The Cleveland Browns are still looking for a trade partner willing to take on quarterback Baker Mayfield, and the Minnesota Vikings have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the former top pick.
The Vikings have Kirk Cousins installed as their current starter, but his play hasn’t exactly made him untouchable — and there’s a new regime in town in Minnesota. Dan Graziano of ESPN mentioned the Vikings as a possible player in the Mayfield sweepstakes, saying it’d be more of a long-term play.
“They’re set this season with Kirk Cousins but could move on from him after the year,” Graziano wrote. “This is an example of a place where Mayfield or [San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy] Garoppolo wouldn’t start right away but could position himself as the team’s starter in 2023, the way [Jameis] Winston did with the Saints in 2020. That could be possible elsewhere, including with the Buccaneers, Eagles, Cardinals, Titans and Raiders.”
Cousins is coming off a year when he was named to the Pro Bowl as a replacement. He completed 66.3% of his passes last season for 4,221 yards and 33 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. The Vikings extended Cousins for an additional year this offseason. He will make $40 million this season and $30 million in 2023.
Still, there are consistent questions about Cousins being a difference-maker, with the 33-year-old holding a career record of 59-59-2.
Other off-the-radar teams mentioned by Graziano as potential landing spots for Mayfield included the Detroit Lions and Saints.
Baker Mayfield Has Shown Potential as Starting Quarterback
Mayfield is coming off a down season but he’s shown potential as a starter. He helped lead the Browns to their first playoff victory in 18 years in 2020, passing for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
However, Mayfield took a step back last year, with injuries and internal turmoil partly to blame. He tossed 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as the Browns stumbled to an 8-9 finish.
Mayfield’s play was ugly at times, but he was playing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, an injury he suffered in Week 2 while attempting a tackle. After wearing a brace during the season, he had surgery this offseason and is expected to be ready to roll for training camp.
What has prevented a Mayfield trade is his fully guaranteed near $19 million salary for next season. The Browns hold little leverage in negotiations but are trying to take on as little of that as possible, although other teams around the league are not willing to help.
The closest the Browns got to a deal was during the draft, with the Carolina Panthers. However, Carolina wanted the Browns to pay more than $13 million of Mayfield’s contract, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Mayfield Excused From Mandatory Minicamp
The Browns excused Mayfield from mandatory minicamp June 14-16, which means he’ll avoid some hefty fines. If he had sat out without the team’s consent, he would have owed $15,900 for Day 1, $31,961 for Day 2 and $47,936 for Day 3.
“That was a decision made between our organization, Baker and Baker’s team. Felt like that was the best decision for both sides,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters during OTAs on June 8.
Meanwhile, the Browns are still waiting for a sense of clarity on what will happen with Watson, who is facing a likely suspension from the league. But even if Watson is suspended a significant amount of time, Mayfield will not be sticking around to hold down the starting spot.
“He’s done with them, and they’re done with him,” a source told Graziano. “That was true once he found out they were trying to trade for Deshaun.”