Trade Proposal Ships Browns Baker Mayfield to NFC Super Bowl Contender

Baker Mayfield

Getty images Quarterback Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns may have more options to move unwanted quarterback Baker Mayfield if they’re willing to drop the price and shop him as a backup to teams with an eye toward the future.

The Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers have for months been the prohibitive favorites to maneuver a trade for Mayfield. However, ESPN’s Dan Graziano suggested in an article published Friday, June 10, that teams set at quarterback for next season, but not beyond, could make sense as landing spots.

Graziano put forth the notion with the Minnesota Vikings in mind, adding that the possibility could extend to several other franchises, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“[The Vikings are] set this season with Kirk Cousins but could move on from him after the year. This is an example of a place where Mayfield or [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 [New Orleans] Saints in 2020,” Graziano said. “That could be possible elsewhere, including with the Buccaneers, [Philadelphia] Eagles, [Arizona] Cardinals, [Tennessee] Titans and [Las Vegas] Raiders.”

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Bucs Make Most Sense as Browns’ Trade Partner For Mayfield

Tom Brady

GettyQuarterback Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts in the fourth quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round at Raymond James Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

While the Raiders make little sense, having just signed Derek Carr to a long-term contract, and the Cardinals are likely to soon be in a similar situation with Kyler Murray, the Eagles and the Titans both fit the bill of franchises that may be looking to upgrade/move on from their current situations under center.

However, the Bucs have the strongest case in this regard, considering Tom Brady retired for a month earlier this offseason, was rumored to be interested in moving to the Miami Dolphins for the upcoming campaign, and is under contract in Tampa Bay for just one more year.

Mayfield to the Bucs is not an entirely new idea, either. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport also suggested the move nearly two months ago on the April 14th edition of the “Rich Eisen Show.”

“Tampa would be a great spot,” Rapoport said of potential trade destinations for Mayfield. “That would be an interesting spot and not crazy and would probably make some sense.”

Brady’s current backups with the Bucs are Blaine Gabbert, who Tampa was prepared to start in 2022 had Brady remained retired or left for Miami, and third-string QB Kyle Trask. Mayfield would be a significant step up from either considering his four years of starting experience and the playoff victory he has on his resumé over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

Browns’ Return For Mayfield in Bucs Trade Likely Limited

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

GettyQuarterback Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns looks on during a game against the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Browns continue holding firm to the line that they will not pay the lion’s share of Mayfield’s salary next season simply to get off the rest of his nearly $19 million guaranteed contract. The team also knows that Mayfield is, at worst, a low-end starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL and has stated it will wait until a trade offer is made with a return commensurate with that supposed value.

In reality, however, the Browns lost much of their leverage in Mayfield trade talks when they hung him out to dry by dealing for Deshaun Watson and guaranteeing him $230 million over the next five seasons. Competing franchises know there is no place left for Mayfield in Cleveland and that any of his salary the Browns are able to get out from under equals savings for them in a practical sense, even if not a literal one.

The Browns have a better chance of getting a mid-round draft selection in trade for Mayfield if they are willing to eat a good portion of his salary. The Carolina Panthers requested Cleveland put up $13-$14 million in talks that took place during the NFL Draft, per Jonathan Alexander of the Charlotte Observer, an offer the Browns rejected.

The Bucs have approximately $10.5 million in cap space, per Over The Cap, and could justify spending a bit more on a backup than some other teams considering the circumstances surrounding the 44-year-old Brady’s apparently tenuous tenure in Tampa.

If the Bucs are willing to make an offer to the Browns of something like a third-round draft pick, and Cleveland, in turn, is willing to take on an amount of Mayfield’s salary that will allow the Bucs to absorb the remainder of it while remaining under the cap, such a deal could theoretically get done. Furthermore, it may make more sense than any other proposal for Mayfield that the Browns have encountered thus far this offseason.

In any case, trading Mayfield to Tampa would allow the Browns to close the book on a choppy chapter in their franchise’s history, which would be a welcome outcome for all parties involved.

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