The Carolina Panthers announced Monday that Baker Mayfield would start the season opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Carolina head coach Matt Rhule said the former No. 1 overall pick would start the season opener on Sept. 11 at home against his former team no less.
Obviously, this means Sam Darnold is the backup after one season. When he debuted for Carolina, he started off 3-0 in an incredible start. The season turned ugly, and Carolina fell to 4-5 with a loss to New England. Carolina spiraled down from there with Darnold as a starter as the Panthers finished 5-12.
After this abysmal season, second consecutive five-win season, Carolina addressed a few concerns.
The first being the offensive line as the Panthers made two signings for Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett.
However, in the offseason, Carolina longed for a replacement, and Darnold performed under the standards the Panthers had. During the winter and early spring, the black and blue tried for a replacement. The team called about Deshaun Watson despite his ongoing investigations at the time. Another name was Mayfield, and it was clear that Carolina seriously wanted another QB for 2022.
Carolina and Cleveland agreed to a trade for Mayfield. Once he came to Carolina, the QB duel between Darnold and Mayfield ensued.
Rhule said he would decide after the second preseason game.
After the announcement Rhule said that Mayfield fit the criteria the team needed in a shorter amount of time than Darnold.
"When we started this process, we were looking at three things," Rhule said. "Number one, mastery of the offense, number two, situational football excellence, and number three, moving the ball and getting guys involved."
In mini camp both players saw time with the first-team offense and Mayfield gelled better than Darnold. But both quarterbacks made strong cases for the starting job, but fans and players alike saw Mayfield adjust and become more comfortable with the team despite limited time.
"Baker has made a lot of improvement, a lot of growth in all three areas in a short amount of time," Rhule said.
This makes the first game more interesting. It was strongly believed that Mayfield starts game one, but with it official this sets the stage for an exciting matchup.
The former Cleveland Browns QB hosting the team that traded him, and against another QB, not Deshaun Watson. Another interesting fact thrown into this dramatic offseason is the Browns are paying Mayfield $10 million this year. Yes, the Browns are paying Baker Mayfield $10 million as he plans to defeat Cleveland in the first game this season.
Carolina hosts Cleveland on Sept. 11 with kickoff at 1:00 p.m.