The Cleveland Browns organization and quarterback Baker Mayfield are both looking for a way out of their relationship with a trade representing the preferred outcome. Based on the lack of movement towards a potential deal, it’s clear a trade isn’t imminent.
Cleveland’s asking price for the former No. 1 pick certainly hasn’t helped matters. The organization reportedly wanted a first-round pick at the beginning and the bar for a return is still surprisingly high weeks later.
It’s not the only factor preventing a trade. In addition to concerns about Mayfield’s maturity, general managers are also unwilling to take on his contract. The Browns exercised his fifth-year option for the 2022 season a year ago, guaranteeing his $18.8 million salary.
The Browns have indicated through reporters they are willing to keep Mayfield in 2022, potentially using him as a starter if Deshaun Watson receives a multi-game suspension from the NFL. However, the 26-year-old quarterback could refuse to play for the franchise outright and sit out the year.
It leaves the Browns in a difficult position since Mayfield carries an $18.8 million cap hit. The franchise doesn’t want to release him outright because they’d receive nothing in return except for the dead cap charge.
While NFL teams know Mayfield likely won’t be cut, Yahoo Sports’ NFL reporter Charles Robinson shared on the “You Pod to Win the Game” podcast that it’s the only way a number of teams would pursue the young quarterback.
“Getting the temperature on Baker Mayfield and whether or not teams were interested. Man, I gotta tell you, there’s interest in that guy. There’s a number of teams, 10 teams might be willing to look at him if he were a free agent.”Yahoo Sports’ NFL insider Charles Robinson on “You Pod to Win the Game”
There could be one scenario where Mayfield hits free agency, following a similar that created Odell Beckham Jr’s departure in 2021.
- Baker Mayfield stats (2021): 3,010 yards, 17-13 TD-INT, 83.1 QB rating, 6-8 record
Why a Baker Mayfield contract buyout could work for both sides
If Mayfield wants out of Cleveland and to pick his next destination, free agency is the only way to accomplish it. Understandably, the Browns won’t give him that opportunity unless he provides the franchise with something in return.
Owed $18.858 million this upcoming season, Mayfield would need to agree to a contract buyout and it wouldn’t be cheap. Realistically, the former star in Cleveland would likely need to offer to forego around $8-$10 million in salary for the upcoming season.
Cleveland gets the space it wants, potentially providing enough money to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney or Jarvis Landry. Meanwhile, Mayfield is allowed to hit the open market and given control over the reclamation stage of his NFL career.
There’s a real possibility he could make up a significant chunk of the money lost. Mitch Trubisky signed a two-year deal worth $14.75 million that can escalate to $27 million through incentives. It stands to reason if there’s a team willing to allow Mayfield to earn a starting job, he could find a similar or even better contract.
If Mayfield wants to start in 2022, the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers make the most sense. If he wants to follow the Trubisky route, he could sign with a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to learn from Tom Brady and Byron Leftwich. A year from now, he could receive the same free-agent hype that Trubisky did and land an even bigger contract.
While it might bot the ideal outcome, it’s certainly better for Mayfield’s outlook than the Browns keeping him and he stays away from the team all season.