Is Baker Mayfield Exiting the Cleveland Browns?

Baker Mayfield is in an interesting position. He's still a member of the Cleveland Browns, but the team made the trade for Deshaun Watson and signed him to a $230 guaranteed contract. Currently, Watson is dealing with multiple lawsuits about sexual misconduct allegations and could be suspended for the entire year, leaving the Browns with limited options at quarterback. Could this mean Mayfield will be back with the Browns or is he ready to move on? 

When Mayfield spoke to reporters at his camp this week, he said: "I think it's been pretty obvious the mutual decision on both sides is to move on. I'm thankful for my four years in Cleveland. There was a lot of ups and downs and a lot of learning experiences that I'll forever keep with me." The Browns have attempted to trade Mayfield but have had a hard time getting a deal done. One issue is money as the Browns exercised Mayfield's fully guaranteed team option last year, meaning he will earn nearly $19 million this year regardless of if he plays for the team or not. 

One team that is interested in Mayfield is the Carolina Panthers and they are willing to cover nearly $14 million of his salary. But the Browns would have to cover up to $9 million, which is something they want to do. Also, it's been reported that some officials in the Panthers organization aren't sold on Mayfield being a franchise quarterback. 

What could happen is the Browns will make a trade with the Panthers and get a mid-to-low-round draft pick while covering a good amount of his salary. But if Watson is suspended, the Browns could see is Mayfield wants to be the starter for one more season before he becomes a free agent next year. 

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Mayfield was selected No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Browns. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2018, losing the award to Saquon Barkley. In his four seasons as the Browns' starting quarterback, Mayfield posted a 29-30 record and led the team to the playoffs in 2020. In the playoffs, the Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team's first playoff win since the 1994 season.