With few, if any, viable trade possibilities and with the Browns possibly needing a full-season starter if Deshaun Watson‘s suspension ends up being much longer than expected, Cleveland may indeed keep Baker Mayfield.
Some have insisted Mayfield would never go along with that. Well, he has 18.8 million reasons to do so.
He’s under contract. If he doesn’t show up for mandatory minicamp or training camp, he gets fined. Under the rules of the fifth-year option, a holdout that would cause him to miss preseason games would result in the forfeiture of a regular-season game check (as to Mayfield, that’s $1.04 million) for each preseason game missed. So if he doesn’t show up, he’ll lose a lot of money.
Mayfield also needs to behave. His salary is guaranteed for skill, injury, and cap. If Mayfield engages in “personal conduct which, in the reasonable judgment of the Club, adversely affects . . . the Club,” the Browns could cut him for that reason and try to not pay him a penny, as the Ravens did with safety Earl Thomas.
So if Mayfield wants his $18.8 million, he needs to play along with the Browns, if they choose to keep him around.
There’s another important reason for doing that. Other teams will be watching him closely. Even if he plays this year and plays well, teams won’t be inclined to pay significant money to a guy who could be a pain in the ass moving forward.
Thus, between protecting his pay for 2022 and setting himself up to get paid in 2023, Mayfield needs to go along with the Browns — if they indeed decide to keep him on the roster into training camp, the preseason, and the regular season.