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Armando Salguero: Baker Mayfield Has Likely Played His Last Game For The Cleveland Browns

This happened: The San Francisco 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo and in his first heathy full season as their starter, the team went to the Super Bowl.

Fifteen months later, the 49ers traded away three first-round draft choices so they could be in position to select Garoppolo’s replacement. The team traded up with the Miami Dolphins to pick Trey Lance who is — right or wrong, good or bad — the team’s future.

Except the 49ers didn’t jettison Garoppolo. They married Lance for the next half-decade but continued to date Garoppolo because their rookie quarterback wasn’t quite ready to start.

So Garoppolo sat in the same meeting room with his eventual replacement, worked with the coach who agreed he needed to be replaced, and conducted himself like a professional.

Was he insulted? Yes.

Did he show it? Did he sulk? Did he demand a trade?

No.

Garoppolo, in fact, played through injuries and helped the 49ers reach the NFC Championship Game in January, making that his second trip to such heights in three seasons.

That’s maturity.

This also happened: Last season as head coach, Brian Flores began to question whether Tua Tagovailoa could develop as expected, and the quarterback learned through the media and his agents that the Dolphins were actively considering trading for Deshaun Watson.

And this drama bled into the season. So every Wednesday, Tagovailoa had to answer questions about a possible trade when he spoke to reporters.

And he had to be in the locker room with teammates who knew he might be with the team the next day. Or he might not be

Did Tagovailoa complain publicly? Did he text reporters to say he felt insulted?

Did he ask to be traded so he could escape an uncomfortable situation?

No.

So what is Baker Mayfield doing?

Mayfield had his agent ask the Cleveland Browns to trade him on Thursday, per multiple reports. He is unhappy and went so far as to text ESPN to say the relationship with the Browns is “too far gone to mend.”

And the reason Mayfield feels this way is because the Browns spent part of the past week trying to trade for Watson.

That attempt to add an elite quarterback failed because Watson told the Browns, thanks, but no thanks. He’s going elsewhere.

But the damage is done in Baker Mayfield’s mind. The Browns picked him No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft to be the face of the franchise, but now the club obviously prefers a different face.

So now he now prefers a different team.

The Browns, you should know, have told anyone who would listen via sources that they have declined Mayfield’s trade request.

And that means absolutely nothing.

The Seattle Seahawks promised never to trade Russell Wilson.

But he was eventually traded to Denver.

The Houston Texans said they’d never honor Watson’s trade request.

But, well, you know.

Teams say stuff like this. They have to say stuff like this to protect their negotiating position for when they eventually engage in trade talks.

So forget the Browns saying they won’t trade Mayfield because the truth is they likely have to trade him.

What has happened this week has made it practically impossible for Mayfield to remain with the Browns. Although Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has offered to personally intervene and make Mayfield feel better about the situation, no one is buying it.

There is simply no way the team could openly try to find a new quarterback and Mayfield respond with a trade request and then everyone comes in for the first day of training camp as if nothing happened.

There’s no way Mayfield could come back as the starter and lead the locker room or be the conduit that passes along the will of the organization to the locker room.

Mayfield cannot ever speak to or about Browns culture with his teammates when they know he wanted to escape that culture.

Mayfield, in short, has lost the locker room in Cleveland.

His status among his Cleveland teammates is irretrievably damaged. And there is no fix short of him leaving.

We know this because players who are watching this saga from the outside are taking their shots at Mayfield now.

Running back Duke Johnson, who is a free agent, was with the Browns in 2019 when he requested a trade. Mayfield was asked his opinion of Johnson’s trade request at the time.

“You’re either on this train or you’re not,” Mayfield answered, per Cleveland.com.

When Mayfield was asked if the situation led to any form of awkwardness because Johnson was still on the team, Mayfield shook his head and said, “It’s self-inflicted. It is what it is. It’s not awkward for anyone else in this building.”

That stung Johnson. And on Thursday, nearly two years later, he responded to Mayfield’s train quote.

Mayfield is gone in Cleveland.

The Seattle Seahawks could be interested. Maybe Indianapolis could be interested.

And the Browns might want to move on to Matt Ryan, for example, if Watson agrees to be traded to the Falcons.

Ryan, even at age 36, is an upgrade to Mayfield.

He’s been a better quarterback than Mayfield has been and he’s more mature than Mayfield off the field. Unlike Mayfield, he’s an adult.

Ryan has also watched as his team chased Watson in trade this week. He hasn’t asked to be traded and even agreed to delay receiving a $7.5 million roster bonus for four days to let the Watson situation play out and let the Falcons remain in the hunt.

That’s the maturity Mayfield lacks.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

6 Comments

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  1. I’m no Mayfield fan, but teams have to be smarter than leaking info that they’re pursuing another QB, when they already have a franchise QB, even if they are pursuing another QB. A deal isn’t done until it’s done, so you might not want to burn all the bridges around you beforehand. Now what? Classic Browns’ front office move.

    • Yes on Allen. No on Jackson. I believe Mayfield has won as many playoff games as Jackson. Jackson has not shown to be any better than Mayfield and arguably played on more talented teams until 2020. Jackson will also spend his entire career fighting injuries. Mayfield is arguably the second best QB in the class. Many NFL “experts” considered Darnold “can’t miss” and Allen “too raw” and coming from nowhere. I am not sure there was an NFL team that would have picked Allen first. It was all Darnold (complete bust) or Mayfield. And I love Allen despite being a Chiefs fan. Was actually disappointed for him after their elimination- nobody deserved to lose that game. But then the Chiefs choked vs Cincy, so, oh well.

  2. Lets see prior to BM they had won 2 games in 2 years playoff appearance forget about it revolving head coaches in his first 3 years yet 11-5 in the playoffs they hadn’t had a record like that in decades dudes all right

  3. There are habitually bad Franchises and they all have one thing in common: bad ownership/front office. The Browns looked liked they had finally cleaned this up but nope. Mayfield has his issues, but he works hard, wants badly to win and played hurt the entire season. I don’t recall the same from the “Duke Johnson’s” of the world. Who? Pursuing another QB with questionable character doesn’t exactly create employer loyalty in your existing QB. Remember, Baker was pretty darn good when healthy in 2020 and the Browns were a tire fire in a dumpster before he got there. I love how certain know-nothings continually blame Mayfield and nobody else.

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