The Cleveland Browns have acquired three new quarterbacks this offseason, and have dumped two of the three from last year’s roster. The third one is still sticking around, though certainly has no intention of showing up. And the team is doing its best not to talk about it.
Earlier this week, head coach Kevin Stefanski spoke to the media ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was repeatedly asked about Baker Mayfield—the quarterback in question—and he predictably had very little to say about the only Cleveland quarterback with a playoff win in decades.
“That is a unique situation. It is fluid. We will just continue to work through it as we go each day”, was his response when he was asked about his conversations with Mayfield and what the team’s plans would be with him moving forward.
It’s overwhelmingly likely, of course, that there is no moving forward that doesn’t involve a parting of ways. The problem is that it is beginning to look less and less likely that they will be able to trade him. They may have to settle for next to nothing just to get him off the roster without cutting him.
It’s long been reported that the Browns are not expecting a first-round pick for their former first overall draft pick. It’s also long been assumed that any trade would have to involve them agreeing to eat a decent portion of the $18.8 million he’s guaranteed in 2022 under his fifth-year option.
But why would any team offer them anything if the alternative is waiting for them to cut him? If the situation is so toxic that they simply have to get him off the roster, then they couldn’t hope for much more than a late-round draft pick and a new team taking on a minimum salary.
Pro Football Talk has previously indicated that Mayfield’s guarantees would offset, so that whatever offer he may sign with another team if cut would count against the $18.8 million that the Browns owe him. But at that point, neither the signing team nor Mayfield has any incentive to sign for more than the minimum, unless that team were willing to pay him more than $18.8 million—which nobody would—since it would work out the same in the end with what Cleveland remains on the hook for.
Stefanski was asked about Mayfield’s recently published comments stating that he felt disrespected by the Browns. He didn’t give much more of an answer than he did to the other question, again referring to it as a “unique situation”. A player under contract saying you disrespected him and basically taking the position that he will never play for you may indeed qualify for that.
Mayfield, of course, felt disrespected by the Browns’ pursuit and acquisition of Deshaun Watson to replace him as the team’s starting quarterback. That move brought the team its own host of problems, both legal and otherwise.