File this in the “for what it’s worth” category, but ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington believes if the Cleveland Browns give up on trading Baker Mayfield and outright release him, Mayfield’s next NFL team will require just a short drive. Appearing on Get Up Wednesday morning, Darlington believes Mayfield would sign with the Steelers if cut loose by the Browns.
“If for some reason the Browns, and I don’t expect this to happen, were to cut Baker Mayfield, I think he signs with the Pittsburgh Steelers the very next day,” Darlington told the show, which certainly generated a reaction from the rest of the panel.
It’s hard to know if this is informed speculation or an actual report. And Darlington qualifies his statement he doesn’t think the Browns will release Mayfield, perhaps out of the fear of him landing in a place like Pittsburgh. They’d also like to get something for him as well, though his fairly large contract and the team’s lack of leverage is hurting their leverage.
Mayfield-to-Pittsburgh has been rumored since the Browns stunned the NFL world by acquiring Deshaun Watson and giving him the largest fully guaranteed contract in league history. But the “reporting” has really been speculation without much legs and Darlington’s opinion doesn’t seem to have a ton of teeth here. For Mayfield, there’s an attractive “revenge” aspect of joining the Steelers. But after signing Mitch Trubisky and having eyes on the draft, would Pittsburgh be interested? A signing takes two to tango.
Cleveland is still attempting to shop Mayfield to the limited number of suitors out there. Seattle, as Darlington mentions, is one team who has been connected to Mayfield and a team Mayfield even mentioned as a possibility in a recent podcast appearance. The Carolina Panthers are supposedly back in play after striking out on every offseason quarterback who became available. For those teams, and for the Browns, the key element will be agreeing to the right compensation.
“Teams do still covet Baker Mayfield,” Darlington said. “They just don’t think that they need to give up as much as the Cleveland Browns are asking right now. This will trigger at some point and teams will be interested. That day is just not today.”
Perhaps Mayfield gets moved a day or two before the draft or on draft day itself. What is clear is Mayfield will never play another down for the Browns and he will have a new home by the start of the season. Should Cleveland cut him, rumors about him joining Pittsburgh will gain even more steam. But if the Steelers have drafted their quarterback of the future in the first round to go along with their quarterback of the present in Trubisky, there will be little reason for the Steelers to be interested.
Check out Darlington’s comments below.