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Going into the NFL season, there were questions about whether the Browns would lock quarterback Baker Mayfield into a long-term deal. It was unclear how long and how much the Browns would invest in Mayfield, given his inconsistent play. But there were hardly talks that this season could be Mayfield’s last in Cleveland. That’s now a real possibility.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports Mayfield may ask for a trade this offseason if he “doesn’t get assurances that things will change next season.” That includes head coach Kevin Stefanski.
“Mayfield’s issues with Stefanski bubbled below the surface most of the season, with Mayfield feeling like Stefanski’s playcalling didn’t always put him in position to succeed or play to his strengths, sources told cleveland.com.”
Stefanski, by most accounts, is a good NFL head coach. Meanwhile, Mayfield is an average starting quarterback at best. So the Browns may trade Mayfield, whether he wants it or not.
Mayfield has one year left on his rookie deal, at a salary of $18.86 million. Mayfield proved throughout the season that he is not worth a long-term contract. Mayfield crumbled in each of the Browns’ biggest games this year. While Mayfield has played most of the season injured, a hurt shoulder is not an excuse for his on-field decision-making. See Mayfield’s season-ending four-pick afternoon against the Packers on Christmas Day for an example.
The Browns have a Super Bowl-caliber roster but will miss the playoffs this season, in large part because of Mayfield’s play. In addition, Cleveland’s Super Bowl window could quickly close after next season after key players test free agency.
However, the question is whether there’s a better option than Mayfield. Because trading Mayfield sounds good until the Browns start someone even more average than Mayfield — like Case Keenum.
There’s a chance that Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson are traded this offseason. Could the Browns be players for one or all three? That likely depends on Rodgers, Wilson, and Watson. Wilson and Watson have no-trade clauses and have yet to express an interest in Cleveland. Though Rodgers does not have an official no-trade option, his status and play essentially give him the power to veto trade partners.
If not those three, the Browns could look at short-term upgrades with Matt Ryan or Jimmy Garoppolo.
Browns’ fans once believed Mayfield was their franchise quarterback. After this season, Mayfield has shown he’s no different than the rest of the Browns’ past, lackluster and mostly temporary quarterbacks.