With all of the quarterback movement that we have seen in the NFL this offseason, it’s sometimes equally notable which quarterbacks haven’t moved, and perhaps the most significant is Baker Mayfield, the 2018 first overall draft pick of the Cleveland Browns whose starting job was just usurped following the team’s acquisition of Deshaun Watson.
Mayfield is due to earn $18.858 million this year under his fifth-year option from his rookie contract, and that would be quite an expensive backup option, especially when your starter is making $230 million over five years. A trade has logically felt inevitable, and yet…
As Jeff Howe of The Athletic describes it, teams are “in a holding pattern” as it concerns Mayfield, but notes that the two teams who have been most connected with a potential trade, the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers, are said to continue to carry interest.
The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos earlier this offseason, acquiring Drew Lock in return for him, and Geno Smith is their other quarterback of note. The Panthers added Sam Darnold last year, who started in 2021, and they did draft Matt Corral last month.
“The Panthers and Seahawks still haven’t ruled out acquiring Mayfield, but they’ll need the Browns to take on a much greater portion of his contract than they’ve offered so far”, Howe writes. “It’s unclear how far apart the sides have been, but the Browns want their contractual intake to be commensurate with the asset they receive in return”.
He notes that the Browns don’t have much leverage, as one would imagine, but it ultimately comes down to how willing the Seahawks and Panthers are willing to go into the 2022 season with the likes of Lock and Darnold as their starting quarterbacks.
In theory, Cleveland could absorb all but $1.035 million of Mayfield’s 2022 salary, as that would be his minimum salary for a player of his veteran status (e.g. it’s what the acquiring team would be obligated to pay him).
But as how says, Cleveland is expecting to get capital back for Mayfield that is equivalent to what kind of cap hit they’re going to eat as part of the deal. A few years ago, the Browns actually acquired Brock Osweiler and his $16 million cap hit in exchange for a second-round pick (the team swapping minor draft picks as part of the deal to make it legal as well, but essentially, they traded cap space for a draft pick).
As you might recall, Mayfield played through most of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury, which he had surgically repaired this offseason. He continues to rehab from that injury, so there isn’t necessarily a rush to move him when he’s not even prepared to get on the practice field right now, though there’s never a bad time to jump into a team’s playbook.