Browns ‘Absolutely’ in Running for Former All-Pro QB: Report

Baker Mayfield, Kevin Stefanski

Getty Baker Mayfield #6 and head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns look on from the side line during the game against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns are in the market for an upgrade at quarterback.

That’s according to Albert Breer, NFL insider with Monday Morning Quarterback and NBC Sports Boston, who said the Browns are going to “be a player” for Houston Texans former All-Pro quarterback Deshaun Watson. Breer made the comments on Wednesday, December 22 during an appearance on the Cleveland-based sports radio show, “The Bull and The Fox.”

“I’d expect [the Browns] to be a player. Are they going to be willing to go the distance? I don’t know that, but I absolutely believe the Browns are going to be a player for Deshaun Watson if/when he becomes available,” Breer said. “Let’s call this an educated guess.”

Watson Availability Could Make Mayfield Decision Easier

Getty ImagesBaker Mayfield, quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, will command a high salary whenever he hits unrestricted free agency, which could happen as early as 2023.

Another educated guess one might make is that the Browns are questioning whether or not they want to pay current quarterback Baker Mayfield the kind of money he might command following the 2022 season. Picking up Watson via a trade would allow Cleveland to pass that decision along to some other franchise.

The Browns already picked up the quarterback’s fifth-year option, which will pay him nearly $19 million next season, per Spotrac. Mayfield will become a free agent heading into the 2023 season, though the Browns would have the option of franchising him and keeping him around for another year, or even two.

However, eventually the Browns will have to back up the Brinks truck and likely cut Mayfield a check that pays him like one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the game, if not more. The two sides failed to reach an agreement on an extension this offseason, which indicates they remain fair apart on their perceptions of Mayfield’s true value.

According to The Sporting News, the 10th highest paid QB in the NFL this season is Matt Ryan, of the Atlanta Falcons, with a $30 million average annual salary. The top signal caller on that list is Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes at $45 million per season. Russell Wilson, of the Seattle Seahawks, splits the difference at No. 5 on the list with an annual paycheck of $35 million.

By the time Cleveland has to make a decision on Mayfield in a year — or two or even three, should the Browns franchise him in one or two consecutive seasons — the top QB salary in the league may not have risen but the low end (10th) almost certainly will have.

Mayfield is not helping his case for a top-end QB salary with his play this season, as the Browns are in danger of missing the postseason despite an expanded field that includes seven teams from each conference. Cleveland is 7-7 and currently in 12th position in the AFC.

However, the Browns were severely depleted by a virus outbreak that sidelined more than 20 members of the team Monday against the Las Vegas Raiders. Cleveland lost that contest 16-14 on the strength of a late-game Raiders field goal but had the Browns eked out the win, they would be leading the AFC North and sitting as the No. 4 seed.

The swing is a telling example of how close the middle of the pack is in the conference and also how precarious the Browns’ position now is with the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals as the three opponents left on their regular season schedule.

Should the Browns fail to make the playoffs, Mayfield will shoulder a significant portion of the blame. The QB is perceived as the primary reason that wideout Odell Beckham Jr. forced his way out of town earlier this year, as Jarvis Landry and other Cleveland pass catchers have called out Mayfield’s inconsistencies throughout the season while expressing frustrations of their own with the offense.

Mayfield’s regression statistically backs up claims that his play has been an issue. While he has missed two games this year, one due to injury and the other because he was designated to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the QB’s TD-to-INT ratio is just 13-to-7. That’s down from 26-to-8 through 16 games last year, per Pro Football Reference. He’s also putting up a career low QB rating of 38.7, nearly 27 points lower than his career high QBR of 65.5 last season.

Watson Would Bring Problems of his own to Browns’ Future

Deshaun Watson

GettyHouston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson could be traded despite pending investigations into alleged inappropriate sexual behavior.

Watson won’t be cheap either, as he is paid $39 million per season — the 4th highest total in the NFL as of 2021. Watson, however, is a proven entity.

The Texans QB made the Pro-Bowl in three of his first four seasons and is signed through the 2025 season, per Spotrac. Trading for Watson’s contract would cement the Browns at the quarterback position, assuming he’s eligible to play moving forward.

Watson has sat out every game this season as he remains embroiled in legal troubles, including 22 civil suits and criminal issues, all stemming from several alleged incidents of inappropriate sexual conduct and/or sexual assault.

He was floated as a trade possibility for multiple teams prior to this year’s deadline, but none of the franchises purported to be interested pulled the trigger on a deal. The most reasonable explanation is that they were looking for some sort of resolution to the legal issues prior to committing several years and more than $100 million in salary to Watson.

Cleveland fans should expect the Browns to do the same due diligence before any deal would get done. However, next season doesn’t start for more than eight months, by which time considerably more clarity is likely to come to Watson’s future freedom and availability as a quarterback eligible to play in the NFL.

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Juston Jenkins
Juston Jenkins
4 months ago

Yes, can you please provide a single shred of evidence from someone in the Browns organization. Any of them at all? Just 1 is enough, any piece of evidence.

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