Lack of drafted QB keeps Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo’s future in limbo

The first round of the NFL Draft was supposed to set the stage for the home stretch of the quarterback movement this offseason.

This does not happen.

Kenny Pickett was the lone quarterback on the board Thursday night, heading to the Steelers with the 20th choice. It was only the second time in the last 21 years that a single quarterback was selected in the first round of the draft – confirming the doubts much of the NFL had about this class of prospect.

Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder and Sam Howell highlight the list of quarterbacks who still remain on the board. Willis was expected to be taken in the first round, while it was speculated that Corral and Ridder also had slight chances to sneak into the mix on Thursday night.

And so it appears Mayfield Baker and Jimmy Garoppolo will remain pending.

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the Panthers and sea ​​hawks have remained in the mix in the veteran quarterback market throughout the offseason, and the Texas will likely explore their options with Garoppolo and Mayfield, according to a source. Of course, this all continues to depend on the rest of the project.

The Panthers may have telegraphed their intentions ahead of the draft. Owner David Tepper preached patience on Wednesday and stressed the process of rebuilding the roster. There were clear signs the Panthers wouldn’t reach for a quarterback with the sixth pick — not when they needed to fix their offensive line — and they took advantage of Ikem Ekwonu’s fortuitous slip.

The Panthers should now be players for Mayfield. the Browns are willing to pay part of Mayfield’s $18.86 million salary to facilitate a deal, with the percentage of contractual holdback versus trade compensation. That will be significant, with the Panthers also paying quarterback Sam Darnold’s $18.86 million fifth-year option.

There is also another important factor here. The Panthers have no other choice until the fourth round, so they won’t have a chance at Willis, Corral, Ridder or Howell without trading a 2023 selection. Since Willis has the most upside, teams will likely vie for position to move up for him on Friday night, which means the Panthers would likely have to offer next year’s first-round pick to secure such a deal.


Malik Willis could be caught early in the second round and change the complexion of the quarterback’s needs in the league. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

So the Panthers could be debating two avenues here. They could trade a 2023 first-rounder for Willis or maybe even Corral. Or they could wait and offer a lot less capital for Mayfield or Garoppolo, then stay in the mix for a quarterback class of 2023 deemed superior to the current group.

The Panthers have been aggressive on the quarterback front. They called about Russell Wilson last year before being turned down and moving to Darnold. They were in the mix for Deshaun Watson before being sent to the Browns. They try to reduce uncertainty in search of an answer.

Are they sure about Willis or Corral? If so, an exchange makes sense. Otherwise, they could try Mayfield or Garoppolo for a season before potentially focusing on Bryce Young or another 2023 draft prospect. Mayfield and Garoppolo may not turn the Panthers into contenders, but they would be an upgrade, and they would also give head coach Matt Rhule a better chance to prove himself after a few tough seasons.

Then there are the Seahawks, who were also seen as a solid landing spot for Mayfield. They’re equipped with the 40th and 41st picks, so they’re in a prime spot to draft a quarterback whether they’re moving or standing.

The Seahawks, who took the tackle Charles Cross at No. 9, are in a unique position as they have veteran quarterbacks Drew Lock and Geno Smith on the list. Would they view Mayfield or Garoppolo as distinct improvements over Lock or Smith? Or are they really comfortable with Lock or Smith starting for a season while Willis, Corral, Ridder or Howell waits on the bench in a learning capacity?

Moreover, the 49ers might not even consider the idea of ​​trading Garoppolo to an NFC West rival, so it might just be up to Mayfield. The 27-year-old quarterback has the kind of energy head coach Pete Carroll would covet, and the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft could speed up Seattle’s rebuild if he’s successful with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. And in the event that Mayfield does rebound with the Seahawks, it could help the team entice wide receiver DK Metcalf to stay past his rookie contract.

Don’t rule out the Texans, though. They are indeed encouraged by quarterback Davis Mills’ rookie season and would be comfortable with him as a starter again in 2022, according to a source. And they had no intention of selecting a quarterback Thursday with a pair of picks in the top half of the first round.

However, the Texans hadn’t ruled out the possibility of jumping for Willis or Pickett if they fell to the bottom of the first round. The Texans, sitting at No. 37, could still have their guy on Friday night.

It is conceivable that Buccaneers (No. 33), vikings (No. 34), Titans (No. 35) or giants (No. 36) are jumping on a quarterback as a succession plan for their current starters, and they also have to consider that they could be passed by the Seahawks or another team. The patient approach could backfire if they really like Willis or another quarterback.

Otherwise, the Texans want to make sure they’re competitive with a tough schedule on the horizon in 2022. The AFC South has improved, and they’ve also drawn the dreaded AFC West roster, with the NFC East, Browns, dolphins and Bear. As much as the Texans love Mills, are they giving themselves the best chance of winning when Garoppolo and Mayfield are options?

Texans general manager Nick Caserio worked with the patriots when they drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014, so they have a story. Garoppolo would also be an easy stopgap if they want a younger option in 2023, including Mills. But so far, the 49ers’ asking price for Garoppolo has been too high, a source says.

Mayfield would be another consideration due to the asking price. The Texans had no interest in Mayfield as part of the Watson trade, but things have changed, sources say. Notably, at the time of the Watson trade, the Browns wanted to see if another team would take Mayfield’s entire contract. Now that it’s become clear the Browns need to consummate part of Mayfield’s contract, the Texans might be considering that kind of deal.

There may have been a resolution to Thursday’s preliminary results. In an extreme scenario, the Browns didn’t want to reach a point where they had to release Mayfield and then find him signing with the Steelers. It was seen as a long shot, but Pickett’s Steelers selection as a pairing with Mitch Trubisky probably ruled out this scenario.

The 49ers remain a wild card in the QB draw. Although they are motivated to move Garoppolo, they are reluctant to trade him for minimal return until they are sure. Trey Lance is ready to start in 2022. Lance needs to prove it throughout the offseason training schedule, and the 49ers are ready to transport Garoppolo to training camp if necessary. They know they have a roster that can challenge for an NFC Championship and don’t want to move Garoppolo until they’re sure about Lance’s readiness.

And finally, Garoppolo is still recovering from right shoulder surgery, while Mayfield is recovering from left shoulder surgery. Garoppolo should start throwing in training camp. Mayfield could be ready sooner than that.

There’s still so much at stake, including the rest of the draft this weekend. The answers expected on Thursday evening could take a little longer to unfold.

(Top photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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