The NFL, like many businesses, is driven by deadlines. When it comes to the potential trade of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the deadline widely is viewed as the start of training camp. The truth is that the sooner the situation is resolved the better off everyone will be.
The Browns, Mayfield, and his new team will all benefit from permanently turning the page and moving on. The Browns clear the decks weeks before gathering for a camp that will be dominated by the Deshaun Watson situation. Mayfield will have certainty as to where he’ll be living and working in 2022, along with some extra time to have the kind of season that could set him up for a solid contract in 2023. And his new team will be able to get him started on reviewing the playbook, watching film (on his own, but still watching it), and otherwise getting himself mentally ready for the crash course to come.
The problem is that, unless everyone agrees to a clear date between now and the start of camp for getting something done, the start of camp will continue to be regarded as the deadline.
Multiple reports have indicated that the Browns have become willing to pay roughly half of Mayfield’s $18.8 million salary in order to facilitate a trade. These reports ignore the other key factor in the transaction — how much will the new team surrender in trade assets?
The lower the pick, the more the new team pays. The higher the pick, the lower the salary the new team shoulders. So maybe the Browns really are willing to pay half. To do that, maybe the Browns also expect more.
The Panthers have been linked most strongly to Mayfield. Some think the Seahawks are in play. I’m still trying to speak a trade to the Lions into existence.
At some point, don’t be surprised if Mayfield isn’t squeezed to cut his pay a little bit in order to get this done. Something like $1 million could be the amount that closes the gap and gives him his best chance to get himself properly ready to have the kind of season that will make him one of the hotter names on the open marker in 2023.
Plenty of folks who follow the league have short memories. A year ago, Mayfield was regarded as an ascending talent, a potential star. A Week Two shoulder injury derailed his 2021 season. In the right place with the right coaching and the right teammates, he could still be very good.
The sooner he gets to that place, the better.