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Does Baker Mayfield have Carolina in his mind? (Maybe he should.)

Carolina Panthers looking like a possible destination for Cleveland’s former starting quarterback.

Carolina Panthers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
And, ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind
- James Taylor

The Cleveland Browns begin their offseason program on Tuesday with the first of several voluntary workouts for players.

The next two weeks, which the NFL terms Phase One, will limit the players to meetings, strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation. The club will work through the next two phases before holding a mandatory minicamp from June 14 to June 16.

With each of the first three phases of the offseason being strictly voluntary, you never know who may or may not be showing up in Berea. But one name that will almost certainly be missing is that of quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Related: Baker Mayfield - I’m ready for the next chapter

Under normal circumstances, if such a thing exists with the Browns, Mayfield might only be making a brief appearance as he is still recovering from surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder. But with general manager Andrew Berry still working to find a suitable trade partner for Mayfield, and with Mayfield expressing his displeasure with the organization on the Ya Neva Know: You Know What I Mean podcast, Mayfield might discover an issue with his employee keycard if he were to try and enter team headquarters.

Speaking of a Mayfield trade, Berry is either taking his time to get the best deal possible or is having difficulty getting other general managers to even take his call, depending on which side of the issue one resides on when it comes to Mayfield’s status across the league.

During the podcast, Mayfield said that in his mind the Seattle Seahawks are “probably the most likely option” for his next team, the Carolina Panthers are apparently a team to watch in the coming days and weeks.

On Friday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was on the Pat McAfee show and said he believes the Panthers would be the “most likely” spot for Mayfield.

Then on Saturday, cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported that the Panthers have the “inside track” to acquire Mayfield:

The Panthers — one of three teams who lost out in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, along with the Falcons and Saints — are one of several teams interested in Mayfield, and have the most cap space — $30.166 million according to overthecap.com. They also have an obvious opening at QB1. Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018, is under contract next season for the same fully guaranteed fifth-year option amount as Mayfield’s $18.86 million, so the Panthers will probably want a little relief to get the deal done.

On Sunday morning, The Athletic’s Joe Person Tweeted that Mayfield is “among the options” the Panthers are looking at but is “not the only guy on the list.”

Both Cabot and Person point out one seemingly big issue with any trade scenario involving Mayfield and the Panthers, which is money. Carolina currently has quarterback Sam Darnold on the roster and he carries the same $18.86 million in guaranteed salary as Mayfield for the upcoming season.

Mayfield would unquestionably be an upgrade over Darnold but would appear to have even less trade value, meaning that the Panthers could be looking at having almost $38 million in salary tied up in the two quarterbacks.

Still, the Panthers clearly need to do something at the position and are not sold on Darnold seeing as how they were one of the teams pursuing quarterback Deshaun Watson just as hard as the Browns. So it does make sense that Carolina would have interest in Mayfield, especially if they can somehow convince Berry to pay a portion of Mayfield’s salary, which Berry has reportedly been reluctant to do so far.

And just to spice things up a bit, the Browns are playing the Panthers this fall, although on the road, so the hype surrounding a Mayfield “revenge game” would make for a fun (or more likely exhausting) week of buildup prior to the game.

It is all speculation at the moment, of course, but there is still the possibility that Mayfield will soon have Carolina in his mind.

Said I’m gone to Carolina
I’d better get back on home again, real soon, you know?
’Cause I’m gone to Carolina in my mind