The Cleveland Browns have yet to trade Baker Mayfield after their acquisition this offseason of Deshaun Watson.
But despite the latter facing a possible suspension, Mayfield's continued presence on Cleveland's roster likely isn't an insurance plan in that event, but it's more the Browns trying to gain maximum value in a potential trade, per Albert Breer of SI.com:
"I don't think the Browns are holding onto Mayfield as a Watson suspension insurance policy. And I think how they've operated is proof. My understanding is Cleveland's already offered to take on a good chunk of his $18.858 million in guaranteed money for this fall to facilitate a trade. And a trade may have already happened if they were willing to take on more. Which is where this really does come down to value, plain and simple."
If the Browns were delaying a Mayfield trade to see how the Watson trade shakes out, why acquire Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs?
As Breer argues, "the team is preparing to go on without Mayfield, regardless of what happens with Watson."
And there isn't much harm for Cleveland in waiting out the trade market. A better deal might materialize closer to the season when teams realize their issues at the position or an injury necessitates a win-now acquisition.
Waiting out that market rather than simply cutting ties with Mayfield immediately is the logical move. As Breer argues, trading Mayfield—even if they pick up some of his salary—and getting draft assets in return makes more sense than cutting him, getting nothing in return and still being "on the hook for all but whatever another team signs him for."
The situation leaves Mayfield's future in limbo, however, and one risk of leaving him on the hook for too long is creating a toxic situation. The last thing the Browns want to do is develop a reputation among NFL veterans for leaving a player out to dry.
Granted, Mayfield's topsy-turvy four years in Cleveland didn't exactly make him a beloved figure around the city. While he showed flashes of being a player worthy of his top overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft, leading Cleveland to a playoff berth in 2020, he struggled through injuries the following season. In 2021, he threw for just 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, completing 60.5 percent of his passes.
Watson was an upgrade from a football sense. But there are still optics to the divorce with Mayfield that the Browns need to consider. For the time being, however, slow-playing the situation makes sense for the team.