Baker Mayfield may have become Brock Osweiler 2.0

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) rushes into the end zone to score during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 2
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) rushes into the end zone to score during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 2 /

The value for Baker Mayfield may have fallen below his $18.9 million cap charge, making him untradeable unless the Browns add incentives. 

It may be that the Cleveland Browns will have to give up a draft pick or an additional player to persuade another team to take Baker Mayfield off their hands, due to his $18.9 million cap charge in 2022, much like in 2017 when the Houston Texans sent Brock Osweiler and a second-round pick to the Browns, just to unload his $16 million dollar salary.

To refresh everyone’s memory about Osweiler, the Texans were filled with buyer’s remorse after signing Osweiler to a free agent contract in the previous offseason. He had generally outperformed Peyton Manning in the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl campaign, though the Broncos went with the aging veteran in the playoffs and were rewarded with the Lombardi Trophy at the end of it all.

However, after a year of watching Osweiler under center in Houston, coach Bill O’Brien decided that Osweiler was not the answer and decided to trade him with $16 million worth of guaranteed money still left on his contract. Browns GM Sashi Brown had plenty of cap space and proposed a deal. “I’ll take Osweiler off your hands, but you give me an extra second round draft pick in 2018.”

“Oh, hail yeah!” said O’Brien. That second-round pick became Nick Chubb, by the way, and is one of the reasons why O’Brien ran that franchise into the ground and why Deshaun Watson became disenchanted with the way it was run. It was the only deal of its kind in NFL history.

It made perfect sense, but it required one side (the Texans and O’Brien) to admit that they had made a mistake, which is why other NFL teams don’t do deals like that more often.

Osweiler was a decent quarterback who could have won a few games for them but nevertheless was cut by the Browns who at the time were running a kind of Montessori kindergarten for rookies and two-year players at quarterback. Rookie DeShone Kizer wound up as their starter.

Is Baker Mayfield in the same situation as Brock Osweiler?

Is Baker Mayfield in that same situation as Brock Osweiler? The idea was that the Browns were going to bring Deshaun Watson on board and wait to be overwhelmed with offers of first-round draft picks for Mayfield.

After all, here was a quarterback who already had insurance commercials just like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. But the offers have not yet come flying in, apparently.

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The biggest hurdle is that, in terms of 2022 cap charges, Mayfield is currently tied with Sam Darnold for 13th highest in the NFL, according to Spotrac. Mayfield’s 2022 cap charge is actually higher than the 2022 cap charge for Matt Ryan, Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford, because teams are now back-loading quarter deals into the future. But Mayfield is locked into a single year, the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, and there is no wiggle room unless a multi-year deal is signed.

Who wants a quarterback for only one season at the rate of the 13th highest cap charge in the league? That makes no sense.

At the time the option was exercised, Mayfield was arguably about the 13th most valuable quarterback in the NFL when he was healthy and in sync with the Stefanski offense. But what about now?

Does anyone know what the injury prognosis is for a completely torn labrum after playing almost a full season in a body brace? Is this going to be a chronic problem for the rest of his career?

There’s no polite way to ask this question, but is this a career threatening injury or do the docs truly have this under control? Most importantly, what are prospective trading partners likely to judge the risk to be on this point? They need to feel confident that his left shoulder can take a hit in order to feel good about bestowing draft riches on the Cleveland Browns for the privilege.

Moreover, in addition to the physical problems of the 2021 season, many analysts including this one believes that Mayfield interjected secondary objectives into the offensive scheme last season. In other words, the 2018 version of Mayfield was the point guard who distributed the football all over the field.

In 2021, however, the Browns had to play Mayfield hero ball and win with Mayfield as the star of each victory. All quarterbacks have receivers that they “fall in love with,” but Mayfield’s level of drama seemed to be higher than the league average. A persistent theme was placating receivers’ egos by getting targets for certain players and not others.

His besties were Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper, and there were other major playmakers that he would rather not throw to even when they were wide open (Odell Beckham, Jr., David Njoku and Nick Chubb). These offensive problems were fixable and were partly scheme and play calling related.

Nevertheless, the Browns’ weird, dysfunctional 2021 offense does not make anyone want to rush out and throw money and draft picks away to obtain Baker Mayfield.

Neither does Mayfield’s tendency to be a drama queen endear him to general managers around the NFL. Why do you need the headache? For that reason, the Browns may have to give away a substantial draft pick to cause another team to pick up Mayfield’s salary.

You never know, though. All it takes is one team to catch quarterback fever. I never thought that sitting out a year and getting 22 civil lawsuits would cause Deshaun Watson’s contract to increase in value and make him worth three additional first round draft picks, but that is exactly what happened.

Next. 20 Worst free agents signings in franchise history. dark

Maybe some team will forgive Mayfield’s medical records and tweets and figure he provides just the spark that their team needs.