The Rams are in the throes of a dismal season, but the defending Super Bowl champions showed again Tuesday that they have not lost their touch for making a splash.
Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft, was waived Monday after failing to revive a career that began with the Cleveland Browns.
The Rams, by virtue of their 3-9 record, were fourth in the waiver priority.
“He’s got a lot of experience,” tight end Tyler Higbee said. “Excited to see what he can do for us.”
Offensive lineman Bobby Evans played with Mayfield at Oklahoma.
“A competitor for sure,” Evans said, “and a vocal leader as well.”
Rams coach Sean McVay was not scheduled to be available to reporters Tuesday. But in 2018, McVay raved about Mayfield after sitting next to him on a flight to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
General manager Les Snead joked after the draft that the in-flight “tutoring session” might have helped Mayfield increase his draft stock to become the No. 1 overall pick.
On Tuesday, Rams assistants said Mayfield would help the team.
“It’s more so about acquiring talent,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said.
Said defensive coordinator Raheem Morris: “Get a chance to acquire a guy that’s got nothing to lose and something to prove is always awesome.”
Mayfield, 27, was traded to the Panthers in July, a few months after the Browns traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Mayfield has passed for six touchdowns against six interceptions this season. He was sidelined because of an ankle injury when the Rams defeated the Panthers on Oct. 16 at SoFi Stadium, the Rams’ last victory before their current six-game losing streak.
Mayfield piqued the Rams’ interest on several fronts.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 draft, is on injured reserve and is expected to be out for the rest of the season. Backup John Wolford is nursing a neck injury, but McVay has not said whether Wolford or Bryce Perkins will start against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night at SoFi Stadium.
So Mayfield gives the Rams a quarterback who has started 65 NFL games, compiling a 30-35 record in four seasons with the Browns and half a season with the Panthers.
Despite his “falloff” with those teams, Mayfield remains a “playmaker,” Morris said.
In 2018, Morris was on Atlanta's staff when Mayfield led the Browns to a victory over the Falcons. Mayfield told reporters that he had awakened the morning of the game “feeling real dangerous.”
“I may punch him when I see him,” Morris joked. “Other than that, that’s awesome. Always trying to acquire good talent.”
Mayfield comes relatively cheap. The Rams will be responsible for the remaining $1.4 million on his contract, according to NFL.com.
Claiming Mayfield prevented the quarterback-needy San Francisco 49ers from acquiring him. The 49ers appeared primed for a possible Super Bowl run, but Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a regular season-ending foot injury Sunday. Trey Lance, who began the season as the 49ers' starter, is out for the season because of an ankle injury.
Mayfield’s role Thursday night against the Raiders has not been determined, Coen said. The Rams will be off this weekend and then have remaining games against the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Chargers and Seattle Seahawks.
“If he’s the guy that’s going to end up starting, you have to do some different things in terms maybe some limited inventory” in the playbook, Coen said. “But from what I understand, he’s a really sharp dude.
“And I’m sure he’s picked up multiple different systems. … Gotta believe he’s going to be able to come in pick things up pretty quickly.”
What this means for the Rams and Mayfield beyond this season remains to be seen.
Stafford, 34, is recovering from a spinal cord contusion and has dealt with concussions and tendinitis this season. Next season would be his 15th in the NFL.
Wolford, 27, was signed after a stint in the defunct Alliance of American Football and has backed up Stafford and former quarterback Jared Goff.
Perkins, 25, was signed as an undrafted free agent. He started for the Rams in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 27.
“This is part of the sport,” Wolford said. “Obviously, the team’s going to do what’s best for the team. We’ll welcome him with open arms, and it’s a good group ... so we’re just going to continue to push each other to get better.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.