The Panthers and Browns were trying to find a landing spot for Baker Mayfield. They reportedly couldn’t strike a deal on splitting his $18,8 million base salary, prompting the Panthers to pivot to Matt Corral.
So what’s next for Mayfield?
The Panthers and Falcons have drafted quarterbacks. The Seahawks didn’t. Other teams that were looking include the Lions and Saints.
Seattle seems like the obvious landing spot, but they’ve done nothing to indicate an interest in Mayfield. Maybe they now will, given that Cleveland’s options are drying up, and their expectations could be changing.
Carolina would have made plenty of sense for Mayfield, perhaps enough to get him to even trim some of his salary to help ensure an opportunity to go to a new city and have the kind of year needed to lay the foundation for a contract in 2023. Now, he’ll have to keep waiting. As will the Browns.
The best news for Cleveland is that Pittsburgh’s decision to draft Kenny Pickett means that the worst-case scenario for the Browns — cutting Mayfield and having him go straight to the Steelers — most likely won’t happen. The bad news is that the Browns may not get a better opportunity than whatever opportunity they had tonight.
So what do they do? Wait for an injury that isn’t likely to happen? Reduce their expectations?
And what will Mayfield do? He’s been patient and compliant. At some point, his less patient and compliant nature will take over.
It’s all a sunk cost at this point for Cleveland. They made their $230 million wager on Deshaun Watson, who arrived with 22 distractions that still linger. Mayfield continues to be another distraction that the Browns just don’t need.
Unlike a rookie who can sit for a year or two, Mayfield is on a one-year deal. Whoever gets him via trade will have to be ready to play him now. That leaves, at this point, the Seahawks as the best option. The Saints are a possibility, if they aren’t as sold on Jameis Winston as they pretend to be.
Wherever it goes from here, Mayfield can’t be happy with how it’s gone. Yes, he’s getting $18.8 million this year no matter what. But will he have a chance to parlay 2022 into a much bigger payday in 2023? He needs to be able to play in order to make that happen. Unless the Lions are willing to kick Jared Goff to the curb (or, say, the Texans decide that Davis Mills isn’t really the answer or the Giants determine to move on from Daniel Jones now instead of later), Mayfield is stuck. And the Browns are stuck.
It’s a headache that the player doesn’t want, and that the Browns don’t need.