The Cleveland Browns continue to play it cool, but arguably the worst-kept secret in NFL circles is that the team is desperate to deal quarterback Baker Mayfield by, or before, draft day later this month.
To that end, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Monday, April 11, that he believes the Browns are willing to eat a huge portion of Mayfield’s nearly $19 million guaranteed salary in order to get a draft chip back that will improve their prospects at a deep playoff run this season.
The closer we get to the draft, the less likely it is that Baker Mayfield will still be in Cleveland by the time April makes way for May. And where Mayfield lands could certainly impact the way quarterbacks come off the board and which teams utilize a top selection on a passer.
What’s long been clear is that Mayfield has no future with the Browns. And I am detecting a sense that this situation could end up finding itself resolved in the coming weeks. … It wouldn’t shock me if the Browns end up assuming $5M or more to facilitate a solid return.
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Seattle Seahawks Still Most Likely Landing Spot For Baker Mayfield
According to La Canfora’s analysis, the most logical outcome for a Mayfield deal remains the most likely one. In this case, that’s a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle recently moved off of perennial Pro-Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson in a deal with the Denver Broncos and will be forced to turn to Drew Lock under center should they fail to maneuver again at the position prior to the start of the regular season.
“Seattle makes the most sense to me for Mayfield, still,” La Canfora wrote. “The Seahawks are used to having a QB without ideal size, they don’t mind big personalities, Mayfield has been to the playoffs, and I don’t see Pete Carroll wanting a true re-boot under center.”
ESPN’s Jake Trotter suggested last week that a deal between the Browns and the Seahawks could see Mayfield and a second-round draft pick moved to Seattle in exchange for another need on the Cleveland roster — a second wide receiver to pair alongside the newly-acquired Amari Cooper, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks’ contribution to the deal, per Trotter’s hypothetical scenario, would be Pro-Bowl pass catcher DK Metcalf.
The logic is that while Metcalf will cost just shy of $4 million in 2022, he’s likely to push for a deal in the neighborhood of $25-$30 million annually next offseason. Wide receivers Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill each signed contracts in that range with their new teams — the Las Vegas Raiders and the Miami Dolphins — within the last few weeks.
Seattle could be a decent landing spot for Mayfield, who would seemingly mesh with coach Pete Carroll and the type of offense he wants to run. The Seahawks might provide Mayfield with his best chance to start in 2022.
For the Browns, Metcalf and Amari Cooper would give them an imposing front-line receiving duo. They are looking for a No. 2 wideout, but landing Metcalf would give them two No. 1-caliber options for [Deshaun] Watson.
Two NFC South Squads Also Possibly in Play For Baker Mayfield
Two other teams La Canfora noted as having interest in upgrading at quarterback are the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons, both of which are members of the NFC South Division.
The Panthers are currently saddled with Sam Darnold, who was abysmal in his 11 starts in Carolina this season. Darnold led the team to a 4-7 win/loss record, throwing 13 INTs to just nine TDs with a completion percentage under 60%.
The Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, which took Mayfield’s first choice of destination off the board, then added former Raiders backup QB Marcus Mariota to the roster on a two-year contract worth $18.75 million.
While that sounds like a lot, it’s peanuts compared to annual deals signed by the best signal callers in the game. For instance, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs earns $45 million annually, while Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers just signed an extension worth $50 million per season. In other words, it isn’t unreasonable to believe the Falcons have more moves to make at quarterback.
Both the Panthers and the Falcons will make selections inside the top-10 of this year’s NFL Draft — at picks No. 6 and No. 8, respectively — and either, or both, may decide to take a run at a quarterback.
However, with a shallow QB class this year, Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report suggested last week that it’s possible Carolina and/or Atlanta may be interested in a move to acquire Mayfield. The likelihood the Browns deal the quarterback to the Seahawks, Panthers or Falcons will increase along with the amount of money Cleveland is willing to pay to move off Mayfield’s contract and recoup a draft asset(s) in return.