Why the Panthers have already won the Baker Mayfield trade, plus an NHL Draft preview

Happy Thursday, everyone! Hope you’re well.

Let’s get right to it.

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The quarterback carousel has taken another big spin in what’s been a wild NFL offseason: Baker Mayfield is headed to the Panthers. Here are the details:

  • The Panthers will send the Browns a conditional fifth-round pick (could turn into a fourth-round pick based on Mayfield’s playing time).
  • Cleveland will pay $10.5 million of Mayfield’s $18.85-million salary this season; Carolina will pick up $4.85 million, and Mayfield converted the rest to incentives, which helped facilitate the trade.
  • Should Mayfield be named starter, his first game as a Panther will be against … the Browns in Week 1.

Mayfield requested a trade way back in mid-March as the Browns pursued (and eventually acquired) Deshaun WatsonThis is a huge win for Mayfield. Not only was his trade request finally granted, but he’s going to a team where he should start immediately.

  • His primary competition is Sam Darnold, who was one of the worst quarterbacks by basically every metric last year. Third-round rookie Matt Corral and former XFL standout PJ Walker are also on the roster.
  • Since Matt Rhule took over as head coach in 2020, the Panthers have thrown the fewest touchdowns and the most interceptions.

Last year, Mayfield struggled while playing through a significant shoulder injury. But one year prior, he threw 26 touchdowns to just eight interceptions and led Cleveland to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Now, he joins a Panthers team that features Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore and an improved offensive line. All told, the Panthers earn a strong “A-” grade from our NFL expert Cody Benjamin:

  • Benjamin: “Worst-case scenario, Mayfield flops and proves no better than his immediate surroundings, and the Panthers let him walk in 2023, proceeding with the QB reset (and potential regime reset) they were destined for anyway. Best-case scenario, Baker brings some much-needed juice to their QB room, actually capitalizes on some of the talent around him, and the Panthers get a head start on locking up a potential long-term starter without having to spend excess draft capital to start over.”

Honorable mentions

Previewing tonight’s NHL Draft 🏒

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The NHL Draft is here, and that means it’s time to look at some of the top prospects who will hear their name called early tonight. While the top pick — which belongs to the Canadiens — isn’t 100% locked in, there’s a clear frontrunner, notes our NHL expert Chris Bengel:

  • Bengel: Shane Wright – C, Kingston (OHL): The Kingston center is about as lethal as it gets when he has the puck in open space. He possesses a deadly accurate shot. Over his past two seasons with the Frontenacs, Wright has tallied 71 goals and 89 assists and was the youngest captain in OHL history. He has drawn comparisons to Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron due to his playmaking ability and defensive tendencies.”

As for other names near the top, here are a few more:

  • Simon Nemec – RHD, HK Nitra (Slovakia)
  • Juraj Slafkovsky – LW, HC TPS (Slovakia)
  • Logan Cooley – C, U.S. National U18 Team
  • David Jiricek – RHD, HC Plzen (Czech Republic)

Rafael Nadal survives five-set classic; Nick Kyrgios waits in Wimbledon semis 🎾

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Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion. Especially that of a 22-time major champion. Rafael Nadal overcame an abdominal injury and, after five sets, topped Taylor Fritz, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4), to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.

  • Nadal’s abdominal injury nearly caused him to quit in the first set — his father seemed to be telling him to do so from the stands — but he kept going despite being in clear pain.
  • The injury significantly impacted Nadal’s serve. He had five aces and seven double faults, and his average first serve came in at 107 miles per hour, down from 115 mph in his previous match.
  • Nadal has already won the Australian Open and the French Open this year. The last man to win all four Grand Slams in a single year was Rod Laver in 1969.

Nadal will face Nick Kyrgios, who beat Cristian Garin in straight sets, in the semifinal tomorrow. The other semifinal is Novak Djokovic against Cameron Norrie.

On the women’s side, the two semifinal matches today are…

  • Elena Rybakina vs Simona Halep
  • Ons Jabeur vs Tatjana Maria

You can stay up-to-date on all the results here.

Hal Steinbrenner quiet on Aaron Judge extension talks ⚾


Aaron Judge is playing at an MVP level in his contract year for the best team in baseball. Seems like a natural candidate for a contract extension, right?

Not quite.

Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner, talking to reporters yesterday, neither confirmed nor denied that negotiations are ongoing. There are some important details to note here:

Oh, and Judge is the odds-on favorite to win AL MVP at Caesars Sportsbook, and the Yankees, who have MLB‘s best record, are the favorites to win the World Series. For now, Judge, the Yankees and their fans will likely have to wait for the season to end for this all to be resolved — but there is some historical context to the situation, writes our MLB expert Mike Axisa.

Tiger Woods preparing for return at The Open Championship 🏌

After skipping the U.S. Open to allow his leg to heal, Tiger Woods is in the midst of preparing for The Open Championship, which starts next week on the iconic Old Course at St. Andrews. He won the Claret Jug there in 2000 and 2005.

Woods’s preparation didn’t get off to the best start, as he shot 77-74 (tied for 39th) at the JP McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor in Ireland last week. But that doesn’t really matter. Woods has played just seven professional rounds this calendar year: four at The Masters — where he finished T-47th — and three at the PGA Championship, where he withdrew before Sunday’s final round.

As golf expert Kyle Porter writes, the fact that Woods is preparing at all for this tournament is something to savor.

  • Porter: “This Open Championship is the most important major of the last 20 years. It’s the 150th edition of the world’s oldest significant tournament played at the most consequential golf course in the world at a time when professional golf has never been in a more precarious position. … Nobody knows whether Tiger will be competitive at The Open next week, but it almost doesn’t matter. Just to see him mentally wrestling once again with one of the great riddles in sports will be a treat — one that we may never get to see again.”

Woods is staying in Europe to prepare for next week — when the entire sport will be focused on him.

What we’re watching Thursday 📺

🎾 Wimbledon women’s semifinals, How to watch
🏒 NHL Draft, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Concacaf W Championship: Jamaica vs United States, 7 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Liberty at Mercury, 10 p.m. on Facebook
🏀 Storm at Sparks, 10:30 p.m. on Twitter

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