Despite the fact that Baker Mayfield has requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns, who have already replaced him with Deshaun Watson, and there are multiple NFL teams who are in desperate need of a veteran quarterback, he is still a member of their roster.
While the odds remain high that someone will eventually want to trade for Mayfield, or that he will get snatched up as soon as he’s released, ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio floated an interesting theory on Monday around the notion that the Browns might actually keep him around for the 2022 NFL season.
While Watson is obviously the team’s quarterback now, there is always the possibility that he gets injured, leaving them without a viable starter. It’s also entirely possible the league could send a message and bring down a hammer on Watson, suspending the QB over the various allegations made against him. In the wake of Trevor Bauer’s two-year suspension by MLB over similar allegations, we could see U.S. sports leagues stepping into a new era of zero tolerance.
At that point, the Browns could, in theory, tell Baker that he gets the chance to prove himself worthy of a free agent signing elsewhere following the season if he comes in and holds things down in the meantime. They’re already paying his fully-guaranteed salary of $18.8 million and his contract runs out after the year is over. Perhaps the two frenemies can put their differences aside in the short term to help each other out.
It feels a bit far-fetched given everything that Mayfield has said and done since the trade. But as he found out this offseason, things can change in a hurry in the NFL. And if his options are to sit out an entire year and wait for someone to offer him pennies on the dollar, or go out and try to spite-win for the Browns so that he can earn a good contract next season, maybe it’s a deal worth taking.
Or, of course, the Seahawks or Panthers could trade for him tomorrow.