The Panthers are intent on letting this one play out.
After trading for Baker Mayfield, Carolina general manager Scott Fitterer reiterated on Tuesday that the Panthers don't yet have a starting quarterback. Mayfield will compete for the job alongside Sam Darnold in a quarterback room that also includes P.J. Walker and third-round rookie Matt Corral.
“This is an open competition," Fitterer told reporters during a news conference. "The reason why we added Baker was to make the group better as a whole. Our whole philosophy is to add competition not just in the quarterback room but every position. ...
"We're not looking to move Sam at all. Sam is very much a part of this competition. ... I think they're both gonna rise and play the best football they have."
The Panthers also don't intend on extending Mayfield's rookie contract — for now, at least.
"We'll let it play out throughout the season," Fitterer continued. "We'll make decisions later in the season whether it's November or December, once there's a track record behind him in this offense and this organization."
Mayfield and Darnold — both top-three picks in the 2018 draft — are playing on the fifth-year options of expiring rookie contracts. Mayfield enters the competition with a clear edge on the incumbent Panthers quarterback. He had his struggles with the Cleveland Browns, but he's outplayed his fellow first-round pick by almost every statistical measure during their coinciding four-season NFL tenures.
In one season with the Panthers and three with the New York Jets, Darnold's completed 59.8% of his passes for 212.5 yards per game while throwing 54 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. Mayfield's completed 61.6% of his passes for 235.4 yards per game with 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions in the same time frame.
Meanwhile, the Panthers have already seen Darnold's shortcomings first hand in a nine-touchdown, 12-interception 2021 effort that saw the Panthers finish in last place in the NFC South at 5-12. There's little to demonstrate at this point in his career that Darnold is a capable starter in the NFL.
Mayfield provides a glimpse of hope in Charlotte. But he's accepting his role after a humbling experience in Cleveland that saw the Browns give up on him in favor of a beleaguered Deshaun Watson four years after making him the No. 1 pick in the draft. On Tuesday, he toed the company line regarding the quarterback competition in his first public comments since joining the Panthers.
"I'm really looking forward to being in that room with him and just challenging each other, and elevating each other," Mayfield said of the competition with Darnold. ... "For me, it's pretty familiar. Obviously, the NFL is different than college, but walking on twice, and having to go through that process, you level the playing field. ...
"It's about betting on yourself and believing in that, and giving it your all. And just trying to be a good teammate and help everybody win."
While Darnold's on board with the competition talk, one Panthers faction likely is not — fans. They've already seen what Darnold can do. They're certainly hoping for better in 2022.