The Panthers presumably wouldn’t have traded for quarterback Baker Mayfield if they believed in quarterback Sam Darnold. But now that they have both quarterbacks on the roster, and given that the starting job supposedly will be an “open competition,” which guy will emerge as QB1?
Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who works an analyst for the team’s radio broadcasts, believes that Darnold has the “upper hand.” That’s what Delhomme recently told Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio.
Delhomme bases his opinion on the fact that Darnold had the benefit of the offseason program to learn offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system. Darnold also knows the players. He knows how the receivers make their breaks.
That all makes sense. But, again, the Panthers wouldn’t have traded for Mayfield if they believed in Darnold.
Of course, there’s a chance that the Panthers simply view Mayfield as a buy-low situation. They got him for $5 million and a fifth-round pick in 2024. It’s a bargain. It’s an opportunity to get the thing that owner David Tepper so obviously covets — a franchise quarterback.
Here’s the real question. Will the competition in any way be rigged? Will a close call go to Mayfield, especially with the Browns coming to town in Week One? To win the job, will Darnold have to win it convincingly?
It could be a delicate issue for the Panthers and Mayfield. Sure, everything is fine and dandy right now. If Mayfield doesn’t become the starter, he likely will disagree with the decision. If so, will he become the behind-the-scenes problem that the Browns deemed him to be?
In 2021, Carson Wentz found a safe harbor in Indianapolis after the Eagles moved on. Wentz was able to tell himself, “It was them, not me.” (He has since learned otherwise.)
In 2022, will Mayfield arrive in Carolina taking partial ownership for how things went in Cleveland, or will he blame it on the team and the team alone? The answer to that question could go a long way toward determining whether he’s on his way to becoming the adult that the Browns didn’t think he was. Whenever he encounters with the Panthers (and encounter adversity he will), he and everyone else will find out.