The Browns and QB Baker Mayfield Are Breaking Up Like High-Schoolers

Emotional notes? Check. Public flirtations with others? Check. A boombox over the head? We're waiting...

Baker Mayfield looks on during warm-ups
Baker Mayfield looks on during warm-ups.
Jason Miller/Getty

Based on the way both parties have behaved in public, it appears the relationship between the Browns and franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield in Cleveland is on the rocks.

Drafted No. 1 overall four years ago, Mayfield played under four head coaches during his first three seasons in the NFL but was nonetheless able to lead the Browns to the club’s first playoff victory in 26 years during the 2020 campaign. Playing much of the 2021 season with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, Mayfield struggled and finished 27th in the league in QBR as the Browns missed the playoffs and wound up with an 8-9 record. Despite that, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry gave Mayfield the dreaded vote of confidence after the team’s season ended. “We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back,” Berry said in January.

That no longer appears to be the case as the Browns made it clear they want to see other quarterbacks earlier this week when team officials flew to Houston to pitch Deshaun Watson on waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland via a trade from the Texans, a league source told ESPN. Watson is still weighing his options, but it appears that Mayfield’s time in Cleveland is up no matter what happens. “After some conversations, even if the Cleveland Browns are not able to land QB Deshaun Watson, the sense I get is Baker Mayfield will still consider other options,” according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

Russini’s report certainly seems accurate as Mayfield thanked Cleveland fans in an emotional note he shared on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is,” Mayfield wrote. “Cleveland, the past 4 years have been nothing short of truly life changing since I heard my name called in the draft to go to Cleveland. This is not a message with hidden meaning. This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me. We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs. I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process… Cleveland will always be a part of Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives. Sincerely, Baker Reagan Mayfield.”

While heartfelt, the letter may have been a bit premature as Mayfield is still under contract on a rookie deal that calls for him to be paid a reasonable $19 million in 2022. If the Browns strike out on Watson, bringing back Mayfield on short money in a prove-it contract year would not be the worst thing in the world. But that may no longer be an option as Mayfield has effectively shot his way out of town, albeit with very soft bullets. That sort of behavior lends credence to a report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN that the Browns and Mayfield are breaking up because the Browns want an “adult” at the quarterback position.

If Mayfield ends up being traded or even cut, that likely won’t happen until after Watson makes his decision. The Colts, Saints, Seahawks and Panthers should be viewed as possible landing spots for Mayfield if none of those teams are able to land Watson.

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