Baker Mayfield Poised to Start in Season Opener Versus Browns

Recently traded Quarterback Baker Mayfield will have his chance at revenge. According to the Athletic's Jeff Howe, the starting job is Mayfield’s to lose in Carolina:
Drafted by Cleveland first overall in the 2018 NFL draft, Mayfield played four up-and-down years for the Browns before falling out of favor this past season. A divisive and charismatic talent, Mayfield followed a Heisman Trophy-winning senior season at Oklahoma with a debut year in the NFL that saw him finish second in the Associated Press Rookie of the Year voting. Mayfield, however, could not string together consistent play, and his Browns would never exceed 14th in scoring under his tenure. Combining disappointing play with a habit of alienating teammates, Mayfield lost his organization’s confidence entering his option year.
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The Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and eventually shipped Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers for a conditional 5th-round pick in 2024, even absorbing a portion of his salary in order to render the deal more palatable. A quarterback competition ensued between Mayfield and incumbent Sam Darnold, and Mayfield appears to have taken the lead, setting up a showdown against his former team in the opening week of the season.

With Watson's suspension extended today, Mayfield will have every chance to play the spurned lover and prove his mettle against the team that gave up on him, but it will take lifting a struggling organization in the Panthers to do so. Should he start, Mayfield will find himself surrounded by last year’s 29th-ranked scoring offense, and he could struggle facing a Browns defense that knows him well and allowed the 5th fewest yards in the league last year. If he triumphs, Mayfield will have conflicted Browns fans second-guessing their team’s gamble on the troubled Watson. If he stumbles, he’ll leave Panthers fans lamenting another lost season. In either case, Mayfield is sure to be one of the league’s top stories coming out of Week 1.

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