GM Andrew Berry has a problem. He can’t move Baker Mayfield, and he would rather trade him.
It was assumed the Browns would move Mayfield during the NFL draft. Surely a team such as the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers would spend a draft pick for him and secure a starting quarterback. But that didn’t happen.
My understanding of Panthers’ involvement w/ Baker Mayfield, per sources: Option still alive but Carolina very much torn internally over Mayfield. Some there are simply not sold. Might end up being the best of options but draft QBs are falling and that could affect things.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 30, 2022
Carolina selected Matt Corral of Ole Miss in the third round then signed undrafted free agent Davis Cheek of Elon. Seattle signed a couple of undrafted free agents in Levi Lewis of Lousiana-Lafayette and Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby and have stated publicly they are content with Drew Lock as their new starter.
Or even clubs that have a starting signalcaller but aren’t happy with them such as Miami, New York Football Giants, Washington, Tennessee, Detroit or Atlanta.
The Dolphins took Skylar Thompson of Kansas State in Round 7. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder went to Atlanta in the third and then they signed Jard Bernhardt of Ferris State as an undrafted free agent. Washington grabbed North Carolina’s Sam Howell deep in the fifth round plus undrafted free agent Cole Kelley of SE Louisiana. Tennessee had Liberty’s Malik Willis drop into their laps in the third round.
Cleveland landed QB Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans in a landmark trade for a whooping $230 million contract. In the trade negotiations, Berry attempted to send Mayfield to Houston in the deal, but the Texans said no thank you.
The signing of Watson is one thing, but that left them with the issue of Mayfield being a current roster member. This is a quandary that should have been settled shortly after the Watson March 18 trade. However, it has lingered and manifested into a huge problem for the franchise.
One has to wonder if the front office and coaching staff came to realize that Mayfield was not their quarterback going forward why they didn’t address this at the NFL Combine and find an adequate trade partner then ready to move quickly at the beginning of the league year on March 16.
Other teams had interest
In the beginning stages, Berry had asked for a first round pick for Mayfield which then became a second round request. Several teams had wanted the Browns to pay a portion of Mayfield’s contract as part of any trade scenario.
He is set to make $18.858 million this year. Regardless of whether he remains in Cleveland or goes to another club, Mayfield is owned that money. All the while during trade talks, Berry has been firm on what Cleveland will pay on his contract.
Carolina remained interested in Mayfield going into the NFL draft.
In fact, an offer was on the table for Mayfield going to Carolina. The Panthers wanted the Browns to pay in the neighborhood of $13-$15 million and then toss Cleveland a late-round pick. That would mean essentially buying a late-round draft pick for that amount.
On the second day, the Panthers became discontented on what Berry was offering to pay on Mayfield’s current contract situation on what has been described as a huge financial gap. When they did not get what they wanted they traded up with New England and selected Corral in Round 3 instead. They already have QB Sam Darnold on their roster and are carrying the same financial burden on his contract.
Now Panthers’ GM Scott Fitterer is stating that his club is good in regards to the quarterback room and is comfortable with the current group.
If you think about it, what was Berry’s leverage with the Panthers?
The NFL draft has come and went. Getting something for Mayfield now seems very unlikely. Now what?
Not a single NFL club is calling about his services. Berry at this juncture must either cut him outright and lose any trade value on him, or keep him.
Perhaps an injury to a starting quarterback would creep up during the season and the phone will ring. That seems to be Cleveland’s only play. Every year an ACL snaps while the injury list is lengthy for quarterbacks although they rarely play in preseason.
Right now mandatory minicamp begins June 14-16. It is unlikely that Mayfield will be in attendance but you never know. On one hand Mayfield would appear to be a good team player and show up. This message would be great for prospective employers of other clubs. And then again, the Browns could excuse him from attending and waive all fines for not showing.
Then as the season unfolds, perhaps a team will have a need for a starting quarterback. And Cleveland just happens to have two.
The Browns’ strategy on dealing with Mayfield is peculiar indeed. Apparently, they never have had one. Just sign Watson and open the checkbook and we will deal with our former starting quarterback somehow, some way.
Now the Browns have no immediate market for the former first overall pick in 2018 mainly because of the $18.858 million he’s guaranteed for next year.
Seattle is the last team who still may have an interest in Mayfield. The Seahawks’ senior executive advisor to GM John Schneider is Alonzo Highsmith who was the Browns former VP of player personnel when Mayfield was drafted. Seattle’s associate head coach Carl Smith is a former Cleveland QB coach.
Currently, the Seahawks have penciled in Lock as their starter with backups as Geno Smith and Jacob Eason.
In addition, Detroit may not be satisfied with their current starter Jared Goff. The Lions senior personnel executive is John Dorsey, who drafted Mayfield while employed as the GM of the Browns.
Before the last day of the draft, Berry was asked what would happen if the franchise wasn’t able to move Mayfield. His reaction was:
“We’ll feel fine. It’s something we’ll deal with day to day. The focus is really on the players that we can add to the team, and we’ll deal with that situation as it progresses.”
Berry was also asked if his stance on what the Browns would pay on Mayfield’s contract was the contributing factor on why they were not able to trade him during the draft, he stated:
“I wouldn’t comment on any speculation in that regard. I wouldn’t comment on any discussions that we have with other teams. That’s a fluid situation. We’ll deal with it day to day.”
The list for Mayfield’s services was already short as it was. Now, that has gone to micro.
Berry has come out and stated that the club isn’t in a rush to trade Mayfield and that they are ready to hang on to him during minicamps and into training camp. This may become a need in case Watson is suspended for games this season although unlikely now that the civil suits have been moved back to next March.
Jacoby Brissett was signed to be Watson’s backup, so the fact that Mayfield is still a roster member becomes a a logjam.
“Jacoby is a vet and with that he brings a lot of valuable experience to not just our QB room, but to our whole team,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “He is a smart, tough, competitor who knows the work it takes to win in this league. The backup quarterback position is one that is extremely valuable. They need to stay sharp in the meeting room and on the practice field and be ready at a moment’s notice. Jacoby is a pro and has proven to be efficient when called upon. I am excited about bringing him to our team.”
Until a trade partner is found, for now, the Browns and Mayfield have a marriage of convenience.
Mayfield has to be very careful going forward. There are “conduct detrimental” clauses in his contract which can forfeit guaranteed funds. And he can’t sit out and not play games which voids game checks.
The only thing Cleveland can do at this point is to keep Mayfield on the roster and hope that somebody’s starting quarterback becomes injured or falters in production. That, and only then, is when Mayfield will become the hot commodity.
One thing is for certain: Berry is not going to cut Mayfield. They owe him the money regardless and is currently an asset.
And then again, the Browns may need Mayfield. If Watson was to be suspended for a solid year, who do you want as your starter? Brissett or Mayfield?