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Baker Mayfield excused from Cleveland Browns minicamp

Matt Johnson

The Cleveland Browns have excused quarterback Baker Mayfield from mandatory minicamp, allowing the former No. 1 pick to stay away from the team as it continues to explore trade options.

Mayfield and the Browns have mutually sought a trade this offseason, with a desire for everyone to get a fresh start. Months after trading three first-round picks for Deshaun Watson, Cleveland is still attempting to find a trade partner for Mayfield.

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There is interest in Mayfield, who NFL teams view as a bottom-tier starting quarterback. However, he is owed $18.8 million fully guaranteed in the final year of his rookie contract and interested clubs are requiring the Browns to cover a majority of the deal.

With a trade not in the immediate future, Cleveland chose to avoid any extra attention and drama at the mandatory minicamp. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Browns have excused Mayfield from attending the required practices this week.

It represents cost savings for Mayfield. Under the NFL CBA, unexcused absences for offseason mandatory minicamp require a $15,980 fine on the first day, a $31,961 fine for the second day and a $47,936 fine on the final day of practice. As a result of the Browns’ decision, Mayfield avoids each of those fines.

As mentioned above, there is no movement on a Mayfield trade as of reporting in early June. The Carolina Panthers are waiting things out, preferring to roll with Sam Darnold and Matt Corral until Cleveland agrees to cover at least $12 million of Mayfield’s salary. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks are only expected to pursue Mayfield if he is released.

As he remains away from the team, Watson and backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett will continue receiving a majority of the practice reps at Browns’ practices this week.

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When the Browns originally acquired Watson this offseason, it came with the expectation of the Pro Bowl quarterback serving a multi-game suspension. In anticipation of discipline from the NFL, Cleveland signed Brissett to serve as a fill-in quarterback for a few games this fall.

That plan has now come into question. Watson is now facing 24 civil suits alleging sexual misconduct and assault, including allegations the NFL and team reportedly weren’t aware of at the time of the trade. It came just days after reports that one of the league’s biggest stars could be at risk of serving a one-year suspension.

If Watson is going to miss double-digit games, the Browns likely don’t want Brissett under center. The current roster is good enough to compete for a playoff spot with steady quarterback play. If Brissett is the starter all season, Cleveland likely isn’t a playoff team.

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That’s where Mayfield comes into play. The organization could approach him about putting the bad blood between the two sides on the backburner for a year. Cleveland’s roster is better than anything Mayfield would have in Seattle or Carolina, increasing his chances of rebounding in 2022. For a quarterback headed into free agency, that makes a difference. It will be a potential storyline to follow whenever the NFL makes a ruling on Watson.