2 NFL Teams Continue to Pursue Trade for Browns’ Baker Mayfield: Report

Getty Images Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns are stuck in a staring contest with two NFC squads over a potential trade for polarizing quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The primary players involved in this drawn out waiting game, which has stretched on now for months with no obvious end in sight, haven’t changed. Sure, a new actor has occasionally appeared on stage, the most recent of which being the Houston Texans as they approach the 2022 regular season with Davis Mills as their best option under center.

But from almost the beginning there have been two NFC squads that analysts and experts believe are the most likely to pull the trigger on a move for Mayfield — the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers.

According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, those are the same two teams that are still very much involved in discussions around a trade for Mayfield. The impediment to getting a deal done has been the same for both franchises — the Browns’ willingness, or lack thereof, to incur the cost of what the Seahawks and Panthers believe to be a fair portion of the quarterback’s nearly $19 million guaranteed salary.

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Money Problems Are Holding Up Mayfield Trade in Cleveland

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

GettyQB Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns talks to teammates on the sideline during the second quarter of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Howe laid out the details of the impasse in an article published on Friday, May 20.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield is still on the Browns, and it’s been obvious for a while that it’s because of the money.

The Panthers and Seahawks have shown interest in acquiring Mayfield, but the Browns haven’t been willing to absorb enough of his fully guaranteed $18.858 million salary. There had indeed been some progress in the negotiations between the Browns and Panthers before Carolina traded up for quarterback Matt Corral — a move the Panthers felt compelled to make with a QB prospect they liked still dangling out there.

The Panthers and Seahawks still haven’t ruled out acquiring Mayfield, but they’ll need the Browns to take on a much greater portion of his contract than they’ve offered so far. It’s unclear how far apart the sides have been, but the Browns want their contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return.

The Browns don’t have much, if any, negotiating leverage, and the Panthers and Seahawks are using that to their advantage. As a fifth-year player, Mayfield’s minimum base salary would be $1.035 million, which means the Browns could eat as much as $17.823 million in a trade. The Panthers and Seahawks are obviously pushing for something closer to that number.

Browns Leveraging Poor QB Play in Seattle, Carolina to Create ‘Holding Pattern’ in Trade Talks

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

GettyQB Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns reacts after a call during the fourth quarter of a game against the Arizona Cardinals at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

As Howe explained Friday, there is little incentive for the Browns to simply release Mayfield for nothing, as doing so would still require the team to pay his salary next season.

Cleveland is betting further that either the Seahawks or the Panthers will eventually blink and assume a larger portion of Mayfield’s cost than they currently admit they’re willing to pay, mostly due to the quality of QBs currently on each roster.

Seattle, a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender during head coach Pete Carroll’s tenure, is currently rostering Drew Lock and Geno Smith under center. Both have had shots as No. 1 quarterbacks on the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, respectively, and both failed to excel in those roles.

Meanwhile, Carolina has had two tough seasons under head coach Matt Rhule. The Panthers’ top two signal-callers as of Friday are Sam Darnold, another failed Jets prospect, and Corral, who has never taken an NFL snap.

Howe laid out the Browns’ thinking as it comes to waiting out the Seahawks and the Panthers until the start of the regular season draws closer.

The Browns, meanwhile, could theoretically keep Mayfield through 2022 if a trade doesn’t materialize. If they do release him — absorbing the full $18.858 million and really only netting a roster spot — they’ve got to believe the Panthers or Seahawks would have to pay him more than $1.035 million, which is part of their leverage play.

The Browns are also daring the Seahawks … and Panthers … to roll with their current QBs. With Mayfield still rehabbing his surgically repaired left shoulder, his inability to currently practice has probably tempered the urgency to acquire him to foster a quarterback competition.

Therefore, everyone remains stuck in a holding pattern.

The other area of leverage the Browns possess resides within the inherent nature of football itself, namely that players are always getting hurt.

Rule changes have made quarterback injuries fewer and farther between, but they continue to happen every preseason, regular season and postseason. The law of averages dictates that several signal callers will find themselves injured at some point over the next several months, which would create a much stronger market for a four-year starter like Mayfield with a playoff victory under his belt.

Such developments, in turn, would hasten the Seahawks or Panthers toward a decision on assuming more of Mayfield’s salary and/or increasing the value of the draft compensation with which they’re willing to part to acquire him, before some other team in dire need of a starter swoops in with a better offer.

As it stands now, the Browns have little incentive to do anything but wait, which means the trade speculation surrounding Mayfield is likely to continue indefinitely, much to the chagrin of many Cleveland fans ready to turn the page to the next chapter of Browns football.

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