Former MVP QB Floated as Replacement for Browns Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Getty Baker Mayfield, of the Cleveland Browns, looks on during warm up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 12, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The turmoil between quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns is escalating on a more or less daily basis now that all hope of the playoffs has been dashed.

Sources, both credible and not, are brandishing trade proposals back and forth across the internet that involve the embattled Browns QB. Reports from NFL insiders have surfaced indicating that Mayfield may ask for a trade himself if he doesn’t see changes from within the organization. And on Wednesday, January 5, Mayfield’s wife Emily posted a cryptic message to Twitter that has been interpreted as an indication the couple may be preparing to depart Cleveland.

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However, one of the most recent ideas for a change under center doesn’t involve the Browns trading Mayfield at all, or at least not directly for the quarterback intended to replace him. Mike Ryan, producer with Meadowlark Media and the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, on Tuesday floated the idea of replacing Mayfield with veteran and former NFL MVP Matt Ryan, currently of the Atlanta Falcons.

“I still believe you can win with Baker Mayfield … but it’s pretty obvious,” Mike Ryan said. “He’s the 26th ranked QB according to QBR [total quarterback rating]. There are obvious upgrades that may possibly be available this offseason.”

“I don’t think [Las Vegas Raiders QB] Derek Carr is gonna be available but maybe Matt Ryan is a name, and that would be a very obvious upgrade,” Mike Ryan continued.

Matt Ryan remains under contract for two more years following this season. But the Falcons, should they choose to exercise it, have a contract out on the quarterback following the fourth year of the deal, which ends for Atlanta on Sunday.

Mayfield and Matt Ryan Swap Makes Sense, Analyst Insists

Baker Mayfield

Getty ImagesQuarterback Baker Mayfield, of the Cleveland Browns.

Matt Ryan has a good amount of tread on his tires after 14 years in the NFL. However, he’s also been elected to four Pro-Bowls, been named an All-Pro once in 2016 and won the MVP Award that same season. He did so on his way to leading the Falcons to a 28-3 Super Bowl lead over the New England Patriots before the wheels came off in the second half and Atlanta fell to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in overtime.

Mike Ryan went on to explain his thought process behind why Matt Ryan might make a lot of sense in Cleveland.

Matt Ryan is an older player, but Baker Mayfield is entering year five. Under the rookie wage scale, there has literally never been a case study where someone enters year five of that deal, after the team exercises one option, where they go into a lame duck season without signing some sort of extension. Baker would be the first to do that. I think the way the NFL is structured right now, there is such an incentive to nail the QB and have them for five years on that low cap number. And unless you’ve got a special QB who can win you games and be dynamic, and [Mayfield] has proven that he can not be that four years into his career, you are wiser to cut bait.

In this case, Mike Ryan said that he believes going after a player of Matt Ryan’s caliber simply makes more sense than gambling on the outcome of an NFL Draft while the Browns have stockpiled so much talent on both sides of the ball.

“I don’t think that the Browns should just go into a quarterback class this year in the draft and take their chances there,” Mike Ryan said. “They are a team that is on the precipice of truly contending.”

Matt Ryan’s Contract is Lynchpin in Possible Browns Deal

Matt Ryan

GettyMatt Ryan, of the Atlanta Falcons, delivers a pass over the defense of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of a game at Highmark Stadium on January 2, 2022.

Matt Ryan’s contract details potentially link up with the Browns’ QB search timeline, as the Falcons have an out to release the 36-year-old after the 2021 campaign, during the same offseason before Mayfield’s so-called “lame duck” year.

“There are options for the Falcons to move on from Ryan in each of the next two offseasons. Doing so in the 2022 offseason would leave $40.53 million in dead money. That would be a savings of $8.14 million in salary cap space,” per a report from Pro Football Network (PFN).

“Atlanta could mitigate that in the 2022 season by designating Ryan as a post-June 1 release,” the PFN piece, authored by Ben Rolfe, continued. “That would leave $24.91 million in dead money in 2022 and constitute a $23.75 million saving in 2022. However, there would be a further $15.61 million in dead money in 2023 if the Falcons go down this route.”

The reason Atlanta might consider traversing the aforementioned path is that despite heading into the final week of the season with a modest 7-9 record and a chance to interrupt the playoff plans of the division rival New Orleans Saints, the Falcons are actually one of the worst and least reliable teams in football. Atlanta has the third-worst point differential in the NFC over 16 games at -136. Only the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants are worse, per ESPN.

Matt Ryan’s contract represents huge money over the next two seasons, per Spotrac, which the Falcons are unlikely to capitalize on with a roster that is considerably worse than this year’s record, which was at least partially propped up by an aging QB. The Browns, however, might be able to make use of the latter portion of Matt Ryan’s career. Considering the strength of their roster, Cleveland may also be willing to pay for the privilege in an attempt to capitalize on the winning window their current talent provides.

Whether Mayfield was or wasn’t part of that hypothetical payment to Atlanta would be largely irrelevant once the services of Matt Ryan were secured. Though, Cleveland would likely unload Mayfield and his nearly $19 million salary in 2022 to an interested team for something in return that would at least resemble fair compensation.

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