When the Browns received word that Deshaun Watson had chosen them as his new club, there was celebration all around the front office. And then somebody asked what would the team do with their incumbent quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Certainly it is not good business to keep the guy to play alongside the guy you paid a king’s ransom to replace you. Not to mention Cleveland had exercised the fifth-year option on Mayfield who is now set to make $18.86 million in 2022. GM Andrew Berry shipped off former backup QB Case Keenum and his $6 million salary for cheaper labor so the last thing he wants is for the new backup to be making over $18 million.
Not to mention the tension that this situation would constantly bring to the locker room. So, the best option is for the Browns to find a suitable trade partner for the former starter.
So currently, Mayfield and his wife Emily are sitting at home having weekend yard sales, hosting weekly book club meetings and changing his passwords so that Bernie Kosar can’t mooch on free Wi-Fi.
Ah, but here’s the rub. Every NFL club that was needing a starting caliber signalcaller has taken the necessary steps to obtain a new one, or re-signed the incumbent.
Indianapolis was Mayfield’s choice, but they traded for Atlanta’s Matt Ryan which probably made them playoff contenders. Also along the trade route: Denver made a trade for Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Washington traded for former Colt Carson Wentz and Seattle received Drew Lock in the Wilson swap.
Teams that re-signed their quarterbacks include New Orleans who inked starter Jameis Winston, Green Bay re-signed Aaron Rodgers as Carolina decided that Cam Newton and Sam Darnold are the answers going forward in the short term before they draft someone new like Malik Willis of Liberty.
As far as free agents, Marcus Mariota was signed by Atlanta while Andy Dalton became Winston’s backup in New Orleans. Mitchell Trubisky was signed by Pittsburgh after being Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo for a year.
And with that, every team that needed a starting quarterback suddenly filled that void. and here is Cleveland with a pair and the need to move Mayfield.
But to where? And for what?
Mayfield has no future in Cleveland any longer. The phone hasn’t exactly been ringing off the wall for his services either.
Basically, Berry has lost all leverage with Mayfield’s value. All of the 32 starting positions are taken. So what should Berry do with Mayfield? Take pennies on the dollar and dump him for whatever he can get?
The last thing Berry wants is to have to waive him. Mayfield has trade value. Berry doesn’t want a repeat performance of what happened with Odell Beckham, Jr. when the club cut him for absolutely nothing in return but a lesson learned. Plus, the Pittsburgh Steelers have already stated that if the Browns let Mayfield go, they would put in a claim for him.
If Mayfield was to beat out QB Mitchell Trubisky in Pittsburgh, who wants to see Mayfield twice year on the revenge tour?
Maybe the best scenario is to trade him in a sensible move for both the Browns and their trade partner. And perhaps it is not a club who needs a starting quarterback now, but is looking to supplant their own starter sooner than later with a guy who can step in.
Here’s three possibilities on where Mayfield can realistically end up.
New York Football Giants
The Giants have a starting quarterback: Daniel Jones. He was taken with the sixth overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft. At the time, it was widely acknowledged that he would have been available much later in the same round or even early into Round 2.
Now after three seasons, most media outlets are campaigning for Jones to be traded and begin with a new guy at the helm especially after suffering a neck sprain that ended his 2021 season too early.
Jones has been injury-prone during his tenure in New York and will now have his fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons. There are rumblings that Jones just doesn’t have the “it factor” and will only produce erratically along with periodic strides. Not to mention he will make huge mistakes including 29 interceptions. His passer rating in 2021 was 84.8.
He basically became the starter going forward because of his contract and the benefit of the doubt with a new coaching staff and a new GM.
The Giants should be seeking a valid option behind Jones, and Mayfield would make a lot of sense. The prognosis would be that Mayfield would push Jones in training camp and might even be the Week 1 starter. If not, he just might be the starter by Week 4 when Jones has finally proven he is not an NFL caliber starting quarterback and the new coaching staff has finally seen enough.
