The Browns were pitched by NFL.com’s Gil Brandt as a top fit for Mariota, who is set to become a free agent after spending two years as the backup to Carr in Las Vegas. While Mariota isn’t dubbed as an instant fix — like an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson — he could provide ample competition to push Baker Mayfield.
Here’s what Brandt had to say about the fit:
Let’s say the Browns don’t bring in a flashier QB option and end up standing pat with Baker Mayfield. Let’s also say Mariota, who spent the past two seasons behind Derek Carr in Las Vegas, is left seeking backup duty once more as the QB carousel begins to slow down. This fit, which was posited by The Athletic’s Zac Jackson back in November, could suit the needs of both Mariota and the Browns perfectly.
Mariota would put some competitive pressure on Mayfield while, at worst, serving as a fleet-footed backup with the potential to elevate the run-oriented offense if given the chance. And it’s not hard at all to see a situation in which Mariota displaces Mayfield to re-establish himself as a QB1 in the NFL.
Would Browns Have More Faith in Mariota Than Keenum?
Mariota started the better part of five seasons with the Titans before moving on to the Raiders. He compiled a 29-32 record as the starter, passing for 76 touchdowns and 44 interceptions.
The question would become if Mayfield struggled, would the team feel that Mariota could come in and spark the offense? The Browns signed and paid Case Keenum well during the 2020 offseason with hopes he could be the reliable backup to Mayfield, but showed little faith in the veteran as Mayfield hobbled into the latter half of the season.
Keenum looks like a likely cap casualty this offseason. If he is released after June 3, it would save the Browns more than $7.1 million. Keenum started two games last season for the Browns — one was against the Broncos when Mayfield’s shoulder injury was too severe to play through, and the other was in the season finale, which Mayfield sat out. He passed for 462 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in those games.
Baker Mayfield Looking to Right Ship After Injury
Mayfield is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie deal, which will be his last chance to prove to the Browns that he can be the franchise’s quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Mayfield passed for 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while dealing with a torn labrum for the majority of the season, suffering the injury while trying to make a tackle following an interception in Week 2. He had surgery on the shoulder on January 19 and is eager to show the Browns — and the rest of the league — that he can be a productive starter.
“This is not the end of my story,” Mayfield said in a video posted to his social media after surgery. “It’s just going to be one of those little things that I’ll look back and remember that’s one of those challenges and adversity that I’m going to try to take advantage of me, and it’ll make me a better person.”