The Cleveland Browns appear to have seriously misjudged the trade market for their spurned quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Just 14 months and one shoulder injury removed from leading the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1994, Cleveland is struggling to find a franchise willing to part with much of anything in return for Mayfield’s services.
NFL analyst Ari Meirov and Pro Football Focus’s Brad Spielberger broke down potential trade partners for Mayfield during the Tuesday, March 22 edition of The Ari Meirov NFL Show. Per their discussion, the list has dwindled down to a single team — the Seattle Seahawks.
“Now that the Colts spot is taken by Matt Ryan, I kind of feel like the only possible destination is Seattle,” Meirov said.
Meirov’s rationale was two-fold — that the Seahawks have a history of interest in Mayfield and that the best quarterback currently on Seattle’s roster, former Denver Broncos signal caller Drew Lock, is an inferior player.
I do believe there were reports in 2018 that Seattle liked Baker Mayfield. And there was a report, which I didn’t really buy at the time but now that we’re here it actually makes sense, that Seattle at least considered offering Russell Wilson to Cleveland for the No. 1 overall pick. The belief at the time was that it was either for Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield.
So they do like him. They liked him at the  draft. We’ve heard about how much they like Drew Lock. I don’t know if you can go into the season with Drew Lock as your guy. I could see a scenario where they do trade for Baker Mayfield and he goes in there at least to compete with Drew Lock.
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Several Possible Trade Partners For Mayfield Quickly Evaporated
Spielberger agreed with Meirov, adding that perhaps the most QB-desperate team in the league employs an offensive decision maker who has never had much respect for Mayfield’s skill set.
“Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator (OC) Ben McAdoo called Baker Mayfield a QB6 back in 2018, so I don’t think he’s a fan,” Spielberger said. “I think Seattle could make sense. I think they would explore it. At this point, the price would not be much, and they obviously have a ton of draft capital following the Russell Wilson deal.”
Within just the last few days, the Indianapolis Colts, the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints all presented as potential landing spots for Mayfield. The number of potentially interested teams rendered the market for Mayfield strong, perhaps a mid-round pick or better. But then on Monday, the dominos began to fall.
The Falcons, who were in the Watson sweepstakes along with the Saints, traded Ryan to the Colts. Within hours, Atlanta had signed former Las Vegas Raiders backup QB Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal. The Saints weren’t far behind with their re-signing of Jameis Winston, who played well in 2021 before suffering a torn ACL. He also signed a two-year contract.
Within one day, three potential suitors for Mayfield had evaporated. Considering the perspective of the Panthers’ OC on Mayfield as it was set forth by Spielberger, it appears safe to consider a fourth trade partner has also gone by the wayside.
Detroit Lions Possible Sleeper Team in Mayfield Trade Talks
There is an argument to be made that the Detroit Lions could be a sleeper team in the mix for Mayfield, considering former Browns general manager John Dorsey is a high-ranking executive with the team. Dorsey drafted Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
The Lions are currently captained by Jared Goff, who was 3-10 as a starter last season and threw just 19 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. Goff is under contract through the 2024 season, though there is an out built into the deal that allows the Lions to cut the QB next offseason at the cost of a $10 million dead cap hit.
The biggest impediment to Detroit dealing for Mayfield is the price. Trading for him now would mean the Lions assume his nearly $19 million salary in 2022. Coupled with Goff’s cap hit of more than $31 million, that would have the Lions committing approximately $50 million (nearly 25% of the salary cap) to two QBs who both present serious questions moving forward. The flip side is that the Lions could see what they have in each player and then part ways with one, or both, at the end of next season with relative ease.
If neither the Seahawks nor the Lions are willing to pull the trigger on a Mayfield trade, the Browns are likely to cut their four-year starter in favor of backup QB Jacoby Brissett. Watson is likely to face some kind of suspension from the NFL as a result of his off-field issues — namely 22 civil cases filed against him alleging sexual misconduct.
Mayfield could serve as the starter in Watson’s stead rather than Brissett, though that would mean the Browns would have to pay his full salary after already engaging in a spending spree this offseason. Beyond that, Mayfield demanded a trade following the Browns’ pursuit and signing of Watson, adding that he would sit out if his request was not honored.