Amid speculation that the Cleveland is one of the finalists in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, current Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield appears to be preemptively saying his goodbyes.
Mayfield tweeted a letter directed at the city of Cleveland and Browns fans Tuesday that reads like a farewell message, as the quarterback’s name continues to be mentioned in discussions involving a potential Watson deal.
“This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me. We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs,” Mayfield wrote. “I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process. I can only control what I can, which is trusting in God’s plan throughout this process.”
While Mayfield insisted the letter did not have some hidden meaning, it very much reads as if he recognizes his days in Cleveland are numbered.
“I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I’ve always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap.”
Selected with first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield has been inconsistent over his four years as Cleveland’s starter. He set a then rookie record with 27 touchdown passes in his first campaign, but regressed in 2019 tossing nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Mayfield rebounded in 2019, leading the Browns to their first playoff win in over 20 years. He threw for 26 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. Mayfield regressed once again under the weight of expectations last season. Although he battled injuries, the Browns finished a disappointing 8-9.
It was reported earlier this offseason that the Browns would not extend Mayfield’s contract, but expected to go into the season with him as the starter.
“We have seen Baker play at a playoff level before in this league,” general manager Andrew Berry said at the 2022 NFL Combine. “Now, he had some struggles last season, but he was also injured. This was the first surgery he’s ever had in his life. I was there talking to him after he had surgery, and he was in good spirits. He’s on track with his recovery. We think Baker has a lot of good football in him.”
Now even that seems in doubt, but it’s unclear what the Browns would to with Mayfield if they do acquire Watson. He remains under contract for the 2022 season for $18.9 million, all of which is guaranteed, which means the Browns would have to pay it all under this year’s salary cap if they release him. They can trade Mayfield and the salary, if they can drum up a market for him.
The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints seem to be the teams in the running for Watson along with Cleveland. The Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions could also be in the quarterback market. Free agents Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston remain unsigned, while Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis await as likely first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.