I wasn’t planning on writing about Baker Mayfield every day, but frankly, it’s arguably the biggest story in the AFC North right now, so here we are, back at it. After the Cleveland Browns were informed yesterday before noon that they were out of the running for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Mayfield officially submitted a request to be traded, via ESPN and numerous other outlets. The Browns responded by stating that they would not be “accommodating” his request.
The first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield has had an up-and-down career up to this point, though he has routinely been surrounded by change, and hasn’t had a great opportunity to settle down into an environment. The 2021 season was his best chance to begin to do that, but he ended up playing nearly the entire season with a torn labrum that required offseason surgery.
After helping to lead the Browns in 2020 to their first winning record since 2007, and winning their first postseason game since 1994 (back when they were still the original Browns and Bill Belichick was coaching them), things fell apart last season, though they still finished 8-9.
Mayfield’s play suffered greatly due to his injuries, reflected in his overall numbers, but even more obvious on the actual tape. There were clearly things he couldn’t do that he knows he is used to doing. And he took heat for being unable to do those things—sometimes, he took it out on the coaching staff after games, questioning play calls and schemes.
In the midst of all that was the Odell Beckham Jr. fiasco, which ultimately resulted in the former All-Pro wide receiver’s release. Mayfield generally handled that well from a public perspective, but it’s been clear for a while now that there were internal issues coming to a head.
This isn’t just about the Browns pursuing Watson, to be sure. In fact, there have been reports that Cleveland was open to parting with Mayfield this offseason whether they landed Watson or not—one source even telling ESPN that they wanted “an adult” at the quarterback position, which came out the day before he requested the trade.
Mayfield told Adam Schefter specifically that a trade was “in the mutual interest of both sides”, and that “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on”.
It’s not clear what the Browns intend to do, but their counter statement could simply be a bargaining chip. Especially if Watson ends up landing in Atlanta, the Falcons will have to move Matt Ryan, who could then in turn end up in Cleveland—with the Browns then turning around and trading Mayfield anyway.
The bottom line is, right now, it’s hard to see him ever playing a snap in Cleveland again, but stranger things have happened. At the moment, I do not take the Browns’ statement seriously, and believe they are, or will be, open to trading him. There may reach a point at which they won’t be left with a choice.