Baker Mayfield Trade Rumors: Browns Know Teams Aren't Eager to Pay Any of QB's Salary

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 6, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 03: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks on during the game against the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 03, 2022 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns reportedly may hold on to Baker Mayfield for a while to see whether any quarterback situations change around the NFL before training camp.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported Friday on SportsCenter that interested teams haven't shown a willingness to pay the QB's $18.9 million salary for the 2022 season:

"I'm hearing the Browns are prepared to hold on to him for a little bit. I checked with a source who said, 'What's the rush here?' Browns don't have minicamp until around mid-June, mandatory minicamp where Baker would have to show up, or he could get fined and jeopardize some of that $18.8 million, but right now he doesn't need to be there. Nothing happened around draft time; they couldn't get a deal done with the Panthers, and no other teams are eager to help the Browns right now. Because they gave all of that money to Deshaun Watson, now they're sitting on $19 million guaranteed to Baker Mayfield. Teams just aren't eager to pay really any of that and the Browns know that, so they're sort of holding on to him hoping that maybe a quarterback situation around the league changes, maybe there's an injury or somebody gets desperate."

The Browns painted themselves into a corner. They acquired Watson from the Houston Texans and gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract and also revamped the QB room with the additions of Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs to fill the backup roles.

Those moves telegraphed their intention to move on from Mayfield and left them with no leverage heading into trade talks.

Cleveland gets no salary-cap relief if the 2018 first overall pick is released, so a trade is the highly preferred option, but other teams predictably have no intention to pick up his entire salary given his up-and-down play through four NFL seasons.

Mayfield trended in the right direction during the 2020 season as he compiled 26 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions across 16 games. He failed to build off that success, as he posted a lackluster 17-13 TD-to-INT ratio in 2021.

The 27-year-old University of Oklahoma product is a fringe starter based on last year's performance. As rosters currently stand, the Seattle Seahawks are the only team where he'd immediately arrive as the clear No. 1 option. Everywhere else he'd likely be a backup or in a competition for the top spot on the depth chart.

While the Seahawks are the obvious option, head coach Pete Carroll downplayed the idea of a trade Thursday on KJR-FM Radio (via ESPN's Brady Henderson).

"So we're looking. I don't see us making a trade for anybody at all," Carroll said. "I don't see that happening. But we're certainly going to continue to be open to chances to help our club, and meanwhile we're just going to be battling and competing our tails off."

Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason are currently slated to compete for Seattle's starting QB job.

If the Hawks are genuinely not interested in a trade, the Browns are quickly running out of options, which likely necessitates the shift to keeping Mayfield on the roster for a few more months to see if an opportunity arises elsewhere via injury.

Even if that type of situation pops up, however, Cleveland will probably need to retain a significant portion of Mayfield's salary in order to trade him.