The opportunity the Cleveland Browns have been waiting for to deal Baker Mayfield looks to be fast-approaching, as reports of interest in the disgruntled QB are ratcheting up among multiple NFL franchises.
For months the Browns have entertained below-market offers for their unwanted signal caller, who was supplanted by Deshaun Watson in March after the team acquired him via trade from the Houston Texans. That move, while securing for Cleveland a three-time Pro Bowl QB for at least the next half decade, appeared to also rob the Browns of much of their leverage when it came to trade talks involving Mayfield. But the franchise played the waiting game, which appears now to have paid off.
The Carolina Panthers engaged in discussions with the Browns for Mayfield during NFL Draft weekend but wanted Cleveland to pick up between $13 million and $14 million of his nearly $19 million guaranteed salary for 2022, per the Charlotte Observer. When the Browns didn’t agree, Carolina moved up into the third round to draft Matt Corral out of Ole Miss. The Seattle Seahawks also stated publicly on numerous occasions that they were not interested in Mayfield at his current price and were content to start the season with Geno Smith and Drew Lock under center.
Within the last few days, however, both franchises have reportedly come off of those positions, which now appear to have been bluffs. The result is a potential bidding war for Mayfield’s services that could drive the Browns’ return for the QB up and the cost to deal him down in any future trade.
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Carolina Panthers Pursuing Baker Mayfield With New ‘Urgency’
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule admitted recently that there is no timetable for Corral to take the reins in Carolina, though widespread speculation is that Rhule himself has one season left to flip the team’s fortunes if he hopes to remain employed for Corral’s ascension.
With Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker as the only other quarterbacks at the team’s disposal, the Panthers appear to be the frontrunners in the Mayfield sweepstakes. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reported on June 14 that Carolina had extended an offer to the Browns in hopes of bringing Mayfield in for part of their minicamp earlier this month.
That offer, while unspecified, was characterized by Jones as the best Cleveland had received to that point. Though the deal ultimately did not get done, Jones added that talks between the franchises would continue.
“As minicamps begin today for the Browns and Panthers, trade talks between the teams continue surrounding QB Baker Mayfield, per sources. The main issue remains Mayfield’s salary and how much (or how little) teams pay,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “There’s urgency on Carolina’s side to execute the deal soon so Mayfield can get some time in minicamp with the Panthers. For the Browns, it’s the best offer they have. Talks ongoing.”
Seattle Seahawks Re-Enter Trade Discussions For Baker Mayfield
Eight days after Jones released his report, NFL insider Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweeted that the Seahawks still had a “high level of interest” where Mayfield was concerned, despite several previous public comments from head coach Pete Carroll to the contrary.
“I’m told the Seahawks still have a high-level of interest in acquiring QB Baker Mayfield and behind-the-scenes are open to contractually extending him,” Anderson wrote. “I also know that the process of collecting information and insights into Mayfield is still ongoing.”
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times offered a somewhat contradictory report on the same day, saying the Seahawks won’t trade for Mayfield at his current price.
“My understanding is nothing has really changed on Seattle’s stance on this — if he’s released they’d be interested,” Condotta tweeted. “But they have zero interest in acquiring him at his current contract, which obviously means there’d be a new contract of some sort.”
The new contract Condotta mentioned potentially syncs up with Anderson’s report, if Seattle is willing to offer Mayfield more years at a lower annual number. However, the quarterback is guaranteed his 2022 salary after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and doesn’t have to renegotiate anything unless he decides it is in his best interest to do so.
Thus, if Mayfield stands firm and Condatta’s report is accurate, then Cleveland will still have to pony up enough cash to cover a large enough portion of the QB’s salary to entice the Seahawks into a trade.
But if Seattle is using media reports as a bargaining tool and aren’t as high on Smith and Lock as they have indicated, a significant trade offer for Mayfield from the Panthers could draw the Seahawks into a bidding war — an outcome that would favor the Browns in all scenarios.