Browns' Baker Mayfield Excused from Mandatory Minicamp Amid Trade Rumors

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 8, 2022

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 14: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns will excuse quarterback Baker Mayfield from their mandatory minicamp, which begins next Tuesday.

The team said the move was a mutual decision and "best for both parties" amid the uncertainty around Mayfield's future following his trade request in March.

It doesn't appear Mayfield is any closer to getting his wish than when he first said he wanted out.

ESPN's Jake Trotter reported in May a deal between Cleveland and the Carolina Panthers "never got close" because the Panthers wanted the Browns to eat a "significant portion" of the quarterback's 2022 salary.

The 27-year-old will make $18.9 million before hitting free agency in 2023.

Trotter laid out the details of the rift between Mayfield and the Browns, something that was growing before the team acquired Deshaun Watson and gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension.

Wednesday's minicamp news isn't surprising since the situation appears to be unsalvageable.

However, the ambiguity over Watson's status has grown in light of recent developments.

In May, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league's investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Watson was "nearing the end." Two more women filed civil lawsuits in the past 10 days to bring the total number of suits against Watson to 24.

The New York Times' Jenny Vrentas reported on additional details of the civil suits as well Wednesday.

Among the new allegations is that Watson received massages in a private hotel and club in Houston for which the Houston Texans provided him a membership. Per Vrentas, Watson said in a deposition that the Texans' directory of security, Brent Naccara, supplied him with a nondisclosure agreement he subsequently had some of the massage therapists sign.

It always seemed likely Watson would miss time in 2022 because of a suspension, and the Browns seemed to structure his contract to minimize the financial hit he would take if suspended.

Beyond potentially extending the NFL's investigation, the new lawsuits and Vrentas' reporting have strengthened calls for the league to not take the allegations against Watson lightly.

The Browns signed Jacoby Brissett to back up Watson and serve as a stopgap if Watson is suspended. Should the three-time Pro Bowler miss half of the season or more, though, starting Brissett wouldn't be ideal for a team with big aspirations.

Digging their heels in with interested suitors over a Mayfield trade could be a blessing in disguise for the Browns because he would arguably be better than Brissett. But the two sides would likely have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust.