The Cleveland Browns are hoping that quarterback Deshaun Watson will be available for the majority of the 2022 NFL season. Amid circulating rumors that a year-long ban is possible, the organization might need to rethink its plan.
Cleveland knew Watson would face an NFL suspension after being investigated for more than two dozen allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. However, the franchise hoped that it might only be a six-game suspension or shorter.
It’s why the front office signed backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The 29-year-old is the perfect bridge starter, capable of taking over for a few games and operating within the structure of the offense. With a softer schedule to open the season, it all would have worked out ideally for Cleveland.
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However, the circumstances surrounding the situation are changing quickly. Watson is facing more allegations and potentially facing a suspension that could sideline him for at least half of the upcoming season. All of this comes at a time when there is no movement on a Mayfield trade.
Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said there have been talks in Cleveland regarding Mayfield staying. The thinking is tied into the guaranteed money he is already owed and the possibility of needing a reliable starter if Watson serves a lengthy suspension.
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The Browns have made a significant effort to move off the disgruntled quarterback this offseason. He’s caused some headaches for the organization this spring and could make things worse when he reports for training camp. Unfortunately for Cleveland, a fully-guaranteed salary is preventing a trade,
- Baker Mayfield contract: $18.858 million salary (2022)
With the Browns unwilling to cover a majority of the contract, the few remaining teams interested in Mayfield have backed off. It now raises the possibility of the former No. 1 pick still being around the team this summer.
While that might feel like a disaster scenario for the organization, it might also prove crucial. If Watson is suspended for 10-plus games, Cleveland can’t be a playoff contender with Brissett at quarterback. The only way for this team to have a shot at contending would come with a healthy Mayfield.
If the worst-case scenario happens for the Browns, they might need to approach Mayfield about mending fences temporarily. Cleveland offers a much better roster than the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers, providing him with the best chance to win and produce in a contract year.
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It wouldn’t be the outcome either side dreamed of months ago, but it could be the only way to make the best of a bad situation.