In the wake of the blockbuster trade that sent Deshaun Watson to the Browns this past week, it has become abundantly clear that the Baker Mayfield era is over in Cleveland. Mayfield had already requested a trade earlier in the week, and with their new franchise quarterback in town, Cleveland appears willing to acquiesce to his request.
Where Mayfield will end up is still up in the air. He has been linked to the Colts (his preferred destination) as well as the Seahawks, who are in search of a successor for Russell Wilson. He has not officially been linked in any way to the Philadelphia Eagles. That said, fans and local talking heads have put the conversation out there.
With that in mind, would a deal for Baker Mayfield make any sense for Philadelphia? Would he be an upgrade at the position, or does Jalen Hurts have the higher ceiling? Let’s dig a little deeper:
After a brutal, injury-plagued 2021 campaign, the asking price for Baker Mayfield won’t be particularly high. At most, the Browns would likely be seeking a couple of mid-round picks to ship the former number-one pick out of town. For the sake of this conversation, we will say the Eagles would send a third-and fifth-round pick to Cleveland for Mayfield’s services.
In acquiring Mayfield, the Eagles would have to make a choice on where they go with Jalen Hurts. They could theoretically keep Hurts in town and have a full-blown quarterback competition. However, having led the Eagles back to the playoffs and proven himself to be a viable starting quarterback in 2021, Hurts may very well request a trade.
So, for the sake of this experiment, the Eagles will part ways with Hurts. At just 23 years old, and with a playoff appearance on his resume, Hurts could be a hotter commodity than Mayfield. There are still several teams desperate for a quarterback upgrade.
Hurts would be a clear upgrade over Sam Darnold in Carolina, and a team like the Panthers could potentially send a second-, third-, and fifth-round pick back to Philadelphia. With Mayfield set to the start in Philly (and a solid backup in Gardner Minshew), the Eagles pull the trigger on this deal.
In terms of salary, the Eagles would find themselves with a considerably more expensive quarterback. Hurts is still on his rookie deal and is set to make just $1,082,744 in base salary in 2022 (and just $1,331,616 in 2023).
Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year salary of $18,858,000 kicks in for the coming season. He will most certainly be looking for an expensive, long-term deal after the season.
So, the pair of deals that bring in Mayfield and send Hurts to Carolina will build some additional draft capital for the team by adding a second-round pick. However, in terms of salary justification, is Baker Mayfield 18x the quarterback that Jalen Hurts is? Absolutely not.
The Eagles are in the enviable position of being able to build around a talented, uber-affordable quarterback on a rookie deal. Swapping Hurts out for Mayfield would considerably limit the team’s financial flexibility moving forward.
Ultimately, in terms of the cost of making this move, it would not be worth it for the Eagles.
Hurts Vs. Mayfield: Who Is The Better Quarterback?
As mentioned in the previous section, Mayfield is certainly not a big enough upgrade over Hurts to justify the considerable salary increase. That said, is he actually a better player at all?
In terms of his athleticism, that’s a resounding “no.” Through his four seasons in the league, Mayfield has rushed for 571 yards and five touchdowns. He is not particularly fast, agile, or strong.
Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts crushed Mayfield’s career rushing totals in just one season in 2021. This past season, Hurts combined with a committee of running backs to build the most productive rushing attack in the league. Hurts rushed for 784 yards and ten touchdowns on the season and was dominant on the ground. For the position, Hurts has truly elite athleticism.
As a passer, things are much, much closer. Mayfield has the superior arm strength at this point, and when healthy is considered a top-10 arm in the league. Baker, at his best, has put together a stronger resume as a passer, highlighted by his rookie season in which he threw 27 touchdowns, and the 2020 season in which he led the Browns to the playoffs and threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
However, this past season he regressed mightily. We will certainly give Mayfield somewhat a pass for his brutal 2021 performance as he was dealing with multiple injuries and wearing a sling on his non-throwing arm. However, his 60.5% completion percentage (to his career 61.6%), 3,010 yards passing, and just 17 touchdowns to 13 picks were considerably below-average numbers for a starting quarterback through 14 games. Injuries aside, Mayfield’s accuracy (which, along with Hurts, is his biggest opportunity) has gotten worse since the 63.8% figure he achieved during his rookie season.
Meanwhile, in just his first full season as a starter, Hurts threw for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions with a 61.3% completion percentage. Pedestrian numbers for sure, but he had a considerably worse set of weapons than Mayfield. And when you factor in his running, he was considerably more productive than Mayfield this past season.
So, in terms of passing, it very well may be a wash. Mayfield could very well continue regressing. At the very least he may never exceed the slightly-above-average performances of his two best seasons.
Hurts, on the other hand, has shown massive improvement as a passer from his rookie season to year two. He was the more accurate passer of the two players this past season. His completion percentage jumped nearly 10% from his rookie season. However, to be fair, we will give Mayfield the slight edge as a passer at this moment. That said, Hurts may very well have a higher ceiling in the end.
Who Is The Better Leader?
Lastly, let’s compare their apparent leadership abilities. Baker Mayfield hit the ground running in the league. His brash personality seemed like the perfect fit to lift the Cleveland Browns out of their decades of irrelevance, and he finally led them back to the playoffs in 2020. However, the confidence and ego that drove him from a two-time walk-on to the number-one draft pick started to rub a lot of people in Cleveland the wrong way. In the end, he alienated his top receivers and by the end of the 2021 season his coaches and the front office were ready to move on.
Mayfield even struggled to build a positive relationship with the media in Cleveland. Can you imagine how he would respond to the brutal criticism he would receive with every misstep in Philadelphia?
Hurts, meanwhile, kept his poise during his rookie season as the walls around the franchise collapsed. He was thrown into a quarterback controversy with former MVP-candidate Carson Wentz as Doug Pederson did his best to burn the place down on his way out.
After Wentz and Pederson left town after the 2020 season, Hurts led an immediate turnaround of the franchise. The team went from 4-11-1 and kicking off a full-scale rebuild at the end of the 2020 season, straight back to the playoffs in 2021 with Hurts behind the wheel. Hurts was praised by his coaches and veteran players on the team. Franchise legends in the media called out his poise and leadership.
You have to respect Mayfield for (at least temporarily) helping make the Browns relevant again. However, Hurts appears to have the perfect personality of a field general. Chalk this one up to Jalen.
Let’s check the scores:
Price Tag – Advantage: Hurts
Athleticism – Advantage: Hurts
Passing – Advantage: Mayfield
Leadership – Advantage: Hurts
Ceiling – Advantage: Hurts
Baker Mayfield would not be an upgrade for this team. He is more expensive and far less athletic. He is probably not the right leader to help get this team to the next level. While Mayfield is a marginally better passer at this point in his career, Hurts has the higher ceiling across the board.
I trust that Howie Roseman and company see this, too. Now is the time to build a contending squad around Jalen Hurts. Load up on weapons while he is still on his rookie deal. Let’s see how far he can take this team.