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Cleveland Browns privately not committed to Baker Mayfield, ‘poking around’ QB market

Matt Johnson

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield received the public vote of confidence from general manager Andrew Berry. Inside the Browns’ organization, though, those words might be nothing more than a simple statement to buy time for a quarterback search.

Cleveland certainly wasn’t pleased with the production from its starting quarterback in 2021. While he played through a shoulder injury, Mayfield suffered it because of reckless play and his durability is an increasing concern. When he tries to play through pain, the results are disastrous for a playoff contender.

Mayfield entered last season wanting to prove he deserved more than the contract extension offers he received from Cleveland. Betting on himself backfired as the Browns missed the playoffs and the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft raised new concerns about his viability as a franchise quarterback.

The Browns expressed support for Mayfield after the season and tried suggesting he would be their starting quarterback in 2022. Based on the latest reporting from ESPN, it seems that commitment might not be genuine.

According to NFL insider Dan Graziano, the Browns have been “poking around and discussing potential upgrades” over Mayfield this offseason.

Cleveland just acquired Amari Cooper, the first step towards improving the passing attack. However, it likely isn’t enough for Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski.

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NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
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Even with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers off the market, there are better options available than Mayfield. While he wasn’t one of the worst NFL quarterbacks in 2021 and his standard statistics appear fine, he performed horribly in crucial situations.

The Browns could only watch as Mayfield completed 50.5% of his third-down passing attempts with a 57.3 quarterback rating and a 3-5 TD-INT ratio. In the fourth quarter of games this season, the 26-year-old quarterback posted a lowly 50.9% completion rate with a 64.5 passer rating.

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Those numbers aren’t acceptable for any NFL team, especially a playoff contender. The Browns have a roster and coaching staff capable of challenging for the AFC, but the quarterback position is holding them back.

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While Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr aren’t elite passers, they are durable starters who protect the football and can be trusted to execute an offense. Both would be a legitimate upgrade over Mayfield and it wouldn’t cost the Browns three first-round picks to acquire either starter.

If the Browns want to take the ultimate all-in move, a Deshaun Watson trade is imminent and the Houston Texans are prioritizing a great return over keeping him out of a specific conference.

While it remains possible Mayfield is the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback in Week 1, it’s evident the front office is going to explore every legitimate upgrade before settling for that decision. If one of their top targets is brought in, Mayfield will either be part of the deal or flipped for whatever Cleveland can get.