If they do, how will they go about getting him?
The Browns are stuck. They owe Mayfield $18.8 million for 2022, fully guaranteed. If they can’t find a trade partner, their options become keeping him on the roster for the full season (awkward) or cutting him. If they cut him, he can sign with any team for the minimum salary of $1.035 million — with the Browns picking up the balance.
The Seahawks, if they want Mayfield, know the Browns are stuck. The Seahawks can tell the Browns that Seattle will pay only $1.035 million, the Browns will pay the rest, and the Browns will have to give the Seahawks a low-round pick in order to complete the transaction.
Sure, the Browns could just cut Mayfield and let him sign with Seattle for $1.035 million. But the Browns (and the Seahawks) would then assume the risk that the Steelers would intervene.
Yes, the Steelers. Mayfield surely would relish the opportunity to stick it to the Browns by playing for a bitter rival. He would be better than Mitchell Trubisky or Mason Rudolph, and coach Mike Tomlin quite possibly would be able to nudge Mayfield into becoming the best version of himself that he can be.
Look at what Tomlin has done with players like Antonio Brown. For years, Tomlin kept Brown’s unique personality in check. Ditto for Ben Roethlisberger, whose transformation from heel to hero happened on Tomlin’s watch.
It makes too much sense for the team and for the player. Which is why the Browns need to come up with a solution that results in Mayfield landing in another division in a different conference. That’s where the Seahawks can squeeze Cleveland, holding out for a deal that is aimed not at getting value for Mayfield but at ensuring the Browns won’t have to deal with him in the AFC North, in 2022 or beyond.
Back to Seattle. The other benefit to blinking is that the Seahawks would get Mayfield now. He’d be part of the offseason program. He’d be fully prepared to play, and to play well, in 2022. But what would blinking consist of? How much would the Seahawks surrender now for a player that they may be able to get later, if patient?
Regardless of when the deal gets done, it won’t be easy for the Seahawks and Browns to find a middle ground. Especially if the Seahawks are the only team that wants to trade for Mayfield, and to which Mayfield wants to be traded.
Whatever happens, the Browns won’t be getting a huge return for Mayfield. They’ve already replaced him. They’ve moved on. He’s moving on. And the deal the Browns will do in order to engineer that next move won’t nearly be what it would have been if, for example, the Browns were trying to do it a year ago.