The story on whether or not Baker Mayfield will end up being a great NFL quarterback has yet to be written. However, assuming he does end up living up to the hype, we already have a helluva “what could have been” situation for him.
As we all know, the Cleveland Browns selected the Oklahoma quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The latest QB hand-picked to be the savior of the league’s worst franchise, he’s also trying not to be the latest QB to fail to live up to that hype (Hi, Johnny).
But what would have happened had the Browns passed on him? The New York Giants seemed set on drafting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Who knows if the New York Jets would have picked Mayfield instead of USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten the chance. At least, that’s according to Mayfield’s agent, who told ESPN that the New England Patriots were considering trading up to the No. 2 spot if Mayfield had been available.
Jack Mills was on “The Business of Sports with Andrew Brandt” podcast when he mentioned the shocking possibility. According to him, the New York Jets were dead-set on taking Mayfield with the No. 3 pick if he was available. Whether or not the Patriots wanted to make the move in part to spite their division rival is unclear, but according to Mills, the Pats almost leap-frogged them.
“We had another team which is going to surprise you. Another team had said, ‘You may get a big surprise on draft day, at No. 2, if he’s available.’ And it was the Patriots,” Mills said. “They had 23 and they had 31 and they had two seconds. We thought, ‘That’s gonna be a heck of a move, to get up that high from where they are.’ And of course he wasn’t available so we never knew if that was a reality or not.”
Stoking the validity of the rumor, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said during a Monday interview on WFAN that while he had no intention of trading the pick, he did receive “one very reasonable offer.” He did not mention the team involved.
The Patriots, of course, have a guy named Tom Brady. He’s won a lot of Super Bowls, you may have heard of him. However, they don’t really have much of a backup plan or a succession plan in place for the 40-year-old. They’re going to have to start thinking about who will replace Brady sooner or later, so perhaps it’s no surprise that they thought about rolling the dice on getting him right here and now. In theory, Mayfield could have backed up Brady for two or three years before taking over.
Of course, that also begs the question, “would the Patriots push Tom Brady out if they had to?” Even though Brady has maintained an inhuman level of success and consistency, it’s got to end sometime. Plus there’s been a bit more conjecture recently about his relationship with Bill Belichick. He might want a fresh start for the final years of his career. And you never want to be left high and dry if that end comes sooner than later. Brady is always one injury away from missing a season (or worse). In theory, there aren’t that many more glory days ahead for a QB of his age (even though he’s coming off yet another Super Bowl appearance). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Patriots would want to cover their butts in case Brady is gone (one way or another) in one or two years.
We’ll probably never know if the Patriots seriously considered pulling the trigger on that deal. We also won’t know if Mayfield would have been worth it for at least a few years. But, boy, that’s an open-ended question that will keep NFL fans wondering for some time to come.