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NFL teams interested in Baker Mayfield only if he’s released?

Vincent Frank

The Cleveland Browns would like the saga surrounding quarterback Baker Mayfield to be settled here soon.

That’s highly unlikely to happen with Mayfield due a guaranteed salary of $18.8 million and opposing NFL teams knowing that Cleveland will soon be forced to move off him following the blockbuster acquisition of Deshaun Watson.

According to this note from Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, interest in Mayfield might only be limited to the NFL free-agent market if he’s released.

“So much so that interested teams seem certain that given a long enough timeline this offseason, the Browns are going to end up approaching Mayfield about an outright release in exchange for a restructured salary in 2022, similar to a deal that was worked out with Odell Beckham Jr. last season.”

One NFC personnel man man told Robinson that “a lot of teams want him (Baker Mayfield), but aren’t going to take on the salary. They will all pounce on him once Cleveland has to cut him.”

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The lack of league-wide interest in Mayfield coincides with his $18.86 million price tag for next season. An acquiring team would be on the hook for all of it. Meanwhile, Cleveland would be forced to eat that amount if it releases him.

All of this comes with laughable leaks from within the Browns’ organization indicating that they could very well opt to keep Mayfield as an insurance policy due to Watson’s uncertainty and the fact that he might be suspended by the NFL.

“Deshaun Watson may, at some point, be suspended. Baker Mayfield was a good enough quarterback to start for 4 years for the Cleveland Browns and would be their starting quarterback had they not traded for Deshaun Watson. There is actually a scenario where the Browns do nothing, Deshaun Watson gets suspended and Baker Mayfield ends up starting.”

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Given that Mayfield requested a trade even before Cleveland acquired Watson, there’s absolutely no way he can be on the roster once training camp opens. That would be an ugly situation.

Like the San Francisco 49ers with Jimmy Garoppolo, Cleveland could play the long game. This would include waiting and seeing whether another starting quarterback around the league suffers an injury — opening up the trade market for Mayfield in the process.

Related: Updated NFL trade rumors

Limited number of quarterback-needy teams

This also impacts Mayfield and the Browns. Fresh off the blockbuster trades of Watson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz, there’s just not a whole lot of teams in need of a starting quarterback.

Right now, this list could be limited to the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans. Neither Carolina or Houston has interest in a Mayfield trade. And while the Seahawks have been linked to him after moving off Wilson, things have died down some on that front.

As we mentioned above, a lot of this has to do with Mayfield’s contract situation. However, there’s other layers to this.

Mayfield is coming off shoulder surgery. He also performed like a below-average starting quarterback a season ago.

Add in Mayfield’s cap hit, and it makes sense that there’s no real interest in trading for him.

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The likeliest scenario here is that Mayfield agrees to a restructured contract to be dealt to another team. If not, he’d have to agree to said restructure with a promise from the Browns that the former No. 1 pick will be released and hit the free-agent market.