Doug Kyed's Post-Draft Mailbag: Baker Mayfield's future, Justyn Ross, Bears' receivers and more

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) drops back to pass against the New York Giants during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft is over, and teams are onto rookie minicamp, organized team activities and minicamp. Nonetheless, there are lingering questions about the 2022 draft class. We’ll answer them in our post-draft mailbag.

@HJWXIII: The latest status for Baker?

It’s an untenable situation with Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, so the Browns will need to either release or trade him eventually. They have Jacoby Brissett as a backup behind Deshaun Watson and even added Joshua Dobbs as a third option.

Even if Brissett went down with an injury, clearly Mayfield wouldn’t be happy heading into the 2022 season as the Browns’ backup. So, something needs to be done.

The team that makes the most sense for Mayfield is the Carolina Panthers even after they used a 2023 third-round pick to move up to take Matt Corral in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Panthers could go into the 2022 season with Sam Darnold, PJ Walker and Corral, but Mayfield would give them more upside as the starting quarterback. Monetarily, however, it wouldn’t make sense to keep Darnold and trade for Mayfield. Darnold’s 2022 cap hit is a fully-guaranteed $18.858 million, and Mayfield has the same $18.858 million fully-guaranteed salary. The Panthers would still owe Darnold that $18.858 million even if they cut him. The only way to clear all of that money from their cap is to trade him.

So, the Panthers could ask the Browns to eat the majority of Mayfield’s money, trade for him and cut Darnold. Or, perhaps an easier solution, the Panthers could trade Darnold and additional draft capital to the Browns for Mayfield and let Cleveland do the dirty work by either cutting Darnold or eating the majority of his salary and finding a trade partner. They could even keep him through the summer and see if another quarterback suffers an injury, as it would raise his potential trade value. It’s maybe a little far-fetched but works out for both parties.

The Panthers can’t really acquire another quarterback until they find out what they can do with Darnold. The Browns can’t keep Mayfield, who is a better on-field quarterback than Darnold.

Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold 2018-2021
Baker Mayfield Sam Darnold
Overall grade 84.0 60.9
Passing grade 81.5 58.5
Big time throw % 5.8% 3.5%
Turnover worthy play % 3.4% 4.2%
Average depth of target 9.4 8.8
Accuracy % 59.9% 55.9%
PFF WAR 9.19 2.15

The pairing seems to make sense. We’ll see if the parties can work something out.

@Bri4414: Pats gonna add more Talent?

The most obvious fit remaining in free agency for the New England Patriots is defensive end Trey Flowers. The Patriots are a little light on the edge with Matthew Judon, Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins as their top options. They would definitely benefit from adding one more veteran edge defender such as Flowers, who has four years of experience in New England.

@MHAbner17: When will people accept the fact that the Bengals are here to stay?

The Cincinnati Bengals currently have the sixth-best odds to win the AFC, which does feel a little bit low after they made the Super Bowl and then only really lost tight C.J. Uzomah in free agency.

They then had a strong offseason, picking up offensive linemen Alex Cappa, Ted Karras and La’el Collins to go along with tight end Hayden Hurst. They filled a couple of other needs in the draft by grabbing defensive back Daxton Hill and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt.

Joe Burrow was obviously incredible in 2021, and that was coming off of a torn ACL. Cincinnati has a re-tooled offensive line, a healthy Burrow and some young players who could take further steps forward.

I don’t know. I like the Bengals this season. I know the AFC is going to be tough, but I do agree that they’re here to stay and should be competitive in 2022 and moving forward.

@CaseySettje: Thoughts on Justyn Ross?

Justyn Ross was a classic Kansas City Chiefs signing. There are definitely legitimate concerns about his health, and I was a little bit surprised that he did eventually get picked up as an undrafted free agent based on his congenital spinal condition and the subsequent surgery to relieve pressure on his neck.

I’m cheering for him, though. He was the highest-graded skill player on a 2018 national championship Clemson team that also featured Travis Etienne, Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow and Amari Rodgers. He caught 46 passes for 1,000 yards on just 201 receiving snaps that season and notched six receptions for 153 yards with a score in the national championship game against Alabama. He led qualified receivers in yards per route run and looked like a future top-five pick as a true freshman. Then doctors discovered his congenital spine condition. Most importantly, I want Ross to stay healthy. If he can have a productive football career on top of that, it would be incredible.

@NikoDriscoll: Any chance the Steelers look to move Diontae Johnson? Great player but a lot of weapons and he’s gonna want $$$$$

I would be surprised if the Pittsburgh Steelers traded Diontae Johnson, especially now that the draft is over.

Nonetheless, Johnson should expect a contract in the $20 million APY range if he can maintain his level of play from a year ago. He’ll be catching passes from Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett this time around, and the Steelers added a high-upside receiver in George Pickens in the draft.

@boom80517: Sorry for the Patriots questions, but we keep seeing all kinds of reports that teams were targeting Thornton and strange sooner than the public thinks. Any validity to these claims?

As soon as the Patriots traded up to take wide receiver Tyquan Thornton at 50th overall, I reached out to some trusted sources to find out if that was necessary. One source said that at least one team entered the second day of the draft with Thornton as their top wide receiver. Another source said he believed it was necessary for the Patriots to move up from No. 54 to No. 50 to take Thornton because one of the teams selecting in between those picks would have grabbed him. A third source thought Thornton was a fourth-round pick. So, make of that what you will. I believe there were at least two teams – maybe more – besides New England that thought Thornton was worthy of a second-round pick.

I don’t believe Cole Strange would have been picked in the 30s. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets liked the Chattanooga guard, as well, but one source I spoke to didn’t believe the Bucs were going to take him 33rd overall. That same source didn’t think he would have gone to the Jets at No. 36 overall, either.

I asked a ton of people around the league about their biggest Day 1 surprise, and the Strange pick was far and away the most popular answer. The majority of people were most surprised that Strange went in the first round. In reality, only one person I spoke to defended and liked the pick. That same person pretty much hated the rest of the Patriots’ draft.

@PoopfireMcgyver: Should the Bears have taken Brisker when Skyy Moore and Pickens were on the board still?

I don’t believe either one of those players would have been their pick if the Chicago Bears did take a wide receiver at No. 39 overall.

@Ynwa752: Do you think Cole Strange will play OT in 2023? Maybe even next season in case of possible Brown/Wynn injuries

I don’t. I think the Patriots will stick him at one guard spot and keep him there.

@ActionMattD: Can Brandon Smith and Amare Barno become starters with the right development, and what do those roles look like?

I think Brandon Smith can be a starting linebacker for the Panthers. He has elite size and athleticism at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds with 4.52-second 40-yard dash speed. I could see him being a starting weak-side or strong-side linebacker, but he’s a work in progress.

Amare Barno is incredibly fast, but at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, he probably projects as a situational pass-rusher to start his career.

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