Rapoport: Baker Mayfield ‘100 Percent’ Would Have Been Browns’ Starter If They Didn’t Land Watson

As of now, Baker Mayfield remains a member of the Cleveland Browns. But he most certainly is not their starting quarterback. They gave up three first-round draft picks, plus additional resources, and then turned around and handed a $230 million, fully-guaranteed contract to Deshaun Watson.

Had that not happened, however, the Browns intended to keep Mayfield as their starter, according the Ian Rapoport, as he told Rich Eisen recently. This is significant because we heard a variety of reports earlier this offseason prior to the completion of the Watson trade, some indicating that the relationship between Mayfield and the Browns was too far gone to be reconciled and that he was going to be moved either way.

“We all exist in this world until someone can find a better replacement. That’s you, that’s me, that’s really all of us”, Rapoport said. “If Baker Mayfield had that thought process, then he would be okay with this, because the Browns were not going to move on from him. He was going to be their starting quarterback”.

“That was 100 percent certain. They were not going to trade him”, he added. “It was definitely happening unless they could get Deshaun Watson, a top-five quarterback that they had a really, really, really outside chance of getting, and they somehow got”.

There are at least some things that add up here. The Browns were absolutely not the favorite to land Watson by any means. There were even reports that Watson had eliminated them from the running, initially, but once they slapped down that fully-guaranteed contract, suddenly he fell in love with the Dawg Pound.

Rapoport’s comments seem to suggest that Mayfield wanted to be traded even before they landed Watson, though the timeline isn’t clear. He did request a trade after it came out that they scheduled a visit with Watson, but it sounds like he may have wanted a trade even before that. Without further clarification, however, I can’t really advise one way or another.

Mayfield was the Browns’ first-round pick in 2018, when they held the first overall selection and had their choice of any player they wanted, including Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, who would both be drafted later in the first round. He has fallen squarely in the middle of that field, on the wrong side of the aforementioned but ahead of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.

But what’s done is done, of course, and the last step is moving him. Watson is now their starter, and they’ve already added Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs to fill out their depth chart. It is a virtual inevitability that he will be traded at this point. The only questions are to where, what they can get for him, and how much of his $18.8 million fifth-year option they’ll have to eat to get the deal done.

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