As the offseason arrives for the 18 non-playoffs team, the time has come to device, and to leak, plans. Plans to do this. Plans to not to do that. Tentative positions reached for strategic reasons and at all times subject to change.
That’s the most important thing to remember when digesting the ongoing flurry of reports regarding plans and intentions. The smart teams develop and divulge plans deliberately, not haphazardly. They have a specific goal in mind, and it can be as simple as (in the case of an underachieving quarterback entering the option year of his rookie deal) trying to create a trade market.
According to NFL Media, the Browns plan to keep Baker Mayfield for 2022, the final season of his rookie deal. At $18.8 million, it’s a reasonable salary for a fifth year, giving the Browns a chance to see how he plays before making any firm and final decisions.
There’s a chance they’ve already seen enough, however, and that they intend to explore all options without telling the world that they intend to explore all options. If they’ve decided to move on from Mayfield, they would have no reason to reveal that plan. First, they would hurt their leverage in any trade talks if other teams know they’re done with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Second, they may not be able to trade him at all. Third, they may be unable to get a replacement on terms they regard as favorable.
That’s the game when it comes to the art/science of negotiating with other NFL teams. The Browns don’t want to start making calls in an effort to find someone to take Mayfield. They want another team to become interested in Mayfield, and to call the Browns first.
Likewise, the Browns don’t want to seem desperate to make a trade or to sign a veteran. There’s a subtlety. A coyness. A detachment that’s needed to get things done the right way.
For the Browns, that starts with getting the word out, through the media outlet they partially own, that they “plan” to keep Mayfield. Then, if they ultimately can’t devise and implement a better approach, they can claim that they planned all along to keep him.