Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield continues to float in NFL trade rumors with summer practices approaching. Unfortunately for the former No. 1 pick and the organization that once viewed him as the face of the franchise, money stands in the way of a deal.
The Browns exercised their fifth-year team option on Mayfield before the 2021 season, ensuring he would receive a fully-guaranteed salary in 2022. A year later, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner is disgruntled in Cleveland as the backup quarter is set to make nearly $19 million.
- Baker Mayfield contract: $18.858 million
Cleveland badly wants to move on from Mayfield, shopping him heavily around the league. A deal almost happened during the 2022 NFL Draft, but the Browns wouldn’t eat as much of Mayfield’s remaining salary as the Carolina Panthers wanted.
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According to Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer, Carolina wanted Cleveland to pay approximately $13-14 million of Mayfield’s salary for the upcoming season. The financial cost is also reflected in the trade return for the Browns, with Carolina’s offer dependent on how much of the contract is covered.
The approach is understandable from the Panthers’ perspective. It’s an organization that knows Cleveland is stuck in a bad situation, already owing Mayfield $18.8 million and not wanting his presence hanging over the team during the summer. With a very limited trade market, the Browns have little leverage to push back against Carolina’s demands.
With that said, the Browns still have their limits. Covering $14 million eats up a large amount of cap space and it would likely only net a Day 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. At that point, Cleveland might be better off waiting to see if another quarterback gets injured or if a potential Deshaun Watson suspension creates an opening for Mayfield.
For now, Mayfield and the Browns are stuck with one another. Meanwhile, the Panthers are looking ahead to what rookie quarterback Matt Corral shows this summer.