The Los Angeles Rams have claimed Baker Mayfield off of waivers, taking on the remainder of his contract. After injuries to Matthew Stafford and cycling through backups John Wolford and Bryce Perkins, it’s clear that the Rams did not have an answer at quarterback.
Baker Mayfield Helps the Rams in 2022 and Possibly Later
The Rams have an outside shot at a Wild Card spot, and they seem to be squeezing every possible opportunity to make a run. At 4-8, it will be difficult to make a genuine run at the postseason, but there are chances available to them to sneak into the seventh seed if everything else around the league goes the right way.
This move also helps them block a potential waiver claim from the San Francisco 49ers for Mayfield, as it stymies their attempts at potentially upgrading the QB position.
Beyond the implications for the 2022 season, this gives the Rams the chance to evaluate a quarterback option for 2023. Mayfield’s contract doesn’t extend beyond 2022 but claiming him allows Los Angeles to have an internal evaluation and an exclusive negotiating window for any possible extension.
Without a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, taking advantage of every opportunity available to add a quarterback makes sense.
Mayfield Has Experience With the Los Angeles Rams Offense
Mayfield has experience in the Shanahan/McVay-style West Coast offense, and at his best, helped bring the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years, passing at a clip of 7.3 yards per attempt and 6.96 adjusted net yards per attempt in 2020. Both marks were above league average, but not drastically so.
That season, Mayfield relied on an excellent offensive line, a strong running game, and a heavy play-action offense in order to pull together that kind of season, which will be hard to replicate in Los Angeles — at least this year. But he will have an understanding of the concepts and much of the terminology, giving him a head start to seeing playing time.
Baker Mayfield Is on His Last Chance
There’s a good chance Mayfield is seeing his last serious opportunity. If he fails for the Rams, it will be tough to convince a team to take him on, even as a backup.
His history in the league has been spotty. While Mayfield won some recognition as a rookie for his play, he couldn’t follow that up in 2019 before a coaching change seemingly breathed life into his career.
But Mayfield didn’t last long in Cleveland, and injuries to his chest and shoulder plagued him in 2021, followed by a knee injury late in the season. He didn’t look like the same quarterback he was in 2020, and his accuracy suffered, exacerbating issues he’s had with decision-making and timing.
Despite investing the first overall pick into Mayfield, Cleveland traded for Deshaun Watson in the 2022 offseason, allowing them to deal Mayfield to another team. The Carolina Panthers obliged and Mayfield won a QB competition between him, PJ Walker, and Sam Darnold, while rookie Sam Howell sat on injured reserve.
But the Panthers also didn’t see value in having Mayfield on their roster shortly after trading for him at the cost of a fifth-round pick. Despite winning the starting job, Mayfield wasn’t doing enough to compete in an anemic NFC South. After waiving him, the Panthers will still owe the Browns their fifth-round pick.
From an on-field perspective, Mayfield’s more talented than most backup quarterbacks. The question for Los Angeles is whether or not he can do enough behind the scenes to justify a roster spot, like prepping starters in the film room, helping offensive coordinators game plan, or providing a second set of eyes on the sideline.
Mayfield will also have to shed the reputation he’s earned, fairly or unfairly, of being difficult to work with. This doesn’t cost the Rams much — just $1.35 million in cap space without any draft picks, so it’s a cheap look at a former first-overall pick.