2022 has been a roller coaster ride for Baker Mayfield. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft looked like he would be heading into his fifth season with the Cleveland Browns as the starter with a chance to showcase why he should be their long-term answer at the position. He battled through injuries in 2021 after leading the team on an impressive playoff run during the 2020 season, but it wasn’t meant to be in Cleveland.
The Browns instead got into and eventually won the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, making him their new franchise quarterback despite his off-the-field transgressions. Mayfield requested a trade since he was no longer the starter but it took a long time for one to materialize.
He was eventually dealt to the Carolina Panthers, where was able to compete for the starting job against fellow 2019 draft mate, Sam Darnold. Mayfield won the competition but his performance throughout the season was underwhelming. Despite having weapons such as wide receiver D.J. Moore and running back Christian McCaffrey, Mayfield found very little success.
He was benched after five games, and came back after an injury to P.J. Walker, but has since been benched again. Darnold is now back under center as the starter and Walker is his backup, which led to Mayfield requesting his release from the team. It was something that the organization agreed with and he was granted the motion.
The waiver process isn’t normally one that people pay much attention to, but given the fact that Mayfield is a quarterback and the need some teams have around the league, it will be an intriguing thing to keep an eye on. With Jimmy Garoppolo suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 13, could the San Francisco 49ers put in a claim for him?
One team that is ahead of them on the waiver list that should seriously consider making a move for Mayfield is the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were on the quarterback carousel again this offseason, trading Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders and acquiring Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons.
Like all of their moves in recent seasons to address the quarterback spot, this one has failed. Ryan has been a disaster, leading the league in interceptions and failing to elevate the offense in a fashion the franchise had hoped as he was seen as a clear upgrade in the offseason over Wentz.
In need of a long-term option and some stability at the position, the Colts should pursue signing Baker Mayfield. He will be only 28 years old when the 2023 regular season begins, providing Indianapolis with someone who could be their starter for years to come, and bringing continuity to the position.
While Mayfield’s performance with the Panther this season was certainly nothing to write home about, Indianapolis has a much stronger foundation in place to work with. Mayfield benefits from having a strong running game to use play action off of and the Colts have that with Jonathan Taylor leading the backfield.
In the passing game, there are weapons in place as well. Michael Pittman Jr. has shown that he is capable of being a No. 1 option and Alec Pierce is having a good rookie campaign. Parris Campbell has produced as he has been able to remain healthy this season and Jelani Woods looks like a breakout tight end candidate.
The pieces are in place for a quarterback to succeed, whoever it is that the Colts decide to pursue. Mayfield could very well be their guy as he won’t be overly expensive to bring in. With a new head coach on the way, Indianapolis could build a staff that would be able to bring the most out of Baker Mayfield’s skill set. There are definitely coaches that would be willing to see if they could recreate the magic Mayfield had during the 2020 season when he defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card game and played the Kansas City Chiefs tough in the divisional round.