Regardless of what is said publicly, the Cleveland Browns will investigate all of their options at quarterback for next season, which could include bringing in a qualified backup to push Baker Mayfield.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski have pushed the narrative that Mayfield will be the starter next season, although that doesn’t rule out the team bringing in a hungry, talented backup to push Mayfield.
Zac Jackson of The Athletic broke down the next steps for the Browns and Mayfield and thinks it’s “absolutely a realistic possible scenario” that the team inks either Marcus Mariota or Mitch Trubisky as an insurance policy. Here’s what Jackson had to say in full about the quarterback conundrum in Cleveland:
“Even if Berry goes into the offseason believing Mayfield is the team’s best option for this year and beyond, he wouldn’t be doing his job if the Browns didn’t at least evaluate and explore outside options. The Browns sticking with Mayfield as their starter but signing a veteran free agent such as Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky as insurance and potential competition is absolutely a realistic possible scenario.”
Both Mariota and Trubisky have fallen into backup roles with the Raiders and Bills, respectively. However, the former first-round draft picks have been waiting patiently and will both be free agents after this season.
Case Keenum Hasn’t Pushed Mayfield Enough
Mariota was the No. 2 overall pick out of Oregon in 2015. Much like the situation Mayfield is facing, Mariota was usurped by Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee and never got his job back.
Trubisky was also the second pick in the draft but in 2017. He had a couple of strong years with the Bears, making the Pro Bowl in 2018 when he tossed 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, adding 421 yards rushing.
Both seem like better options than Case Keenum, who is currently under contract next year to be the backup. The veteran QB went 2-0 when called upon, but the team was timid to turn to even when Mayfield was visibly less than 100 percent.
Injuries, Turnovers Plagued Mayfield During Season
Mayfield passed for 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season but slumped down the stretch, tossing seven of those interceptions in the final three games with the Browns hunting a playoff spot.
The asterisk on his season is that he played the majority of it injured, limping to the finish line. He was beaten up with multiple injuries throughout the year, the most severe being a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. He’s scheduled to have surgery later this month.
“I think it is easy to forget at this point of the year that what we have seen with Baker over the past several years,” Berry said at his season-ending press conference. “Obviously he had his most productive season in this offense under Kevin as early as last year. We have been with Baker for a long period of time at this point. We know his work ethic, we know his drive and we have seen him as a talented passer in this league. We are looking forward to him getting healthy and continuing to make improvements. We expect him to bounce back next year.”
It’s an interesting conversation for the Browns to have this offseason and we’ll see how everything shakes out soon.