. He needs to go to a team that can elevate him, not one that needs him to elevate. Somewhere with a good defense that can get stops and a legitimate running attack that doesn’t put lots of pressure on Baker. Like he had in Cleveland with the Myles Garret led pass rush and the Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt combo.
One viable option where Baker could succeed is the Tennessee Titans. Their season has all but fallen apart after QB Ryan Tannehill got hurt and is likely out for the season. Their backup, rookie Malik Willis, looks like he doesn’t know how to throw a football. The infrastructure in Tennessee is tailor made for a quarterback like Baker. A generational running back that you can lean on about as much as anyone in throughout NFL history, and a defense with a legitimate pass rush that can keep games close. On the QBConfidential YouTube channel, Kurt Warner breaks down how Baker seems to be more comfortable in space throwing off play action. This may be because he’s a bit undersized (6’0) and can see the field easier from outside of the pocket. As long as Derrick Henry’s your running back, you can be sure he’ll grab a lot of attention on fake handoffs. He most likely wouldn’t play immediately, but with Ryan Tannehill’s durability history, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to become their starter sooner than later.
Another good option could be staying with the Rams. Since joining them this season, he’s posted a 69% completion rate, a 4-1 touchdown-interception ratio, and 190.3 yards per game; all improvements from his time in Carolina. His quarterback rating has also drastically improved from 74.4 in Carolina to 98.9 in Los Angeles. It’s only a 3-game sample size, but it does feel like Baker and head coach Sean McVay have real chemistry. The Rams have had a pretty disappointing season overall, but are still the reigning Super Bowl champions. They had bad injury luck this season as well, with their star receiver Cooper Kupp going down, quarterback Matthew Stafford suffering a very serious spinal cord contusions, and multiple different offensive linemen suffering various ailments at various points throughout the season. Stafford will likely come back to be the starter next season, but there’s real concerns that he may be washed up and that his body won’t be able to hold up for much longer. Is Stafford washed up? Meh, it’s hard to say due to all of the injuries his offensive line has suffered and Allen Robinson basically being a no-show this year at wide receiver. With a full
training camp and some time to observe the team at full strength, Baker Mayfield and the Rams could be mutual beneficiaries of a successful 2023-24 campaign if he ends up staying there.
However, for Baker to become the starter in Los Angeles, the Rams would have to find a trade partner for Stafford. Considering that he’s coming off a major injury and is now in his mid 30s, good luck to Rams GM Les Snead. Stafford’s trade stock is at an all-time low, especially since he wasn’t even playing well prior to being lost for the rest of the season. And to be honest, Stafford had his problems during last season’s postseason. Remember when Stafford almost threw a game-changing interception to Jaquiski Tartt during the 2022 NFC Championship Game? If the Rams can at least receive a third-rounder for Stafford, it would be worth it. Remember though: For a team to get Stafford, they have to take on his contract. The cap hit is $20 million in 2023, $49.5 million in 2024, and $50.5 million in 2025. Would a team really give up their own players, draft picks, and take on Stafford’s salary just to acquire him? Well, it is possible since there are teams a quarterback away from the Super Bowl. The Jets come to mind, as well as the Dolphins if Tua Tung-uh-vie-oh-luh has to retire soon due to suffering numerous concussions. Anyway, Mayfield on the Rams could make sense, but they first have to find a trade partner for Stafford. According to Doctor David Chao, if there’s a canal narrowing in his spinal cord, Stafford might need surgery. Would teams want to trade for Stafford coming off neck surgery and/or fusion surgery?
The Titans and Rams are two strong options for Baker, but anything could happen. For example, the Arizona Cardinals might need a quarterback as Kyler Murray continues to rehab from his torn ACL. And if Mayfield struggles as the Cardinals starting QB as he did in Carolina, Arizona can just go back to Murray once he’s fully recovered.
It’s likely that a variety of teams would take a chance on Baker based on his 1st overall pick pedigree alone. I think it’s safe to exclude Carolina from that list. Cleveland as well. Mayfield talked publicly about how he felt “disrespected” in the way the Browns handled their relationship with him leading up to the Deshaun Watson trade. It doesn’t seem likely Mayfield would go back there and accept a backup role to Watson. You could also argue Jacoby Brisset is just as good, if not better than Baker. However, if Deshaun Watson continues to struggle, would the Browns consider bringing back Mayfield to see if he can win back the job from the former Texans franchise signal-caller? Probably not, but Watson has looked borderline awful since returning from his 11-game suspension. Brissett isn’t the long-term answer at the position, and Mayfield won a playoff game with Kevin Stefanski as his head coach.
The smartest thing Baker could do is sign with a legitimate, contending franchise as a backup to build his value. He should jump at an opportunity to sign with a team like the Bills, Chiefs, Bengals or Eagles. Take a page out of the Brock Osweiler playbook. Peyton Manning goes down, he keeps their head above water for half a season, then gets paid almost $40 million to have a mediocre rest of his career. Baker Mayfield has certainly had to overcome some adversity throughout his career, but he has a lot to prove to be considered a franchise QB in the NFL.