Baker Mayfield Trade Rumors: Browns QB's Situation Shocks League Execs

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off of the field after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)
AP Photo/Kirk Irwin

If you're surprised that Baker Mayfield is still a member of the Cleveland Browns, you' aren't alone.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Tuesday on Get Up that the situation is "being slow-played around the league." Interested suitors are content to wait until the Browns either release Mayfield or commit to covering a portion of his $18.9 million salary for the 2022 NFL season. 

Fowler described some executives around the league as "shocked" at how little movement there has been. To that end, one general manager told Fowler that the Browns should just keep Mayfield for now in case another team loses a quarterback to an injury.

If the Browns thought they might have some leverage in Mayfield trade negotiations because of the scarcity of starting-caliber quarterbacks on the market, they were sorely mistaken.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on March 25 that Mayfield's salary was becoming a difficult hurdle to overcome from a trade perspective:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From NFL Now: Teams are interested in Baker Mayfield, but not at that salary. A look at what's next, how it'll play out... and whether the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Browns?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Browns</a> could just keep him. <a href="https://t.co/cQIzyZoaRK">pic.twitter.com/cQIzyZoaRK</a>

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports also spoke to an NFC personnel official who concurred and said, "A lot of teams want him but aren’t going to take on the salary." The official posited that teams would "pounce" if Cleveland cut Mayfield.

The Browns' decision to acquire Deshaun Watson is evidence of how Mayfield might be miscast as a franchise quarterback. The team wouldn't have pursued Watson in the first place if it had full faith in Mayfield's abilities.

But the 26-year-old has played well enough to remain a starter in the NFL, and he's young enough to still be a potential long-term solution under center.

Considering both the shoulder injury that hampered him in 2021 and the Browns' inability to develop quarterbacks, Mayfield profiles as a great buy-low candidate. That's what makes the absence of a deal a little perplexing.

The Browns did paint themselves into a bit of a corner when they not only traded for Watson but also signed Jacoby Brissett to presumably serve as Watson's backup.

If you're in another front office, it makes sense to wait and see if the relationship between Mayfield and Cleveland breaks down to a point where the team has no choice but to move on. The Browns released Odell Beckham Jr. outright in the middle of last season after things broke down and his trade market dried up.

And if you're Cleveland, digging your heels in is becoming an increasingly sensible approach. Mayfield's salary is fully guaranteed, so none of that money is coming back if he's cut. Since nobody is biting now, you may as well ride things out until the last possible minute because maybe a deal emerges due to unforeseen circumstances in the weeks or months ahead.

Of course, Mayfield is winding up the biggest loser in all of this because he's stuck in the middle.