With April right around the corner, Baker Mayfield is still on the Cleveland Browns, but it’s apparently not due to a lack of effort by the front office. It could, however be thanks to general manager Andrew Berry and Co. placing a much higher value on the 2018 No. 1 overall pick than any other team.
Could the Browns have over-estimated the value for their starting quarterback when they initially plotted their Deshaun Watson trade? After nearly two weeks since the trade was consummated, that appears to be exactly what’s occurred behind closed doors.
Did the Cleveland Browns botch the Baker Mayfield trade negotiations?
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Browns were seeking a trade package consisting of a second-round pick, or higher value, without wanting to pay any of Baker Mayfield’s 2022 salary in return.
- Baker Mayfield salary (2022): $18.85 million
Not only that, Pelissero adds that some teams around the league never even bought into the idea that Mayfield should have been a first-round selection to begin with. Meanwhile, the Browns, who selected him No. 1 overall, clearly felt otherwise. But that was the old regime (aside from Andrew Berry, but he wasn’t the final decision-maker), and that was before they hitched their cart to Watson’s future.
Now, the Browns could be stuck, looking to unload a player who they maybe believed had a much stronger market than what they’re currently finding. The ironic part, is the longer the Browns play hardball, the chances of them receiving a stronger trade package go down.
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For example, it was rumored that Mayfield’s first choice was to play for the Indianapolis Colts. The feeling wasn’t mutual, and after throwing their horseshoe at Matt Ryan, Mayfield’s luck may be running out.
Ditto with the Carolina Panthers, who also have a strong need to improve their QB room. With mutual disinterest between the Panthers and Mayfield, who’s left?
The Atlanta Falcons? Where coach Arthur Smith just reunited with Marcus Mariota from their Tennessee days?
Down in Houston, where the franchise is devoid of talent and likely will stick with Davis Mills? Not likely, otherwise Mayfield would have been included in the original Watson trade. By all appearances, they too have zero interest in taking on a new reclamation project.
Meanwhile Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk continues to bang the drum of the Detroit Lions moving off from Jared Goff for another former No. 1 overall pick. While it would be a fun circus show, it likely doesn’t make much sense for the Lions to once again start over at quarterback, when perhaps half the roster and coaching staff is already bought in to what Goff’s selling.
Related: Baker Mayfield trade: 3 reasons why the New York Giants can and should swing a deal
Baker Mayfield trade talks could lead to nothing
In the end, the Browns may be left holding the bag, stuck with paying the full $18M Mayfield’s rookie contract guarantees with the fifth-year option already picked up. Their alternative is releasing him altogether, but they still have to pay his salary, minus whatever a team offers him, which is likely to be the vet minimum at this point, knowing Mayfield gets $18M either way in 2022.
Instead, look for the Browns to package a later-round draft pick to move on from Mayfield at some point before the 2022 NFL Draft concludes. Despite their public appearances and hope to have teams thinking otherwise, the Browns simply can’t afford to have Mayfield lurking in the shadows during the season, fully knowing he has no shot at becoming the starter at the Dawg Pound ever again.
Related: NFL teams interested in Baker Mayfield only if he’s released?