Baker Mayfield may not be getting his desired exit from the Cleveland Browns anytime soon.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported the Browns “believe this will heat up closer to draft time.”
“They are prepared to hold on to him if they have to, thinking a team could get desperate if they don't get the right draft pick they want at quarterback or they get an injury at the position,” he said.
Mayfield appears to be stuck in the middle of a game of chicken.
On March 25, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported interested suitors weren't interested in acquiring Mayfield if it meant having to assume the entirety of his $18.9 million salary in 2022:
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&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Browns</a> could just keep him. <a href="https://t.co/cQIzyZoaRK">pic.twitter.com/cQIzyZoaRK</a>
Days later, Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported teams "seem certain that given a long enough timeline this offseason, the Browns are going to end up approaching Mayfield about an outright release in exchange for a restructured salary in 2022."
One day later, Browns general manager Andrew Berry said: "I wouldn't say we have a specific timetable for the QB room."
There might come a time when keeping Mayfield on the roster is untenable. That seemed to happen with Odell Beckham Jr. midway through the 2021 season. He was released outright when a trade didn't materialize.
But cutting Mayfield should be considered a last resort. His salary is fully guaranteed, so all of that money will stay on the Browns' books for 2022 if he's released. Trading him would move at least a portion of that commitment onto the next team.
Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot reported the Carolina Panthers have the "inside track" to snag Mayfield, which is quite the turn of events based on an earlier rumor:
Aaron Wilson @AaronWilson_NFL
Sources: Baker Mayfield, Panthers have mutual disinterest in working together, won't be trade destination. What's next for former top overall pick? <a href="https://twitter.com/PFN365?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PFN365</a> <a href="https://t.co/4UVSPi0rFg">https://t.co/4UVSPi0rFg</a>
On Wednesday, Mayfield has described the Seattle Seahawks as "probably the most likely option" at this stage of the offseason.
For now, the 27-year-old has to prepare for heading into training camp still as a member of the Browns.