It’s time the Cleveland Browns swing for the fences.
That was the opinion NFL insider Bill Barnwell offered host Max Kellerman on the Tuesday, March 1 edition of ESPN’s “This Just In.” Barnwell elaborated on his declaration, suggesting the Browns make a play for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers should he become available via the trade market this offseason.
“This is the time,” Barnwell told Kellerman, noting further that the Browns have a playoff-caliber roster that will be harder to maintain moving forward now that Mayfield’s salary has graduated to another echelon.
“[Mayfield] will cost $18 million this season,” Barnwell continued. “He’s not cheap anymore.”
Generally speaking, the best chance a team has to win a Super Bowl is with a talented young quarterback on a rookie contract that brings maximum value and a minimal salary cap hit — see: Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks in 2013, or Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
But when it comes time to pay the man under center, it makes sense to find the best option possible. Mayfield may still prove himself a franchise quarterback in the NFL — he has shown flashes of it before. But Rodgers just won his second consecutive MVP Award in February, and the fourth of his 17-year-career.
The financial reality of spending big on the quarterback position will catch up to the Browns sooner than later, so they might as well pay the best player they can find until it does. And Rodgers is about as good as they come.
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A Mayfield For Rodgers Trade Works For Both Browns And Packers
Green Bay would be loathe to lose Rodgers, but the team may not have a choice. He is under contract through 2022 but will hit unrestricted free agency if he isn’t extended before the end of next season.
Rodgers already openly pushed for a trade once last Spring, expressing publicly his desire to move to another team. Despite improved relationships with the Packers front office over the last year and another No. 1 seed in the NFC, Green Bay found itself taking an early exit from the playoffs for the third year in a row.
There are a handful of trade offers for Rodgers already in place, per a report from ESPN’s Dianna Russini last week. Though, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday that none of his rival GMs had yet called to explicitly inquire about a price for the quarterback. The rest of the league is presumably waiting for Rodgers to announce his desires for the future within the next several days, at which point trade offers are likely to come flooding in should the QB express a desire to switch teams.
If that does happen, Cleveland can make one of the more interesting offers to Green Bay. Any deal is certain to be laden with draft capital, but not many teams can add a quality starter to the offer as well. The Browns can if they include Mayfield.
“If the Packers want to have their cake and eat it too by trading Rodgers to the AFC, picking up multiple first-rounders and landing a quarterback who could be their long-term starter without blocking [Jordan] Love, making a move for Mayfield might be the way to make that happen,” Barnwell explained.
“If the Browns were the team that put together a huge package for Rodgers, though, it would make sense for the Packers to ask for Mayfield as part of the return,” Barnwell continued. “To be clear, it would still take multiple first-round picks alongside Mayfield to get a deal done.”
Browns GM Andrew Berry Talks Mayfield’s Future at NFL Combine
Cleveland’s interest in a potential QB swap is hard to pin down, though Browns general manager Andrew Berry spoke to reporters Tuesday, March 1 at the NFL Combine on the issue of Mayfield’s future with the team.
“I don’t know that I necessarily buy that,” Berry said of heavy trade talk circling Mayfield over the last several weeks. “I think that ends up being a lot of speculation. I mean, quarterbacks rarely move.”
“The reality of it is we’ve seen him play at a high level before. I think, being realistic, the injury does have some impact on his performance,” Berry continued. “But we’re focused on him getting healthy. We know he works. We think he’s talented.”
While Berry’s comments on Mayfield were largely positive, he did not entirely dispel the notion of creating competition under center in Cleveland. The fact that Berry chose not to do so is potentially an indicator that the Browns would be open to wholesale change the the quarterback position were the right opportunity to present itself.
“I don’t know that I can really speak in detail … at this point because we’re at March 1 and day two of the combine,” Berry said of drafting a QB next month or adding another in free agency. “It really is about matching resources to opportunity. This is one I’m not necessarily trying to be evasive with, but that is the truth.”
The quarterback carousel in the NFL is likely to start with Rodgers’ declaration on where he wants to play next season — Green Bay or elsewhere. Once that comes down — likely in the next couple of days or weeks — the picture under center for several teams, including the Browns, will begin to grow clearer as the rest of the dominos begin to fall.