New Home For Baker Mayfield? | With Deshuan Watson Back In Play, Baker’s Cleveland Career Might Be Cooked

(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

The Cleveland Browns seem to be at a crossroads after a disappointing 2021 season in which they did not make the playoffs. There have been multiple reports about the Browns looking to bring in a veteran quarterback in or to trade current starter and former No. 1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield.

Baker says he’s not even sure what’s next but the tweet he sent out implies a departure.

The Browns’ public pursuit of Watson is a glaring message to the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick in 2018. The team that drafted him no longer sees him as a franchise quarterback.

Mayfield’s journey with the Browns had a rocky start and many attribute that slow progress to the fact that he had a new head coach for three straight years. Having inconsistency at a key leadership position definitely didn’t help Baker find a rhythm or establish his own culture within the team.

During his rookie season he provided a much-needed spark for Cleveland after they fired their head coach Hue Jackson in the middle of another miserable season. Heading into year two, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens as their head coach and made a splash trade to acquire ​​Odell Beckham Jr., but Baker struggled to find any rhythm. During his second season he threw 22 touchdowns with 21 interceptions.

Things started to change in year three, when the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski not only brought in a new offensive scheme, but a change in culture. The new offense is run-centric, and it took a lot of pressure off Mayfield. This gave way to his best TD-to-INT ratio (26-8) and the Browns won their first playoff game since 1995.

Despite a successful first year, the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately league” and 2021 was not a great year for Cleveland. The Browns missed the playoffs in 2021 and struggled due to injuries on the offensive line, which led to Baker getting injured and missing games after being sacked the most in his career (43). The team also dealt with inner turmoil when superstar wide receiver Beckham Jr. had a public feud with Mayfield and voiced that he wanted to be traded or released.

 

Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry spoke with reporters at the NFL Combine and shared he still expects Mayfield to be the starting quarterback for the 2022 season. Berry did mention though he is always looking to improve the roster. 

“We really do look at it like it’s an expansion team, and if we have opportunities to match resources with talent, we do want to continue to add talent to the roster and that applies to every position.”

Since then, Deshaun Watson’s legal troubles have subsided and the Browns are among the teams heavily vying for his services along with the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.

Instead of signing Mayfield to a long-term contract last offseason, the Browns decided to only pick up his fifth-year option, and he will earn a fully guaranteed salary of $18.858 million in 2022. This is considered a team-friendly contract compared to other starting quarterback salaries, which does leave the door open for a possible trade.

The Cleveland Browns drafted Mayfield in hopes they found their franchise quarterback for the next decade. But a short four years later, Cleveland does not seem sold on Baker. The 2022 season is going to be a prove-it year for Mayfield in hopes that he could earn a long-term deal with either the Browns or another franchise.

As for the Browns, their organizational structure is stable with Berry making personnel decisions and Stefanski leading the players, but without a franchise quarterback things could turn for the worse. As far as this franchise is concerned, they haven’t had nearly enough success yet to go back to the days of 1-15 and 0-16 records.