It is basically an unwritten rule a team does not bring in competition for a former sixth overall pick which already has invested significant capital in. And this idea would go against modern NFL ethos, but if Jones falters and they have seen enough, the franchise will need a new franchise quarterback.
The Los Angeles Rams gave up on QB Jared Goff after he was taken with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2018 and tossed for 4,638 yards his final season with the Rams, but head coach Sean McVay had stated repeatedly that his young QB needed to play better and stop his habit of turning the ball over.
So in the spring of 2021, Los Angeles shipped him off to Detroit along with a first round draft pick in 2022 and 2023 plus a 2021 third round pick for Lions’ starting quarterback Matthew Stafford.
A look at Goff’s first season in Detroit saw him tossing 494 passes with 332 completions for 3,245 yards with 19 touchdowns, eight INTs with a QB rating of 91.5.
While Stafford finished third in the league in yards, Goff was 20th. Needless to say, Lions’ fans aren’t very optimistic about Goff’s continuation as the starter. There is the possibility of Detroit even taking a new guy in this year’s draft.
To say that Goff has fallen from grace as one of the top young guns in the league would be an understatement. There are rumblings that he has lost quite a bit of confidence who fails in the consistency department.
The adjustment period of a new city, new receivers and OC, plus having to shovel snow has now all worn off and the time to be comfortable while he develops has come full head.
Goff seems to be a ticking time bomb of just when he will implode. Mayfield on the bench would not only push Goff in practices, but would become a viable option if – and when – Goff fails to convince the coaching staff to proceed with his skill set.
Detroit may lose the patience to watch Goff’s “wait-and-see” season in 2022. There is a fine line between those viewed as starters and those who are viewed as backups - and those that get paid backup-type money. Their cap space stands at $18,308,648 so some adjustments would have to be made.
And the Lions have a decent offensive line. Last year’s rookie tackle Penei Sewell was named to the PFWA and Pro Football Focus All-Rookie teams.
Add to this that Goff’s current backups are Tim Boyle, David Blough and Steven Montez. Mayfield would be the Lions’ ace in the hole. And perhaps their savior.
How many times has anybody read that the Dolphins starting QB Tua Tagovailoa is on the hot-seat? This is yet another tale of a first round pick (2020) taken very high in the draft (#5) that has failed to live up to his billing.
For one, he has had fumbling problems. Another issue is that the young man has been injured quite a bit having started just 21 contests in 33 games.
During this off-season, every media outlet within the South Florida area has put out a story about what the Dolphins should do with Tua. Most are not favorable.
Mayfield’s presence would end this. If Tua is indeed named the starter, then Mayfield would push him for snaps. Because Tua has frequent injury issues, this would play nicely into the fact that an NFL starting quarterback is at the ready.
Think about all the weapons Miami has stockpiled. Mayfield would be in another world with receivers such as the speedster Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker plus the recent trade with Kansas City for Tyreek Hill. Waddle was named to the PFWA and Pro Football Focus All-Rookie teams.
2021 was supposed to the year that the Dolphins became a playoff contender based on the fact that they went 10-6-0 the year before and just missed the post-season. But that never materialized as they began the year 1-4-0.
Part of the reason was that Tua missed most of the year with a rib injury early in the season. In Week 1, Tagovailoa didn’t look all that special during the Dolphins’ season-opening win over the Patriots. He threw for 202 yards, one touchdown, one interception and only completed 59.3% of his passes. Those aren’t exactly awe-inspiring numbers.
Their offense was anemic while the defense just wasn’t up to its former self. Even after Tua returned from his injury, the magic was there on occasion, but so were the turnovers.
Currently the Dolphins have $21,820,337 in cap space. With a trade to Miami and all their weapons, even if Tua is the starter in Week 1, it is inevitable that at some point he will go down and Mayfield would then fill in nicely.