By GREG BEACHAM
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams claimed quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers Tuesday, adding the former No. 1 pick to their options behind injured Matthew Stafford for the rest of the season.
Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and former Cleveland Browns starter, was released by the Panthers on Monday at his request after seven disappointing games with Carolina.
The struggling Rams host the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night, and it’s unclear whether Mayfield could be ready to participate for a team already down to backup quarterbacks John Wolford — who has been battling a neck injury and other ailments — and Bryce Perkins.
“My gosh, you’d probably know as much as I would on that right now,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen told reporters when asked if Mayfield might play Thursday. “I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t spoken to him. I’ve only heard great things about him, his professional nature in Carolina and some of the things that went on there.”
Coach Sean McVay wasn’t scheduled to speak to reporters Tuesday after he acquired a quarterback whose talents greatly intrigued him coming out of college at Oklahoma, but both of his coordinators praised the acquisition.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. “This guy was a very good football player. Brought Cleveland from pretty much the ashes. This game is sometimes thankless. We get a chance to acquire guys who’ve got nothing to lose and something to prove is always awesome.”
After league-wide speculation about Mayfield joining the contending San Francisco 49ers or Baltimore Ravens, Mayfield instead will attempt to help the injury-plagued Rams (3-9). Los Angeles has lost six straight games during what’s shaping up as the worst season in NFL history for a defending Super Bowl champion.
The Rams have almost no reason to tank the remaining season because their first-round pick belongs to Detroit, and they clearly need help at quarterback. Stafford is almost certainly out for the season with a bruised spinal cord, and Wolford and Perkins have been fairly ineffective while combining to start three of the past four games, all losses. Wolford passed for 178 yards with no touchdowns in last Sunday’s loss to Seattle.
But it’s unclear how much help Mayfield can provide: He had a dismal season with the Panthers, who acquired him for a fifth-round pick in July after the Browns’ acquisition of Deshaun Watson ended his up-and-down tenure in Cleveland, where he was a four-year starter and engineered the end of the franchise’s 18-year playoff drought in 2020.
Mayfield won the first-string job in training camp with Carolina, but went 1-5 as a starter while throwing six touchdown passes and six interceptions. He was outplayed in recent weeks by both Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker.
McVay frequently received credit for Kirk Cousins’ development into a solid NFL starter during McVay’s time as Washington’s offensive coordinator. As a head coach, McVay led the Rams to four winning seasons, three playoff berths and a Super Bowl appearance with Jared Goff at the controls. McVay then became the youngest coach in NFL history to win a Super Bowl title last season after trading Goff for Stafford, who had one of the most impressive seasons of his lengthy career.
Whether this latest partnership lasts only five games or goes longer, McVay will have the opportunity to decide whether Mayfield can still be the quarterback McVay thought he would be coming out of Oklahoma.
“It’s a chance to evaluate,” Coen said. “You’re always looking for competition at every position, and you’re looking for a chance to evaluate talent. That was the goal. ... We feel good about our room and the quarterback that we have for the future of the Los Angeles Rams, which is Matthew Stafford, but we feel obviously pretty good about somebody to come in here and compete at a high level for us.”
The 34-year-old Stafford is under contract through the 2026 season, but his injuries and two trips through the concussion protocol — even though the Rams haven’t confirmed Stafford ever had a concussion this season — have sparked widespread speculation about how long he plans to continue his career.