Browns could benefit from Baker Mayfield starting again

The Cleveland Browns may benefit the most from the Carolina Panthers losing quarterback P.J. Walker to a high ankle sprain. 

Per David Newton of ESPN, Baker Mayfield will start in place of Walker when the 3-7 Panthers play at the 6-3 Baltimore Ravens Sunday. Sam Darnold, Carolina’s 2021 Week 1 starter who lost a quarterback competition to Mayfield this summer, will serve as the club’s backup in Baltimore. 

As Liz Roscher shared for Yahoo Sports, the Browns received a 2024 fifth-round draft pick in the July trade that sent Mayfield to the Panthers. That asset turns into a fourth-round selection if Mayfield plays at least 70% of the offensive snaps this season. 

Before Walker hurt his ankle in the fourth quarter of this past Thursday’s 25-15 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Mayfield was at “around 60%” of the snaps for the campaign. Mayfield is now back atop the depth chart seemingly until further notice. Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks offered no timetable for Walker’s potential return to the lineup.

“A high ankle sprain limits his mobility … so we’ll let him sit this week and go with Baker,” Wilks explained. 

Wilks added that Walker is not going on injured reserve as of Monday. 

“With Darnold returning last week from injured reserve (high ankle sprain in August) and Walker playing well, the Panthers had been looking at all options at quarterback, including a possible release of Mayfield, according to a league source,” Newton reported Monday. 

Mayfield missed time earlier this season with an ankle sprain of his own and left much to be desired with his play before that setback. According to ESPN stats, the 27-year-old began Monday 31st among eligible quarterbacks with a 78.1 passer rating, dead last with a 17.6 total QBR, and 35th with a 56.6% completion percentage this season. In six games, Mayfield has six touchdown passes and four interceptions. 

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Wilks insisted Mayfield must “protect the football” against the Ravens Sunday to have a shot of starting beyond Week 11.