Baker Mayfield is not planning to show for Browns OTAs, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Browns are surely fine with this, given the distraction their former starting quarterback could cause alongside their new one. Cleveland’s OTAs begin Tuesday.
The team has hung onto Deshaun Watson‘s disgruntled predecessor two months after his trade request surfaced, and Panthers and Seahawks interest has not reached the point where the NFC teams are satisfied with how much the Browns are willing to pay to move Mayfield off their roster. Cleveland has, however, expressed a willingness to pay a “good chunk” of Mayfield’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option salary ($18.9MM), Albert Breer of SI.com notes.
A game of chicken may well be taking place between the Browns and the NFC teams, whose quarterback depth charts have drawn consistent scrutiny. Carolina came closest to acquiring Mayfield, entering into trade talks with Cleveland, but it is rolling out a Sam Darnold–Matt Corral competition. Seattle is going with a Drew Lock–Geno Smith setup. Neither group inspires at this point, and the Browns may be betting one of the NFC teams agree to their terms to finally upgrade at the game’s top position. But the chance the Seahawks or Panthers could land Mayfield for the league minimum exists. That has not enticed either to trade a low-level draft asset for the former No. 1 overall pick.
Because offset language exists in Mayfield’s rookie contract, he would not be able to double dip in salary this year. But if the Browns release him, the former Heisman winner could stick his old team with a $17MM-plus bill by signing for the league minimum ($1.1MM). As such, the Panthers or Seahawks agreeing to pay even a third of Mayfield’s current $18.9MM salary would mean decent savings for the Browns.
OTAs and minicamp could play a major role in how the Panthers and Seahawks proceed, as a healthy version of Mayfield would stand to be an improvement for both teams. Mayfield’s health and the presence of fellow trade-block resident Jimmy Garoppolo still impacts this saga as well. Seattle’s minicamp is scheduled to wrap up June 9; Carolina’s is slated to conclude its offseason program June 16. If neither team blinks, the Browns — who are likely to excuse Mayfield from their mandatory minicamp — will be forced into a decision ahead of training camp. Mayfield is expected to be ready for full participation, following his January shoulder surgery, by training camp, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes.