The Cleveland Browns guaranteed Baker Mayfield $18.8 million for the 2022 season last year when they picked up his fifth-year option. He was a part of the first draft class for which the fifth-year option was fully guaranteed for both cap and performance in addition to just injury upon its being exercised, rather than upon the start of the new league year of his fifth year.
And yet the odds of him being on the Browns’ 53-man roster are slim, something he emphasized during an appearance on the Ya Never Know podcast with someone named Mike. While the episode was recorded sometime ago, it was published yesterday, and he had a lot to say about his time in Cleveland, which he expects is at an end.
“I feel disrespected”, he said, “one hundred percent. Because I was told one thing, and they completely did another. That’s what I’m in the middle of right now”.
Mayfield is referring to the Browns’ unprecedented acquisition of former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, for whom they gave up three first-round picks and other draft resources, in addition to giving him a fully-guaranteed $230 million, five-year contract.
Whether or not Mayfield was actually misled isn’t entirely clear, as there are some conflicting reports. It has been said that he was informed by the team early on that they were going to try to pursue the top of the quarterback market. He may not have specifically been told that they would try to trade for Watson. He found out that Watson was coming to meet the team via Twitter.
The Browns’ first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield has had an up-and-down career, and owns a 29-30 record. He had a promising rookie season in which he tied the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes with 26, but followed it up with a disappointing second year.
His first season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski in 2020 was his best, and the team’s best in some time. They went 11-5 and won a postseason game, the first winning season since 2007, and the first playoff victory since 1994.
The 2021 season is one that he described as “miserable”. He suffered a shoulder injury in the second game of the year, and he was clearly not the same player afterwards. The team as a whole took a step back, and they reverted back to their losing ways.
Mayfield is still on the Browns’ roster, but they have prepared for his not being there. They added Jacoby Brissett to be Watson’s backup, and recently signed Joshua Dobbs as well. Both Brissett and Dobbs would better complement a Watson-backed offense than would Mayfield.
And you generally don’t like paying a backup more than $18 million, either, so that’s a pretty big incentive to try to trade him. Yet he admitted it wouldn’t be all that easy. He acknowledged that he thought he would be going to Indianapolis before they traded for Matt Ryan; he then offered Seattle as a potential destination, after they traded Russell Wilson and got back Drew Lock.