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NFL Exec Compares Jets' Situation with Zach Wilson to Baker Mayfield's Browns Exit

Adam WellsDecember 28, 2022

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 22: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets gets set against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Even though the New York Jets won't make any official declarations until after the season, it certainly feels like Zach Wilson is in his final weeks as a member of the organization.

How they get rid of him is another discussion entirely, as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft would seem to have virtually no trade value at this point.

One executive for an NFC team told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler a scenario involving another recent quarterback who was a top draft pick and has been unable to stay in one place that could end up being the case for Wilson.

"There's nothing right now that says a team wants the Zach Wilson experiment and will trade a draft pick for him," the executive said. "But it could be a Baker Mayfield-type situation [with the Rams] where a team has injuries at the position and needs a spot starter."

Mayfield's exit from the Cleveland Browns last offseason is somewhat comparable to what Wilson is going through right now.

After the Browns got involved in talks for Deshaun Watson, Mayfield publicly requested a trade.

"It's in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on," Mayfield told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "The relationship is too far gone to mend. It's in the best interests of both sides to move on."

The Browns' decision to pursue Watson came after Mayfield struggled during the 2021 season. He finished with 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 14 starts.

Mayfield suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in a Week 2 win over the Houston Texans that required offseason surgery.

Cleveland eventually traded for Watson, but it wasn't until shortly before the start of training camp in July that Mayfield was eventually dealt to the Carolina Panthers.

Per ESPN's Jake Trotter, some of Mayfield's frustration with the Browns stemmed from the instability on the coaching staff. They had four different head coaches in his first three seasons from 2018 to '20.

There are some significant differences between Mayfield's tenure with the Browns and what Wilson has done for the Jets thus far. Mayfield had success at times in Cleveland, most notably leading them to the franchise's first playoff win in 26 years with a 48-37 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 10, 2021.

Wilson does have a winning record in eight starts this season (5-3), but his stats in those games are horrible. He is completing 54.5 percent of his attempts with 1,688 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Mayfield's attempt to resurrect his career with the Panthers flamed out quickly. He was benched on two different occasions, most recently after a Week 13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

After Mayfield requested his release when interim head coach Steve Wilks told him Sam Darnold and PJ Walker would be the top two quarterbacks going forward, the Panthers waived him on Dec. 5.

The Los Angeles Rams, who have been decimated by injuries, claimed Mayfield to finish the season. He has led the team to two wins in three games since joining the roster.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh has publicly supported Wilson, telling reporters on Nov. 23 his "career here is not over" after Mike White was named the starting quarterback.

Wilson has started New York's past two games with White unavailable because of a rib injury. The 23-year-old struggled in both games before getting benched for Chris Streveler in the third quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Dec. 22.

White is set to make his return on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson will be inactive in Week 17, with Joe Flacco serving as the backup.