Baker Mayfield is ready to move on from his tenure with the Cleveland Browns. And according to the QB, the feeling is mutual between himself and his only NFL franchise.
“I think it’s been pretty obvious, the mutual decision on both sides is to move on,” Mayfield told SoonerScoop.com during a football camp in Norman, Okla. on Tuesday. “I’m thankful for my four years in Cleveland. There’s a lot of ups and downs and tons of learning experiences that I’ll forever keep with me. … There’s no resentment toward the city of Cleveland, by any means.”
Why Baker Mayfield isn’t likely to return to the Browns
Mayfield and the Browns have been biding their time for a breakup since the franchise traded a plethora of draft picks to the Houston Texans for controversial QB Deshaun Watson in March. Mayfield, the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, got ahead of the trade by announcing his likely departure from Cleveland on social media before the deal was completed.
While Watson faced 22 open civil suits stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct at the time of the trade, the Browns still signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal, even with Mayfield taking up roughly $18.9 million in guaranteed base salary.
Now, Watson, who recently reached settlements on 20 of his 24 civil suits, faces a hearing with an independent arbitrator, who will determine whether or not the QB will face an NFL suspension for his actions. The hearing, which began on Tuesday, could lead to a lengthy suspension, with PFN’s Aaron Wilson reporting that the league will pursue an open-ended ban that would last at least throughout this upcoming season.
If Watson were to be suspended for a significant amount of time, there have been musings that the Browns could possibly keep Mayfield around as a starting QB. But Mayfield believes that’s an unlikely outcome.
“I think for that to happen, there’d need to be some reaching out,” Mayfield said. “But we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides.”
Baker Mayfield answered the question everyone wants to know: If DeShaun Watson is suspended, could he return to Cleveland in 2022? Here's his answer from his youth camp Tuesday in Norman. (via @CareyAMurdock, @Eddie_Rado) pic.twitter.com/ASNY5b8kdO
— SoonerScoop.com (@SoonerScoop) June 28, 2022
Mayfield is coming off a letdown 2021 campaign. He completed just 60.5% of his passes for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. The season was also marred with controversy in Cleveland, as his relationship with wideout Odell Beckham Jr. deteriorated to the point that the Browns waived the playmaker in the middle of the year. Beckham rebounded with the Los Angeles Rams and won a Super Bowl ring, while the Browns failed to make the playoffs.
The Browns were aggressive in upgrading their roster around Watson this offseason, adding former Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper to the mix. They also brought back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is coming off a bounce-back season in Cleveland.
The pieces are in place for a QB to thrive, but the dust has seemingly settled on Mayfield, who has had a lukewarm trade market to this point. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers have added multiple QBs to their rosters instead of trading for Mayfield. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks haven’t jumped at the chance to land the QB an upgrade to their depth chart.
Part of the Seahawks’ hesitation has been due to Mayfield’s large, guaranteed salary and the trade compensation the team would need to flip to the Browns. While Cleveland is willing to foot most of Mayfield’s bill, the Browns want a decent return for their former top pick.
So, with Watson awaiting a potential punishment and Mayfield awaiting his ticket out of town, the Browns’ QB depth chart remains in limbo.
“I think I got frustrated with [a trade] not happening before minicamp and those things, but that’s the stuff that’s out my control, and so let those things happen and fall into place,” Mayfield said. “Right now, I’m just controlling what I can and enjoying this [camp].”
The team signed Jacoby Brissett to be Watson’s suspension insurance, but asking him to carry the load for an entire season probably wasn’t in the team’s forecast when decisions were made. The Browns also brought in Joshua Dobbs to be Brissett’s backup in case he had to play in place of Watson. Neither Brissett nor Dobbs is a suitable season-long replacement for Watson. That said, Mayfield sounds like his ship has sailed with organization, and there’s no going back.