The Baker Mayfield Conundrum

I will not focus on college football realignment today…

I will not focus on college football realignment today…

I spent the last two days saying what I know and what I think; now it is time for me to shut up and let stuff happen before spouting off again.  So, let me turn to another sports saga that has been around for a long time but seems to be coming to a head about now.  I refer here to the Deshaun Watson epic.  Here is a quick reset:

  • Two dozen or so female massage therapists have accused Watson of sexual harassment/assault.  The specifics of their allegations are cringeworthy.
  • Two grand juries heard the evidence presented and opted not to levy any criminal charges in these matters.
  • Watson settled 20 of the civil complaints against him.
  • At least 4 other civil complaints are active and could theoretically go to trial.
  • The NFL process for determining if Watson should be suspended under the league’s “Personal Conduct Policy” is underway.  An arbiter hired by both the league and the NFLPA has heard the arguments and will issue a ruling sometime soon.
  • The NFL wants a stiff penalty; the union wants “time served”.  No surprise there…

There is a fundamental “football question” involved in this matter that devolves into two “football questions” rather quickly.

  • Question 1:  When can the Cleveland Browns expect to have Deshaun Watson available to play QB?
  • Question 2:  What can/will the Browns do with Baker Mayfield who is under contract with the Browns for 2022 (at $18.9M for the year) but who will be an unrestricted free agent once the 2022 season is over?

The answer to Question 1 will come out of the ongoing Personal Conduct Policy hearings; even if there is an appeal of the ruling there should be an answer sometime this month; there is an element of predictability here regarding timing.  The answer to Question 2 is far less bounded and there are lots of twists and turns that could come into play as the Browns seek an answer to Question 2.  So, let me try to follow a couple of possible pathways…

  • Scenario 1:  Watson receives no suspension; his penalty is “time served” and he reports to training camp on time and ready to go.  Mayfield was not happy to know that Watson would be replacing him as far back as when the Browns traded for him; Mayfield surely will not be a happy camper dealing with Watson as a teammate who took his job away from him.  So, do the Browns keep Mayfield as a very capable back-up or do they trade him to get something in return (remember he will be an unrestricted free agent after 2022) and/or to remove a “distraction” from the locker room?  In this case, I think the Browns find a trade partner and get rid of Baker Mayfield.
  • Scenario 2:  Watson is suspended indefinitely and all the signaling says that the NFL will not reinstate him any time before the start of training camp in the summer of 2023.  In this case, the Browns would likely choose to keep a disgruntled Mayfield on the roster and have him play through his disgruntlement.  Mayfield would be motivated to do well to increase his value as a free agent come February 2023; so, this would be a “Grin and Bear It Season” in the Mayfield household.  The downside for the Browns is that they will get nothing but a compensatory draft pick for Mayfield when he surely signs elsewhere next season.
  • Scenario 3:  Watson gets suspended for a significant part of – but not the entirety of – the 2022 season.  This is the tricky one for the Browns.  They have Watson signed for the future and their relationship with Mayfield is ruptured at best.  Do they trade him for assets that will help the Watson-led team down the road or do they “go for it” in 2022?  I think the Browns will opt for a trade in this scenario and acquire draft assets for future teams with Watson as the QB.

So, where might they find a team that wants Baker Mayfield?  I can think of 5 teams who could use a serviceable QB who is only 27 years old:

  1. Falcons:  The team is early-on in a rebuilding process; currently Marcus Mariota is the starting QB.  If the choice is Mariota or Mayfield going forward once the rebuild has borne fruit, I would take Mayfield.
  2. Lions:  Jared Goff is signed through the 2024 season but there is a potential “out” of his big contract at the end of 2022.  I think Mayfield is an improvement over Goff.
  3. Panthers:  I do not hate on Sam Darnold or PJ Walker nearly as much as other commentators do, but Mayfield is an upgrade over either one.
  4. Seahawks:  Reports say that Geno Smith is leading Drew Lock in the race to determine the starting QB in Seattle.  Need I say much more …?
  5. Texans:  The Texans need just about everything.  If Mayfield winds up there it would make for the moral equivalent of a Watson for Mayfield “trade” and that could be an interesting storyline – – if nothing else.

I did not focus on college football realignment today …

I did not focus on college football realignment today …

Finally, let me close today with a seasonally relevant comment by humorist Brad Dickson:

“Joey Chestnut needs to apologize to his colon.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “The Baker Mayfield Conundrum”

  1. Mayfield headed to Carolina for a handful of magic beans. If Watson is suspended for at least this year, are the browns officially on the draft clock yet?

    1. Ed:

      Even if the Browns have to go with Brisset for 17 games, they will not be the worst team in the league.

  2. I cannot imagine what it must feel like for lifelong Cleveland Browns fans to have to explain to their young kids why Deshaun Watson should be the starting quarterback.

  3. You called it right, SC. Well, sort of. Would you say you are better at predicting Baker Mayfield scenarios than NFL games?

    1. TenaciousP:

      If you think I am so bad at predicting NFL games, you can make a fortune by betting the opposite way…

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