The Los Angeles Rams‘ Super Bowl title-defending season certainly didn’t go as planned, in large part due to the team’s loss of Matthew Stafford due to injury. Baker Mayfield provided a temporary spark on offense following L.A.’s acquisition of the former first-overall pick, but with Stafford expected back in 2023, is there a future for Mayfield in Los Angeles?
Does It Make Sense To Bring Baker Mayfield Back to LA?
As everyone knows, the Rams went all in during the 2021 season, and it netted the team a Super Bowl. Now, Los Angeles’ roster-building options are limited for the foreseeable future, especially after signing Matthew Stafford to a four-year, $160 million contract.
With Stafford missing nearly half a season in two of the last four years, fortifying the team’s depth chart at the QB position is likely enticing for head coach Sean McVay (should he stick around) and the Rams’ top brass. But that might not be a luxury the team can afford.
It’s equally legitimate to question whether a pairing with the Rams in 2023 is something Mayfield himself might be interested in. The first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield has plenty of talent, and though he’s underperformed since his efficient and impressive third-year season, he’ll likely search for a chance to compete for a starting QB job in 2023.
Stafford didn’t play up to his Super Bowl season standards this past season, but there’s no doubt that he’s the Rams’ starter going forward. But let’s assume for a second that there was mutual interest in a reunion — is re-signing Mayfield even something the Rams could afford?
Baker Mayfield Contract Considerations
The quarterback market, like that of most positions, has skyrocketed over the past several seasons. The expected substantial rise in the NFL’s salary cap should only continue to boost the value of upcoming QB contracts, and Mayfield’s will be no exception.
While there’s little sense in expecting Mayfield to earn a contract in line with the league’s top QBs at this point, his talent, name value, and production with the Rams could earn him a one- or two-year prove-it deal that exceeds the value of the average backup quarterback.
Baker Mayfield Market Value
The tricky aspect of gauging Mayfield’s market value is that it’d only take two teams to view Mayfield as a potential future franchise QB to allow the Rams passer to leverage negotiations into a more substantial sum. If two such teams don’t exist, however, Mayfield will have less leverage in negotiating a more lucrative contract.
The sports contract website, spotrac.com, pegs Mayfield’s projected contract value at about $6.5 million per year and estimates that he’ll earn a two-year deal on the open market. This would put Mayfield’s value in line with highly drafted quarterbacks turned high-end backups Teddy Bridgewater, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Garoppolo’s case makes for a relevant comparison to Mayfield’s because, at this point, both should enter 2023 free agency in pursuit of an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Garoppolo certainly has a stronger resume as of late in terms of play and production, but Mayfield’s youth, former draft status, and the ceiling he displayed during the 2020 season could push teams to favor him depending on their situation.
I’d expect teams that pursue Mayfield to be those that are set to draft quarterbacks who may not be ready to start right and away and whom teams would like to pair with competition on the depth chart. This would mirror what the Pittsburgh Steelers did in taking a flyer on Trubisky before drafting Kenny Pickett. Teams in such a situation could include the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, or Indianapolis Colts.
It’ll be teams that believe they’re ready to compete right now but may be a QB away and who have coaches that need to make a playoff push, such as the New York Jets, that favor the veteran Garoppolo.
Rams Depth Chart, 2023 Options at QB
Stafford is currently the only QB under contract for the 2023 season, but re-signing Mayfield just doesn’t make much sense. Despite the down year, the Rams are in no position to enter a rebuild, and there’s enough talent on the roster to believe competing for a playoff run is within the realm of possibilities.
As such, the team will be sticking with Stafford going forward, and while Mayfield would constitute a great break-glass-in-case-of-emergency backup option for the Rams, Stafford’s presence leaves no clear path to the starting role for Mayfield.
There’s also the obvious question of cap space. Los Angeles isn’t set to have much of it come the offseason, and there are few obvious cut or trade candidates through which the team could free up significant space, especially given the guaranteed money currently on the cap table.
The Rams found out this season what could happen if the only backup options are project players like John Wolford and Bryce Perkins, so we could see LA bring in a veteran option at backup QB, such as Case Keenum or Tyrod Taylor. Veterans with any sort of pedigree cost more, but that investment could be worth it if the Rams want quality insurance behind Stafford.
Wolford is a restricted free agent, while Perkins is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning both could be kept at little cost to the team. So if the team’s front office believes in further developing either, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see L.A. keep one or both around for training camp while also signing a veteran backup option from outside the organization.