Mayfield’s falling out with the Browns has been swift and turbulent.
From No. 1 pick to castaway, it’s been a brutal fall from grace for Mayfield.
It has been a tough stretch for Baker Mayfield
If Mayfield wants out of Cleveland (which at this point, why wouldn’t he?), the Browns will have to find a willing trade partner. Mayfield had requested a trade even before the Watson news broke, and there’s reporting that suggests he wants to end up with the Indianapolis Colts, who just recently traded away Carson Wentz.
“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told Adam Schefter. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”
Imagine how Mayfield feels now if the relationship was “too far gone” before the Browns “won” the Watson sweepstakes. Cleveland traded five picks to acquire his replacement, including three first-round picks (2022, 2023, and 2024).
Things were already on shaky ground between quarterback and organization before the Watson trade.
Mayfield spent much of last season banged up, and when he was on the field, he was inconsistent at best, throwing just 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. The backdrop of 2021 was that the Browns had decided in the spring to pick up their fifth-year option on Mayfield rather than offer him a long-term extension. The option kept him under contract for another season but essentially made it so that he was fighting for his long-term future in 2021 with the knowledge that Cleveland wasn’t sure if he could be “the guy.”
The Browns were unwilling to commit long-term to him and his play this past season made that seem like the smart option. Mayfield vowed he’d come back better and ready to rock in 2022, but he hasn’t even made it to the NFL Draft and he’s already on the outs.
The relationship between the Cleveland Browns and Mayfield seems to have quickly deteriorated
Until just recently, it appeared as if the problem between Mayfield and Cleveland was just a football problem. He hasn’t even approached the expectations of a No. 1 overall pick in four seasons, but he was the quarterback who brought the Browns their first playoff win in 26 years, after all. Even as recent as this past January, and even after the terrible 2021 season, general manager Andrew Berry had expressed confidence in Mayfield.
“We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back,” Berry said, per NFL.com.
Things have clearly deteriorated since that point, though. Perhaps not publically, but certainly privately.
Mayfield has gone from the expected starter in 2022 and someone who the Browns believed could bounce back to a player who the organization reportedly thinks is not mature enough to lead them into the future. That’s if you believe the Chris Mortensen report that dropped on ESPN, and this was even before the Watson news hit, mind you (h/t Browns Nation).
“Baker Mayfield’s passion and emotional leadership was embraced in Oklahoma, and even at the beginning with Cleveland. But things have changed, and they want what they consider ‘an adult’ at the position,” Mortensen said.
There was also a long report from Jake Trotter, who covers the Browns for ESPN, in which sources said that the quarterback had to learn on social media that the Browns were going hard after Watson. They never reached out to him directly.
“They didn’t inform Baker ahead of time, just as a courtesy,” one source put it. “It played out so publicly, it was just very insulting. … It really angered Baker.”Jake Trotter’s sources reporting on the relationship between the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield
How much more humble pie does Mayfield need to eat?
At first, the Browns said they were unwilling to trade Mayfield. Now with Watson in the fold, it makes sense for Cleveland to ship the former No. 1 overall pick away. Not only might they still be able to get something out of Mayfield, but it doesn’t sound like the relationship is going to be tenable moving into the future.
The problem for both parties, as it stands, is that according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Mayfield’s trade market has been sullied because of his reputation.
“The word is out that Mayfield has been a handful for the Browns. He clearly hasn’t been good enough to justify being difficult for the team to deal with,” Florio wrote.,
He also reported that “there’s a feeling among some in league circles” that Mayfield “needs to be humbled.”
Florio suggested that one way to do that would be by trading a low draft pick for the former star quarterback or even forcing the Browns to trade him as part of a package of players.
Cleveland’s other issue is that because of the fifth-year option, Mayfield’s $18.8 million salary is guaranteed and will have to be paid via dead cap money if they can’t get a trade partner to agree to that amount.
It’s a sticky situation for both Mayfield and the Browns, but how much more “humbled” can Mayfield be?
He’s gone from the playoff hero of a city desperate for winning football to just a name in a package deal? Falls from grace don’t come much harder than that.
One has to imagine that wherever he ends up, Mayfield will approach the game with the same fire and competitive spirit, and he’ll certainly have an even bigger chip on his shoulder. But being a player who needs to be knocked down a peg or two? His next football home won’t have to worry about him walking through the door with too big of a head.
It yet another chapter of Cleveland quarterback misery, Mayfield has been humbled enough.