"This is a tough business,'' interim coach Steve Wilks said Monday. "Sitting in this seat, it was a tough decision on my part, but something I felt like was the best move for the team moving forward.''
Carolina (4-8) is still in contention in the weak NFC South and will go the rest of the season with Sam Darnold and PJ Walker at quarterback, with Darnold expected to start Sunday's road game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Wilks said the decision to move on from Mayfield was a mutual agreement between the two sides and that Mayfield asked for his release after learning he wouldn't be the starter or backup moving forward.
With the move, Mayfield will be available on waivers to the other 31 NFL teams. If he goes unclaimed by 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Among the teams possibly looking to add a veteran quarterback are the San Francisco 49ers, who lost starter Jimmy Garoppolo for the season Sunday to a broken ankle, and the Baltimore Ravens, who could be without Lamar Jackson (knee) for a few weeks. Rookie Brock Purdy finished the 49ers' 33-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins, while veteran Tyler Huntley finished the Ravens' 10-9 win over the Denver Broncos.
Mayfield is expected to be claimed on waivers Tuesday, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, though he is unlikely to land in San Francisco.
"He felt and we felt we wanted to give him the opportunity to seek whatever him and his agent felt was best for him,'' Wilks said. "He has been nothing but a professional for us, so I wanted to extend that courtesy.''
The Panthers acquired Mayfield in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in July, agreeing to send a conditional 2024 fifth-round draft pick to Cleveland that could have become a fourth had Mayfield, the first pick of the 2018 NFL draft, played 70% of the snaps. That did not happen.
Mayfield won the starting job in training camp after an open competition with Darnold, the third pick of the 2018 draft. He went 1-4 before suffering a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for one game. He remained the backup to Walker while Darnold continued to rehab from a high ankle sprain suffered in the final preseason game.
Mayfield got one other start, after Walker suffered an ankle sprain, and lost, finishing his stint with the Panthers with a 1-5 record. He had a career-low 57.8 completion percentage and threw only six touchdown passes to six interceptions.
Asked why Mayfield failed at Carolina, Wilks said: "I wouldn't say that he failed. I would say it just didn't work out. He's still a good football player. Just like coaches, just like players sometimes, they just need a change.''
Wide receiver DJ Moore said Mayfield was "upset'' it came to this.
"He was a little heartbroken,'' he said. "I don't know what happened upstairs, but he was pretty bummed about it.''
"I wouldn't say that he failed. I would say it just didn't work out. He's still a good football player. Just like coaches, just like players sometimes, they just need a change."Steve Wilks on Baker Mayfield
Moore said Mayfield was a "cool dude'' in the locker room and respected.
"I didn't see that coming,'' he said of Mayfield's exit from the team.
Neither did guard Austin Corbett, who spent his first two NFL seasons (2018-19) with Mayfield in Cleveland.
"It's an awful business, really,'' he said. "I feel so bad. He's such a good guy. There's love for him and his wife, and I'm just gonna miss him.''
Corbett said Mayfield met with the offensive line before leaving the stadium.
"It's shocking to us,'' he said. "He's the ultimate teammate. Everybody loved him. He loves everybody in here. It hurts. I just hope somebody claims him off waivers and he gets into another room.''