The Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield are in a bit of a predicament at the present moment. The team sold the farm in a trade for Deshaun Watson before finding a taker for Mayfield and his $18 million deal in 2022.
In most similar scenarios, a trade would be obvious. The problem now is that jobs are filling up all over the NFL, and the Browns have absolutely zero leverage in a trade. They already have their quarterback, and no team is going to make a compelling offer for someone Cleveland gave up on.
But perhaps one team could still seek him out. The Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to Denver and got Drew Lock in return. Yet they got Lock for a reason and could roll with him, along with a new signal-caller in the draft.
The Carolina Panthers are linked as well, even if Sam Darnold is on a fifth-year option of his own. But let's say neither team ends up wanting Mayfield. If that is the case, the Browns will end up with the worst-case scenario.
Browns may be forced to outright release Baker Mayfield
The former No. 1 overall pick was given up on by the Browns, and the team even seemed to leak information that he wasn't mature enough for the job. What did they think that would do for his draft value?
Teams all over the NFL have passed up on him for other options. It was rumored that he wanted to go to the Indianapolis Colts, only for that organization to trade for Matt Ryan. Could he replace Ryan? No, as the Atlanta Falcons quickly filled that opening with Marcus Mariota.
The Washington Commanders got Carson Wentz, the New Orleans Saints got Jameis Winston, and the Minnesota Vikings are keeping the faith in Kirk Cousins. The options had already dwindled before the Browns even thought to trade him.
This raises questions about what the backup plan was if the team didn't land Watson. Fans can see the Falcons had Mariota in their back pocket. But the Browns? They can just ignore this hypothetical because their plan worked.
Their only hope may be Seattle. Yet that may not make much sense if they have any faith in Lock. If they do, adding Mayfield and all his past baggage may not make much sense.
So if this worst-case scenario happens, the Browns can either keep him and fine him all year for not showing up or just release him. That would incur an $18.8 million cap hit sitting on the books all year.
The Cleveland front office must have thought their former No. 1 pick would have some takers. Yet an ugly dead cap figure looks more likely as teams around the NFL continue to avoid taking a chance on Cleveland's latest failed project.