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Intersecting Needs

In my professional life I managed construction projects representing either the federal or state government. It was the norm for my customers to complain about the quality, time to completion and/or final cost. This was well understood and expected as our goal was always to maximize all three attributes. Unfortunately life is a zero sum game and the best result in construction was to find the best blend of the three.


My preference was to lean more to quality than time or cost as we keep public sector buildings forever and "the quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten" (an old RCA Victor motto). The blend would have been different for different customers. If I were administering construction of a manufacturing building due to receive expensive equipment and start a promised delivery system then time to completion would have been the primary guiding factor. A commercial venture with planned tax depreciation and a 20 year life would have seen cost as the major guiding factor.


I find the current Baker Mayfield editorials lacking in the holistic approach to a problem that we had to deal with in construction. The current language is that the Browns need to get Baker off of their roster at any cost. The Browns made this problem themselves. Poor Baker has been wronged. Either Seattle or Carolina should be able to acquire him with only a small financial commitment and a very minor draft choice.


The issue is significantly more complex and I believe that AB is well aware of all aspects and is playing his hand close to the vest. I prefer to look at the issue as I would a construction issue. That is what are the involved incentives, what are the financial ramifications and what are the timeframes involved?


Participants


For the Browns: They lead the NFL in cap space ($42M)…with Baker’s contract. The team is well stocked with talent. There is a question of QB for all or part of 2022 but they do have a good QB for the next 5 years. Baker is under contract for 2022 and has no leverage of his own. The Browns would like to increase their cap space and acquire assets in return for Baker. They would prefer to see Baker in the NFC. The Browns do not have a 1st round pick but have an additional 4th and 5th round pick in the 2023 draft.


For the Panthers: They have the second most cap space in the NFL ($25M). The team, especially the defense has acquired some good talent but appears to be short of competing for the playoffs in 2022. Their division is likely to become very competitive in 2023 as Tampa Bay and New Orleans have significant age and departures looming. Their HC is currently under the gun to start showing an improved record. They have an apparent bust QB under a guaranteed contract for 2022, a good back up QB and a rookie 3rd round pick who probably needs seasoning….if he is good enough to eventually be a starter. They have foolishly thrown away draft choices over the years and do not have a 3rd or 6th pick in 2023. I don’t project them to have a top 3 draft choice in 2023.


For the Seahawks: They have about $16M in cap space for 2022. The HC is 70 years old and is a life long defensive coach who desires ball control and no turnovers. They have seldom had a losing record and do not seem like a candidate to do a rebuild….and so a high draft choice in 2023 is not likely. The team has quality at RB and WR and history would suggest that their defense will be adequate. They currently have a career b/u and soon to be career b/u competing for the QB spot…both only under contract for 2022. They have extra picks in the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 7th rounds of the 2023 draft. They just traded away the best QB in franchise history who was undersized, liked to operate from a roll out position, has a strong arm and is a dangerous downfield throwing threat.


For Baker Mayfield: He needs a team to start for in 2022 if he hopes to get a large free agent contract in the future. While his current contract ($18.6M) is an impediment the fact that he is a free agent at the end of the season is probably of equal importance as neither interested team is a one year QB away from the Super Bowl. In addition with Baker’s spotty record (not all his fault) is he a QB capable of eventually taking a team to the Super Bowl? He has shown a high degree of adaptability having had 4 offensive coordinators and 4 head coaches in his time in Cleveland so adapting to a new system shouldn’t be a problem. Both interested teams will want to have a strong rushing attack, play action passing and have deep threats which is a good match to Baker’s skill set. While his offensive line was excellent in 2018 and 2020 it was less so in 2019 and due to injuries in 2021. Both interested teams have adequate to poor offensive lines.


Why is Baker a participant in the solution?


Essentially Baker trying to force a trade when the Browns showed interest in Watson was a terrible move for as it appeared at the time that the Browns were a very long shot to acquire Watson. The petulant behavior has made Baker a more difficult trade candidate. While the media concentrates on this as a Browns dilemma I see it more problematic for Baker.


If he continues to insist on doing his current one year $18.6M contract he might or might not get a team to play for in 2022, the Browns may not get much (2024 compensatory pick?) for Baker, and the NFL might see Drew Lock and Sam Darnold as starting QBs. Baker’s 2023 free agent contract won’t be much more than a $10M prove it deal if he doesn’t have a good 2022.


Baker and his agent should be focused on his need for a starting job in 2022. To facilitate that:


He could reach out to the Browns should Watson get a year long suspension.


He could ask for permission to seek a trade allowing him to negotiate a 2 or 3 year extension with the Seahawks and/or Panthers. Such a deal would reduce the 2022 cap hit and in conjunction with the Browns eating some (not most) of the money make a mutually beneficial deal feasible. It would also allow the receiving team to have more than a one year stop gap solution.


Either option would provide Baker with a 2022 starting QB job. The first option might allow him to cash in with a major free agent contract in 2023. The second option might allow him to get a second extension or free agent deal in 2024 or 2025.


My opinion


Baker needs to participate in finding a compromise solution as it is in his best interests to (a) have a starting job and (b) get placed before training camp begins. I think that his shoulder is now fully healed. The payoff of a short extension is better than his current one year contact.


The Browns will need to offset some of Baker’s cost in 2022. They will also need to be reasonable in their request for trade assets and should be looking to ask for 2024 draft choices as that is when they will need to be restocking good roster. Such future draft choices are usually undervalued by the trading teams and so are a better value for the Browns.


The Seahawks need to outbid the Panthers. Baker is a good fit for their offense. The 12 man fan base will love his fire. Baker is the closest approximation to Russell Wilson that you can find. Pete Carroll doesn’t have the time or patience to rebuild a team and having a veteran Baker for two years is better than Lock/Smith in 2022 and a rookie in 2023. They have the necessary draft choices to reload and still acquire Baker. Their front office/owner has better understanding and vision than does the Panthers.


How could this all change?


Well, if a Super Bowl contending team suddenly lost their QB (ex. Packers, Bucs, Chiefs, Bills) they might be willing to chase a 1 year stop gap.


No feasible deal occurs and Baker is still on the roster during the season. He would become a trade chip before the trading deadline.


If Baker unexpectedly became physically unable to perform (PUP) for the 2022 season that would be a different scenario.


Fact


The final solution to any issue is guided by the incentives of the participants and the circumstances surrounding the issue as well as the available time and resources available in attacking the problem. The media in their search for simple one issue solutions doesn’t understand that reality.

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