The Cleveland Browns spent 24 years, five months and 18 days searching for a quarterback.
From November 8, 1993, the day the team released Bernie Kosar, until April 26, 2018, when the team selected Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft, the Browns quarterback room was a wasteland of:
- failed draft picks like Eric Zeier, Spergon Wynn, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, Johnny Manziel and DeShone Kizer;
- bridge quarterbacks that led to nowhere like Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace;
- a rogues’ gallery who were forced to play because there was literally no one else available like Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Doug Pederson and Luke McCown.
That all changed with Mayfield, who in his third season with the Browns and, most importantly, first with head coach Kevin Stefanski. This past season Mayfield led Cleveland to the playoffs, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers and came up just short against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Despite all that, there has been talk in recent days that the Browns should be open to moving on from Mayfield if the right deal comes along.
Much, or perhaps all, of that chatter centers around the ongoing situation in Houston, where quarterback Deshaun Watson has had enough of the Houston Texans after just four seasons and has reportedly asked to be traded.
Deshaun Watson officially has requested a trade from the Houston Texans, per league sources. He actually did it weeks ago. Their new head-coaching hire, David Culley, has not and will not alter Watson’s thinking.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 28, 2021
That, in turn, has led to speculation that Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry would of course have to pick up the phone if the Texans came calling to see if the Browns are interested in Watson.
In all fairness, there are very few rational media members or fans who are advocating for the Browns to move on from Mayfield. Much of the talk has been along the lines of what a trade would look like if the Browns were to consider moving aside Mayfield for Watson.
The most reasonable take on the situation probably comes from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who laid out what a trade could look like if Berry were to answer that hypothetical phone call. Barnwell ranked 17 teams that might consider a trade and his proposal calls for the Browns to send Houston their first-round selection in 2021 and 2022, a fourth-round selection 2023, Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in exchange for Watson.
That is certainly a high price to pay, but very much in line for what it would take to acquire a 25-year-old quarterback who has made three Pro Bowls, and is coming off a season where he completed 70.2 percent of his passes 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Of course, Berry does not need to expend any energy on trade scenarios because the Browns already have their quarterback of the future in Mayfield.
Cleveland has spent the past few seasons building a young and talented offensive core with Mayfield at the center of it. In his first season working with Stefanski, Mayfield saw his completion percentage and touchdown passes increase, while his interceptions declined dramatically, compared to his 2019 season.
Just as importantly, Mayfield showed that he can take over a game when the situation calls for it, as he showed against the Cincinnati Bengals (five touchdown passes), Tennessee Titans (four touchdown passes), Baltimore Ravens (42 points), and the Steelers (three touchdown passes in the playoffs).
Throw in that for the first since he entered the league Mayfield will be going into a second season with the same offensive system, and there is every reason to expect his numbers and the overall production of the offense to increase in 2021.
The growth was on display this past season as the offense evolved after the bye week, and now the team has a chance to build on that foundation with Mayfield and Stefanski running the show.
So what about that hypothetical phone call from the Texans? Berry will simply let that one go to voicemail as he will be busy fixing the parts of the roster that are actually in need of repair.