With the calendar quickly approaching June, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has yet to land with a new team and based on new reports, he likely won't be landing anywhere anytime soon despite interest from other teams.
According to Jeff Howe of the Athletic, both the Seahawks and Panthers remain in the peripheral monitoring Mayfield's situation and have expressed interest in acquiring the quarterback. However, the sticking point continues to be the amount of his nearly $19 million in fully guaranteed salary that the Browns will absorb and how much the acquiring team will have on their tab, which has left all parties in a "holding pattern."
Coming off offseason shoulder surgery, Mayfield isn't 100 percent healthy, which has played a role in the lack of urgency for other teams such as Seattle and Carolina to facilitate a deal. Cleveland's decision to give Deshaun Watson a fully guaranteed contract amid sexual abuse allegations has also reportedly led to angst from other organizations about trading a draft pick for the disgruntled quarterback.
But more than anything, the last year on Mayfield's contract has been the primary reason for negotiations between the Browns and other teams being at an impasse.
In regard to their interest in Mayfield, the Panthers could still be in the mix as they seek a franchise quarterback. Currently, former first-round pick Sam Darnold remains the starter despite a rough 2021 season in which he completed less than 60 percent of his passes and threw 13 interceptions compared to only nine touchdown passes. Behind him, the team did use a third-round pick on Mississippi signal caller Matt Corral, who could compete for snaps against Darnold right away.
Considering the league landscape, the Seahawks remain the most intriguing fit for Mayfield in the aftermath of trading away nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson to the Broncos. Unlike the Panthers, they did not draft a quarterback, opting to build up the trenches early using three of their first four picks on tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas as well as pass rusher Boye Mafe. They also didn't make any major additions at the position in free agency, leaving veterans Drew Lock and Geno Smith atop the depth chart.
However, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have praised both Lock and Smith throughout the offseason, with the latter holding an advantage early due to his familiarity with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's system. Based on their words and actions, they have seemed content with the possibility of rolling into the 2022 season without any other additions at the position.
In fact, when asked about Seattle possibly trading for a quarterback during an interview with Ian Furness of KJR 950 last week, Carroll outright shot down the idea.
“I don’t see us making a trade for anybody at all. I don’t see that happening,” Carroll said.
With that said, Schneider never leaves a stone unturned and if the Browns reach the point where they are willing to eat most of Mayfield's 2022 salary in exchange for a late day three pick in 2023, the Seahawks may change their tune to land an upgrade at the most important position in the game.
Even if Mayfield isn't a top-10 or even top-15 quarterback, unlike Lock and Smith, the former No. 1 pick out of Oklahoma has led a team to the postseason. Before battling through a left shoulder injury last year, he enjoyed a career year in 2020 with 26 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions, helping Cleveland finish 11-5 and nearly upset Kansas City in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Only 27 years old, Mayfield has always had a giant chip on his shoulder and after the Browns didn't honor their word by trading for Watson, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner will be motivated to bounce back and show his former team they made a mistake. Carroll and Schneider have always placed a premium on talented players who overcome adversity, so it's hard to envision them not being interested if they don't have to absorb much of his salary.
Ultimately, Cleveland does not have much leverage in regard to a trade and Carolina and Seattle likely are waiting the situation out hoping Mayfield eventually gets released. In that instance, either team could sign him for a veteran minimum while his former team eats most of the bill.
That still could happen in coming weeks, especially if Mayfield reports for offseason workouts and inevitably becomes a distraction. But with Watson facing a possible - if not probable - suspension, the Browns won't want to let him go for nothing. Though repairing their relationship may be impossible at this point, they could try to mend things enough for him to consider starting while Watson is out. Ironically, that may be the best bet for both parties now.
In the meantime, the Seahawks and Panthers will keep their phone lines open, but with neither team desperate to swing a deal, nothing should be expected on the Mayfield front in the near future.