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Baker Mayfield contract: What 49ers, other NFL teams would owe QB if claimed after Panthers release

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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.”

MORE: Why the Panthers released Baker Mayfield, explained

Mayfield will take that opportunity, as he is now slated to be available in the NFL’s ever-turning quarterback market.

That said, Mayfield’s availability is unique compared to some other veteran quarterbacks that have been released. Mayfield is on waivers, so any team that wants his services must claim him.

That sounds simple enough, right? It is, but it’s important to keep in mind that any team planning to claim Mayfield off waivers would also retain the rest of his contract.

Would that be cost-prohibitive for teams, or are there quarterback-needy franchises that could take a chance on him? Here’s a look at Mayfield’s contract, what he is owed and what could come next for the former Panthers quarterback.

IYER: Best landing spots for Baker Mayfield, from the 49ers to the Dolphins

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, 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 will pay it unless Mayfield lands with another team.

If a team claims Mayfield off waivers, they would take on the rest of his salary for this season. That would amount 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. Even still, a quarterback-needy team — like the 49ers, who have lost Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo to season-ending injuries — could take a chance on Mayfield at that price.

The Panthers would like to see that happen, as that $1.35 million would come off their books. It remains to be seen whether a team would actually claim Mayfield or wait for him to become a free agent to pursue him.

MORE: Full details of the Baker Mayfield trade between Browns, Panthers

When is Baker Mayfield a free agent?

Mayfield will be a free agent at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 6 — if he isn’t claimed on waivers in the next 24 hours.

Mayfield is 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 means he won’t be able to immediately choose his next team. He will have to wait an anxious 24 hours to see if he is granted that choice or if another team makes it for him.

All NFL transactions become official at 4 p.m. ET the day that they are made. As such, Mayfield’s release becomes official on Monday at 4 p.m. ET. Waivers take 24 hours to process, so that’s why Mayfield won’t become a free agent until Tuesday afternoon.

And if things don’t go his way, he may not become a free agent at all.


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