Baker Mayfield is all but a lock to depart the Browns ahead of the 2022 NFL season. Or is he? All signs still point to the former No. 1 overall pick playing elsewhere following Cleveland’s polarizing blockbuster acquisition of Deshaun Watson. Both Mayfield and the Browns have publicly addressed the inevitable split. And yet, with no obvious trade partner on the horizon, the team is currently “unwilling to negotiate Mayfield’s release,” according to ESPN, leaving the veteran in limbo.
Having committed a record $230 million guaranteed to Watson and signed new backup Jacoby Brissett to a $4.65 million deal, the Browns are already prepared to open 2022 without Mayfield in the QB room. Releasing him outright, however, would not save the team any of the $18.58 million Mayfield is due on his guaranteed fifth-year option.
Cleveland engaged the Panthers on draft weekend about a potential trade for Mayfield but unsuccessfully attempted to have Carolina absorb “a significant portion” of that cap hit, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter. That helps explain why the Browns are unwilling to cut the QB; they want to avoid paying the full price of Mayfield’s fifth-year option they previously guaranteed.
It’s possible but improbable, should no trade possibilities materialize, that Mayfield would accept a pay cut to facilitate his release. More likely, Cleveland will either eventually find a trade partner or proceed with the release, albeit without any cap savings. Interested teams, remember, may be willing to take on a small portion of the QB’s 2022 cap hit — just not necessarily the “significant” portion the Browns tried to unload on the Panthers.
The bigger hurdle probably centers on finding suitors to begin with. The trade talks with Carolina died as soon as the Panthers spent a third-round draft pick on Mississippi QB Matt Corral, per Trotter, and all indications are that the Seahawks, another team with a perceived QB vacancy, have mild interest, at best, in the Browns’ former standout.