The Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield have been on a collision course for weeks, if not months. The collision may indeed happen this offseason.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that, if Mayfield “doesn’t get assurances that things will change next season,” the quarterback will “consider asking to be traded.”
The primary change he seeks relates to the offense and its various philosophies. At the heart of the rift is Mayfield’s relationship with coach Kevin Stefanski.
Mayfield has one year left on his rookie deal, at a salary of $18.858 million. The two sides have not had significant (if any) talks on an extension.
Frankly, the Browns may decide to trade him without him even asking for it. He hasn’t played well on a sufficiently consistent basis. And even though a left shoulder injury provides an obvious explanation/excuse for his regression in 2021, he deserves full blame for the injury. It happened when he decided to go make a tackle after throwing an interception.
The Browns would be wise to consider their options. Mayfield has said enough publicly this season, and enough has been reported regarding his thoughts and beliefs, to justify a conclusion that Mayfield is, at times, a pain in the butt for the organization. From Mayfield’s perspective, his frustration could be rooted in lingering dysfunction within the franchise. Although they made it to the playoffs last year and won a wild-card game, Mayfield’s career began with Hue Jackson and continued with Freddie Kitchens as the head coaches of the team. While it may be better with Stefanski, it still may be a long way from where it needs to be.
On Monday night, Mayfield witnessed a memorable sendoff for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Mayfield is smart enough to realize that’s likely never going to happen for him in Cleveland. If that’s ever going to become his football destiny, he’ll need to go elsewhere to make it.
And if the Browns want to turn the page on the Mayfield era, they likely won’t experience much pushback from the fan base. Mayfield’s prickly side has emerged just enough this season to make it easier for fans to welcome the possibility of a new quarterback for a team that otherwise has plenty of solid pieces in place to contend.
It may come down to who makes the first move. Does Mayfield ask to be traded before the Browns can decide to find an upgrade? Do the Browns start exploring for a better player at the position as a preemptive strike against Mayfield asking to be shipped elsewhere? However it plays out, it should shock no one if Mayfield has a new home city in 2022.