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Browns can Afford to Play Waiting Game in Trading Baker Mayfield

As much as the Cleveland Browns might want to trade Baker Mayfield quickly, they are in a position to wait for a price they want.
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Baker Mayfield's tenure with the Cleveland Browns was all but over before the team acquired Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans. With Watson on the team, it seemed as if the Browns would want to deal Mayfield quickly, so both sides could move on from what has been an ugly week of back and forth, but the Browns are comfortable waiting to make a deal, even if that means waiting until August.

There are 18.8 million reasons to get Mayfield off the salary cap. But if a team was never intending to spend that money in the first place, carrying that cap charge doesn't impede the team from operating.

The Browns are only slated to pay Watson a hair over $10 million in 2022. The reason for that isn't because the team is trying to go all in for the sake of a Super Bowl run this season. That doesn't mean they aren't going to try, but with Watson likely to be suspended, leaving newly signed backup Jacoby Brissett to play quarterback those games in his stead, the postseason isn't guaranteed.

The reason the Browns are giving Watson a low salary now is likely because they want to create a significant amount of rollover cap for next season and going forward. It will not only help pay for the $54 million Watson is scheduled to earn in 2023, but allow them some added flexibility.

So whenever the Browns trade Mayfield, which could drag on into July even August unless they get the deal they want, they would the then have the ability to rollover the $18.8 million Mayfield was set to earn, giving them $37.6 million in 2023; the original $18.8 million plus another $18.8 million in rollover.

The Browns want to create wiggle room, so they can maintain their viability over several years rather than just trying to make a play in a single season. Watson isn't on a rookie contract, so there's no sense building the team like he is.

Watson and Myles Garrett are on the same schedule, both under contract for five years. The Browns want to make five worthwhile attempts at a Super Bowl rather than just one. That window could extend further if the team extends those two contracts. The only reason the Browns should feel the need to borrow money against the future would be if those players are going to leave or are simply at the end of their careers, which is what happened with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints with their respective quarterbacks.

The recovery from Mayfield's shoulder can also play into this, since he can't do much at this point, which is also impacting the timeline for the San Francisco 49ers to make a deal with Jimmy Garoppolo. The healthier Mayfield gets and the longer some of these teams go without addressing their quarterback positions, pressure will increase. The Browns are counting on it.

The only scenario that is unacceptable for the Browns is cutting Mayfield. His salary is guaranteed and they are simply not going to carry that cost, even if it means giving Mayfield away for a seventh-round pick in two years. That gives them options and leverage to get far more.

The Browns are going to continue building their roster within the salary cap constraints Mayfield presents, waiting for an offer that they deem acceptable. Mayfield, at this point, is a vehicle to recover some of the resources given up to acquire Watson. The Browns will rollover a sizable amount of money, potentially over $25 million this year to help them compete in future seasons, maintaining their ability to operate above the traditional limits of the salary cap.