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The Carolina Panthers have a crucial decision to make this month, and it will decide how the entire 2022-23 season shakes out. Do they stick with Sam Darnold for another year, or do they make the switch and give the starting quarterback job to recently acquired Baker Mayfield?

Carolina seems to have one of the NFL’s true QB competitions entering the new season, but the team is reportedly leaning toward Mayfield without even seeing a preseason game yet.

Panthers report: Baker Mayfield has the “inside track” to win QB job

Both Mayfield and Darnold have been unquestioned starters in the NFL for the last four years. Neither QB has ever been considered an elite option at the position, but they’re both talented enough to start in this league at the same time.

That won’t be the case in 2022-23, as one of them will be forced to back up the other in Carolina. According to a recent report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Mayfield has already taken over as the favorite to win the starting job.

Baker Mayfield does have the inside track at the starting quarterback job. Now, it is a competition. They are essentially splitting reps, and that is gonna be the case probably through the preseason games, but this is very clear. Based on the kind of understanding he has of this offense, based on the kind of plays he can make, and the kind of command he’s already getting inside this locker room, it certainly does seem like it is Baker Mayfield’s job to win. As it should be, they just traded for him.

Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

This isn’t exactly a shocking development for the Panthers. Carolina wouldn’t have traded for Mayfield in the first place if it felt comfortable with Darnold under center. After he led the Panthers to a 4-7 record in 11 starts and threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (nine) last season, Darnold hasn’t done enough to prove he’s the answer at QB moving forward.

Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield look on during training camp.
Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield of the Carolina Panthers walk the field during training camp | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Mayfield, on the other hand, finished last season with 17 touchdown passes and 13 picks in 14 starts with the Cleveland Browns. Despite getting replaced by Deshaun Watson, it seems as if he’ll be on the field in Week 1 with a chance to prove he’s still good enough to be a starter in this league.

Carolina’s new-look offense will be fascinating to watch this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if both Mayfield and Darnold see the field at some point.

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