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Cleveland Browns: 5 QB options to take over for Baker Mayfield

What a shame. In the biggest year of Baker Mayfield’s career to date, he has suffered a torn labrum, yet hopes to delay the surgery until the end of the football season. Originally injured in Week 2, Mayfield recently re-aggravated the injury, keeping him out of action in Week 7.

Backup veteran journeyman Case Keenum is set to take over, for at least one start, possibly longer.

This comes in a season where Mayfield needed to play his best in order to maximize his value with his upcoming contract extension. After the 2022 season, Mayfield will be an unrestricted free agent. Since the Browns have yet to fully commit to Mayfield long-term as their franchise quarterback, yet they have a stacked roster, the possibility arises; Could the Browns look elsewhere as Mayfield tries to overcome his struggles?

The NFL is a cutthroat business. If you don’t produce when the expectations are high, your seat gets hot in a hurry.

While being injured obviously isn’t Mayfield’s fault, the bottom line is the Browns feel they have a championship-caliber team, yet Mayfield hasn’t always looked the part as a QB capable of elevating his team to a Super Bowl.

Related: NFL QB Rankings – Check our top-20 quarterbacks, find out why Josh Allen is No. 1

With that, here are five alternative quarterback options for the Cleveland Browns while they determine Mayfield’s status.

Cleveland Browns sign Cam Newton to form three-headed rushing monster

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Carolina Panthers
Dec 21, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) after the game. The Panthers defeated the Browns 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Released from the New England Patriots before the football year began, 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton remains unsigned. And whether it helps him find a new team or not, Newton is also recently vaccinated. The best option for the Browns if they don’t wish to use any draft capital, may be to just scoop Newton up and offer him the chance to earn a starting gig, competing with Case Keenum.

If Newton is truly recovered from the shoulder ailments that have held him back since 2018, beating Keenum in a starting competition should come fairly easily for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. While it’s reported Newton has been holding out for a management position (a starting role), the Browns may be his best shot.

Newton should view Cleveland as a desirable destination. They have a great offensive line and are built off a strong running game, which Newton can even add to. A triple-option backfield with Newton, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt once they return from injuries would be an offense that’s tough to defend.

Having Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on the outside would be a bonus, and definitely better than the receivers Newton got to work with in New England.

Browns pull Mitchell Trubisky off the bench away from Buffalo

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears
Aug 21, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe I’m delusional, but there’s this sneaky suspicion of mine that the Buffalo Bills may have signed a gem this offseason by bringing in the 2017 2nd overall pick, Mitchell Trubisky to backup superstar quarterback Josh Allen. Trubisky has a total of 50 NFL starts under his belt yet is just 27 years old.

Say what you want about his time in Chicago with the incompetent “offensive mind” in Matt Nagy, but Trubisky was still a top-five pick at one point for a reason. Sure, the Bears reached by selecting him so high, but there’s still some potential in there.

Trubisky has shown an ability to do some things well. Like Mayfield, Trubisky is athletic and can make throws on the run. Think about it, Stefanski doesn’t typically ask Baker to throw 40-50 times per game, they rely on the ground game.

Would Trubisky really be all that worse than Mayfield? Tough to say, but there’s also the chance Trubisky’s been learning some of the secrets that have led to the volcanic breakout seen from Josh Allen over the years in Buffalo.

Maybe Trubisky has another step in his development that can be unleashed when paired with a true offensive genius, not an imitator.

Jimmy Garoppolo gets another chance, this time in Cleveland

NFL: Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers
Oct 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) jogs onto the field against the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo? Isn’t he the starter for the San Francisco 49ers? Yes, but for how long? Trey Lance is undoubtedly the future in San Fran and Garoppolo is always hurt. If Mayfield ends up missing more than just one week, it wouldn’t shock anyone if they pivoted to another proven short-term starter in Jimmy G.

There’s also this juicy rumor going around relating to an Odell Beckham Jr. for Jimmy G trade. Garoppolo could be brought in as a sort of stop-gap for Mayfield, with the outside chance of taking over. At the very least, he’s a very high-end backup. For a team that came into the year with Super Bowl aspirations, shoring up the QB position should be seen as a priority in Cleveland.

Cleveland Browns provide lifeline for Deshaun Watson

NFL: Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns
Nov 15, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball as Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (98) tackles him during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

No one really knows what’s going on with Deshaun Watson, but the last time anyone saw him play, he was elite. So, yes, his name will continue being tossed around until some sort of announcement or official ruling has been made.

From a football perspective, there’s only roughly a third of the 32 NFL teams who wouldn’t have some sort of interest in Watson should he be cleared. For the Browns, if they’re not sold on the prospects of Baker Mayfield to be their franchise quarterback, why not try and go get a proven starter who already is?

The Browns have a deep and talented roster, coming up with trade compensation that interests Houston shouldn’t be difficult.

Kirk Cousins reunites with Kevin Stefanski in Cleveland

NFL: Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings
Oct 24, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) participates in warm ups while offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski looks on before the start of a game against Washington at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

While Kirk Cousins at one time had a no-trade clause in his contract with the Minnesota Vikings, that’s no longer the case. When Cousins signed his 2020 contract extension, the clause was removed.

There have been rumors for years that, if traded, San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan would be the first in line, but with the club drafting Trey Lance, that’s probably not happening.

How about reuniting with Kevin Stefanski, the man who was the QB coach and offensive coordinator for Cousins for two years from 2018-2019?

Any trade of Cousins would have to wait a few weeks until the Vikings have a better feel for their season. Currently, at 3-3 and in position for the final playoff spot in the NFC, they’re not ready to throw the towel in now.

Should the Vikings enter a tumultuous stretch before the November 2 trade deadline, Cousins would be able to step right in, with a strong familiarity of the offense and plenty of weapons to throw to, just as he’s enjoyed in Minnesota.