The Cleveland Browns would love to find a trade partner for quarterback Baker Mayfield, dumping the disgruntled player and moving off his expensive salary. With a deal not imminent, it seems the Browns are ready to welcome potential drama at training camp.
Mayfield made it clear he no longer wants to play for Cleveland. Between subtle shots made in interviews and leaked reports of believing the Browns sabotaged him, the frustration is evident. The former No. 1 pick skipped voluntary OTAs, but he will soon be asked to report for the mandatory training camp in July.
Ideally, Cleveland would like it if Mayfield didn’t attend. Not only would the vocal and emotional Mayfield not hang a cloud over practices, he would also be subject to a fine. For each day of training camp a player misses, the team is required to fine them $50,000.
The 27-year-old quarterback likely won’t do the organization the favor of voluntarily taking those fines. After watching the Browns pursue Deshaun Watson, acquire him and then sign him to an extension worth $230 million guaranteed as he faces 22 civil suits for allegations of sexual misconduct, Mayfield believes the front office turned on him.
Mayfield wants to be traded, but no NFL team is willing to absorb a $19 million guaranteed salary and Cleveland isn’t willing to cover enough of it for a deal to happen. Interested clubs are waiting things out, watching to see if the Browns eventually cut bait on their former franchise quarterback entirely.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns have no plans to cut Mayfield and will keep him on the roster through training camp if that’s what it takes.
How Baker Mayfield can make life difficult for the Cleveland Browns
It’s not a surprise that Cleveland is taking a firm stance right now. The organization doesn’t have any leverage in negotiations, which went out the door the moment Watson arrived. NFL teams are perfectly happy to wait things out, letting Mayfield’s contract eat up a significant chunk of the Browns’ salary cap.
Things are relatively easy right now for Cleveland. Mayfield skipping OTAs means there aren’t as many questions for players and coaches to answer about the situation. It will change significantly when he reports for training camp.
Keep in mind that Watson is likely going to be suspended in July. Once the announcement is made and the appeal process concludes, he could be forbidden from being around the team until his ban ends. Between a potential suspension and the findings from the NFL’s investigation, that in itself will create unwanted media attention and question for the Browns’ locker room and organization.
Mayfield can make things worse. Reporters will want to talk to him at training camp and he’s already proven that he can speak transparently about his feelings, even if it puts the Browns in a negative light. With cameras and microphones in front of him, Mayfield can make this summer a much more challenging experience for the Browns.
This is another reason why NFL teams are willing to wait. If Cleveland isn’t willing to cover at least $12 million of Mayfield’s salary in 2022, exercising patience is the best approach. Mayfield’s NFL career and the Browns’ introductory press conference with Watson both suggest this franchise could have issues handling the additional unwanted attention.
While releasing Mayfield is biting a massive financial bullet, ownership and the front office might ultimately see it as a price that must be paid. Considering Watson just received $230 million guaranteed after not playing in the NFL last year, another $18 million is a justifiable cost to avoid more drama from Mayfield.