First, the Browns looked to replace him with Deshaun Watson. Next, they refused to trade Mayfield after spurning him. Then they signed Watson, and Mayfield was suddenly back on the market. Now, with limited trade suitors and their new $230 million signal caller facing a likely suspension, Browns general manager (GM) Andrew Berry has intimated the team might hold onto Mayfield and even start him in Watson’s absence.
But for all of Cleveland’s flip-flopping and posturing, the end game likely remains the same — to trade Mayfield once his value has increased to the point the Browns won’t have to give up a pick just to get off a redundant salary of almost $19 million. When that does happen, two former NFL GMs believe one of the most logical landing spots for Mayfield is the Seattle Seahawks.
“I thought Seattle might be a decent fit for [Mayfield] because Pete Carroll and John Schneider have always been known to think outside the box a little bit,” Mike Tannenbaum, former New York Jets GM from 2006-12, said in an exclusive interview with Heavy.com on Friday, March 25. “I think they could do some things offensively that they’ve done in the past with a vertically challenged QB and his vision in the pocket. They did it with Russell Wilson for years.”
Randy Mueller of Heavy.com, formerly the GM of the New Orleans Saints (2000-01) and the Miami Dolphins (2005-07), agreed with Tannenbaum. However, he added that if a trade happens anytime soon, the Browns could be on the hook for not only sending Seattle a draft pick but also for picking up some of Mayfield’s salary.
“I think there could be a fit there. I don’t think Pete [Carroll] shies away from personality-strong guys like [Mayfield] is,” said Mueller, who served as Seahawks Vice President of Football Operations from 1995-98. “So maybe there’s a fit there, but you’re talking about an $18 million-plus salary that I think is probably as much of the negotiation as a draft pick in compensation.”
Tannenbaum agreed, adding that timing will prove key in any Mayfield trade, and that the time to pursue a deal is not now.
“I don’t know that sitting here in late March [any team is] going to commit $18 million to Baker Mayfield right now,” he said.
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Browns Head Coach Stefanski, GM Berry Speak to Mayfield’s Future
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski addressed Mayfield’s situation at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach, Florida on Monday, though he did not provide a great deal of clarity.
“I think we’ll see. I think everybody understands the situation, and we’re hoping that there’s closure to it at some point,” Stefanski said. “I think it’s a unique situation. You’ve got to see how it plays out. I know all of us, you’d love an answer yesterday, but that’s not the reality of it.”
Berry came out the following day and made a slightly more definitive statement on the Browns’ immediate plans for Mayfield, saying the team is in no rush to part with what it sees as an asset in Mayfield. Zac Jackson of The Athletic posted Berry’s comments to Twitter Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t say we have a specific timetable for the QB room,” Berry said. “”Baker is a professional, he’s under contract, and we have the [salary cap] flexibility whether he’s on the roster or not. So we don’t really feel pressed to rush into anything that’s suboptimal.”
Browns Best Served by Keeping Mayfield Until Value Jumps
On the Monday edition of NFL Live, ESPN analyst Mina Kimes said the Browns lack leverage to make a profitable deal for Mayfield. However, that could change, especially if he starts a handful of games for the Browns to kick off the 2022 regular season.
She laid out the two options Cleveland can currently pursue to address Mayfield’s situation:
A lot of [the Browns’ lack of leverage] is just the way the QB market has shaken out, especially [with] Russell Wilson going to [the Denver Broncos] and Matt Ryan going to [the Indianapolis Colts]. All of the sudden, the potential bidders for Baker’s services declined and declined and declined to the point that you’re really just looking at Seattle, maybe [the Carolina Panthers].
So the way I see it, Cleveland only has a couple of options. One, they hold onto Baker. Hopefully, if Deshaun Watson is suspended as many suspect, he can maybe rebuild his value by playing a little bit, or another team loses their quarterback and [the Browns] can trade him to a squad that needs him.
The other [option], I think, is that they do a trade but that they basically get nothing in return. Heck, they might even have to give up a pick to get that $19 million off their books, because these trades are not based totally on talent. They’re based on leverage, and that’s just something Cleveland doesn’t have.