Baker Mayfield to the Rams: Why now, when he’ll play, and what’s next for Mayfield beyond 2022

NFL

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — With injuries continuing to mount and a former No. 1 draft pick available, the Los Angeles Rams shook things up on Tuesday by claiming quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers.

The Rams’ 2022 season has been a disappointment following their storybook Super Bowl win last season. Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 by the Cleveland Browns, was waived by the Carolina Panthers Monday. He’s now expected to fill in for Matthew Stafford throughout the remainder of the season.

Stafford was placed on the injured reserve last week with a spinal cord contusion. His earliest possible return would be in Week 17, though Rams coach Sean McVay said “there’s a good chance” the quarterback will not play again this season.

What does it all mean for Mayfield and the Rams? We dive into the biggest questions surrounding the quarterback’s new digs.

1. Why did the Rams make this move when they are all but out of the playoff race?

The Rams needed another quarterback. With Stafford on injured reserve with a spinal cord contusion and likely out for the rest of the season, they were already leaning on backup John Wolford and third-string QB Bryce Perkins.

Wolford, who started the Rams’ Week 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, was checked out several times by the team’s medical staff during the game and was listed on Monday’s injury report with a neck injury.

Perkins has started one game in his career — a Week 12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs — and the Rams needed a more proven option.

Yes, the Rams are essentially eliminated from the playoff picture, but Los Angeles still has five games left and needs another healthy quarterback.

The Rams are also aware that if Mayfield signs with another team this offseason, they could receive a compensatory pick in return.

2. Where does Mayfield fit on the depth chart?

Mayfield is expected to be the Rams’ starter, at least while Stafford is on injured reserve.

Now, whether that will be the case on Thursday when the Rams host the Las Vegas Raiders (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video) remains to be seen, as Mayfield would have two days to learn the playbook. There’s a chance Mayfield could play Thursday, a team source told ESPN. The team is in the process of sending him the playbook to make sure he can study the offense on his flight to Los Angeles on Tuesday night, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen said the team is “realistic” about what it means to bring someone in at this stage of the season “and what that actually might look like.” “If it is something that can provide a spark and somebody that can come in and help us compete to win football games, that’s the ultimate goal for the last five weeks of the season,” Coen said.

3. How does he fit into Sean McVay’s offense?

When asked about how Mayfield fits into this Rams offense, Coen said, “it’s just kind of acquiring talent, to be honest.”

“Acquiring somebody to come in and evaluate him, but also our offense,” Coen said. “Continuing to evaluate the offense [and] the other players. It’s more so about acquiring talent. Just getting somebody in here that we can continue to develop some competitive nature within the room.”

Coen, who was on the Rams’ staff in 2018 when the Cleveland Browns drafted Mayfield with the No. 1 pick, recalled that McVay liked Mayfield when he was coming out for the draft. Coen said McVay and Mayfield “had some conversations” and that McVay “just liked him as a dude.”

4. How does Mayfield fit into the locker room?

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said he doesn’t know that Mayfield will need help to acclimate to this Rams locker room. “I think he’s got enough social awareness to be able to do that with the team that he’s coming to, with some of the people you’re going to be around,” Morris said. “It’s hard to be around [this] type of strong leadership, these type of strong people and not try to find your way.” Morris referenced linebacker Bobby Wagner, who had a leadership role for a long time in Seattle, saying, “He was able to find his way around the locker room first and ease his way into it. And guys with common sense and guys with a lot of moxie about themselves, they kind of do that naturally.”

5. Could Mayfield be on the roster next season?

Making this move might indicate the Rams are interested in figuring out another option at backup quarterback going forward, but I’m under the impression the front office has mostly focused on what this means for the rest of the season, rather than 2023.

Wolford, who has been with the Rams since 2019, will be a free agent after this season, and Perkins doesn’t have much NFL experience.

While the Rams will want to evaluate Mayfield, they’re also aware he would be playing with a depleted offense: wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson are out and the offensive line has started 12 different combinations in 12 games.

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