With the news, per Mike Garafolo, that the Cleveland Browns are no longer in the running for Deshaun Watson, how does the team move forward? Do they really believe that Baker Mayfield is still a viable option?
The whirlwind that has been the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes has officially come to a close for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were informed of Watson’s decision to remove Cleveland from consideration, per Mike Garafolo.
However, that is not all that Garafolo said in his tweet. The Fox Sports 1 NFL insider also said that the Browns still view Baker Mayfield as their quarterback going forward, and that Mayfield’s agents were notified that the team would only explore top-tier quarterbacks this offseason. That leaves a ton to unpack and digest for Browns fans.
The first part of Garafolo’s tweet will be enough to fracture an already divided fanbase by itself. Watson deciding to remove Cleveland from consideration will be a relief to some and induce panic in others. On the field, Watson would have been a clear and unequivocal upgrade at the quarterback position for the Browns. However, Watson’s well-documented and still ongoing sexual misconduct civil cases will follow him wherever he ends up.
Even if Cleveland would have landed the superstar quarterback a massive contingency of the fanbase would have been immensely conflicted. For some Watson’s arrival would have signaled the end of their fandom for the Browns. In effect, the Browns risked the chance of losing even while winning. In the end, pursuing Watson was a long shot, but something the front office deemed worth the risk.
Are Cleveland Browns really turning back to Baker Mayfield?
But it will be the second part of Garafolo’s tweet that will have the most lasting ramifications. After the events that have transpired over the last four days, the thought of the Browns turning back to Mayfield as their quarterback seems like a delusional fantasy. Even before Mayfield penned the city of Cleveland a farewell letter, it surely felt like the damage has already been done.
Even if the Browns truly wished to go forward with Mayfield, is the bridge still in existence, let alone passable? Whatever transpired between Mayfield, his representatives, and the Browns have stayed behind closed doors for the most part, but the Browns front office has spoken volumes with their actions this week.
It is painfully obvious that they do not view Mayfield as the future of the franchise. Of all the available options, starting the 2022 season with Mayfield under center seems like one of the least viable. If it all falls apart, what would that do to the foundation that this regime has helped establish?
On the other hand, if it goes the other way and Mayfield performs beyond expectation, why would he want to stay with the franchise beyond 2022? Then Cleveland’s only option would be to hold him hostage with the franchise tag. There does not appear to be an amicable ending if the team does decide to stick with Mayfield.
If anything, the last four days have shown the front office and the fans what life will initially be like when they move on from Mayfield. Perhaps it’s better to just rip the band-aid off now, instead of playing whatever this is out.