But while Mayfield is the unquestioned QB1 on the team, this is still the Browns and the NFL, where the quarterback can do down at any time.
General manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski know the reality of life in the league and they took appropriate steps in the offseason to ensure Mayfield’s continued good health by signing right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency and selecting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round of the draft.
Those moves captured many of the headlines, but there was another signing the Browns made in an attempt to keep the season from going off the rails if Mayfield goes down, which was bringing veteran quarterback Case Keenum on board via free agency.
Keenum brings a much-needed veteran voice to a quarterback room that, behind Mayfield, has Garrett Gilbert and Kevin Davidson - the type of quarterbacks the Browns have had to turn to in the past with predictable results.
Keenum is also the reason why the backup quarterback position is the fifth-best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus:
Keenum offered many more downs than ups in 2019, although he briefly flashed a decent fantasy ceiling with two 300-plus yard and multi-touchdown performances in the first three weeks of the season. Last season’s Washington offense was hardly a friendly environment for any QB to thrive in. Keenum managed to lead the Vikings (11-3) and, to a much lesser extent, the Broncos (6-10) to respectability during his two seasons as a full-time starter in 2017 and 2018, respectively. It’s fair to call the 2020 Browns the best offense he’ll have played with since his days in Minnesota.
AAF-HOF QB Gilbert has flashed in the preseason over the years, while Princeton QB Davidson will likely be the odd man out of the equation by the start of the season.
The Browns have too much invested in Baker Mayfield to think about handing the reins over to Keenum anytime soon. Still, an injury to the 2018 No. 1 overall pick wouldn’t lead to the Browns offense completely falling apart like some of the other teams on our list.
Keenum may not do much for the average fan after making just 62 starts in his NFL career while playing for the Houston Texans, the Rams (in both St. Louis and Los Angeles), the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos and Washington.
But he had his most success in 2017 when he started 14 games for the Vikings following a season-ending injury to quarterback Sam Bradford. With Keenum in the lineup, the Vikings went 11-3 that year and made it to the NFC Championship Game as Keenum worked with Stefanski, who was Minnesota’s quarterback coach that season.
Mayfield has been durable since taking over the starter’s role early in his rookie season, but it never hurts to have a decent insurance policy on the bench just in case Mayfield has to miss even a little bit of time, say because of being in the concussion protocol or a COVID-19 related issue.
Having Keenum at the ready should serve the Browns well and give everyone hope that 2020 will not be another lost season in case disaster strikes at the quarterback position.