Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns proved throughout the 2020 season that they are very close to becoming Super Bowl contenders. The Browns made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and they went toe-to-toe with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, as the NFL offseason is underway, Mayfield could see his Browns team add some more stars to not only help them go further in the playoffs, but to also put them in a position to contend for Super Bowls. In fact, one report is pointing to the Browns potentially adding an NFL legend for the 2021 season and beyond — three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Baker Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs
Heading into the 2020 NFL season, many people wondered if Baker Mayfield was, in fact, the answer for the Browns at the quarterback position. He played well in his rookie season, as he threw for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 14 games. He also helped the Browns improve from 0-16 to 7-8-1.
However, Mayfield was horrible in his second season in 2019. He threw for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns, and a horrific 21 interceptions that season. The Browns then went 6-10 and missed the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season.
In 2020, though, Mayfield improved drastically, and the Browns were a really good team. Mayfield threw for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions in 2020. The Browns, as a team, went 11-5 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They then even won a playoff game for the first time since 1994.
What really helped Cleveland in 2020 was their run game. Star running back Nick Chubb ran for 1,067 yards in 12 games, while Kareem Hunt ran for 841 yards. The defense was also OK at times but dealt with players having to miss games as Denzel Ward and Ronnie Harrison both missed time in the secondary, and linebacker Mack Wilson — who had 82 tackles as a rookie in 2019 — only played in 13 games.
Defensive end Myles Garrett, though, was a superstar on that side of the ball, as he had 12 sacks in 14 games, which helped him earn First-Team All-Pro honors.
However, could Garrett be playing alongside another elite pass rusher soon?
The Houston Texans released J.J. Watt
The Houston Texans did something that, maybe a few years ago, they didn’t think they would ever do, as the team released three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Watt has been unstoppable ever since he went to the Texans with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. He has led the NFL in sacks twice and recorded 20.5 sacks in two different seasons with Houston. He has also recorded 16 sacks or more four times.
“I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release, and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” Watt said in a video he posted to Twitter, according to ESPN. “… I’m excited and looking forward to a new opportunity, and I’ve been working extremely hard. But at the same time, it is always tough to move on. And I just want you guys to know that I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL.”
So, where will Watt play next?
Baker Mayfield and the Browns could welcome J.J. Watt to Cleveland
There are already several teams interested in signing J.J. Watt, and, according to ESPN’s Ed Werder, the Browns are one of them.
This move could help the Browns tremendously, as their defense would go from a mediocre to a pretty talented unit. It would also force opposing teams to have to worry about keeping Myles Garrett and J.J. Watt away from their quarterbacks, which could prove to be a pretty difficult task. Additionally, any improvement on that side of the ball at all could help the Browns take that next step toward AFC dominance.
For Watt, going to Cleveland could also be the perfect move for him. He would not only be on a contender but he would also be playing alongside another elite pass rusher. When Watt played alongside another pass rusher in Jadeveon Clowney while in Houston, he was unstoppable. From 2015 through 2018, Watt registered 35 sacks in 40 games. Garrett is much better than Clowney has ever been, too.
Cleveland could also potentially give Watt a multi-year deal. As noted by ESPN’s Field Yates, the Browns have plenty of cap space to work with, so they “wouldn’t be limited to a one-year, small money deal.”
For the first time in his career, J.J. Watt is on the move. Teaming up with Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns may be one of his best options, too.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference