As if things weren’t difficult enough with the Jimmy Garoppolo situation, there may be a former first overall draft pick at quarterback on the market soon. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Browns’ meeting with Deshaun Watson on Tuesday may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and ends Mayfield’s time in Cleveland.
Even without consummating a trade for Watson, the damage to Baker’s relationship with the Browns may already be done:
Mayfield, who was understandably rattled by the Odell Beckham Jr. ordeal last season, would undoubtedly find it awkward to return to Cleveland in 2022 and start for a team that took the Haslams’ private jet to Houston on Tuesday afternoon to woo his possible replacement and offer the farm to get him.
Mayfield also publicly criticized Kevin Stefanski’s playcalling on two occasions last season, and wasn’t always happy with the scheme or the way he was used. Even if the Watson trade fails, Mayfield and his camp might decide that a change of scenery would be best for him in the final year of his contract.
That thought certainly seems valid considering this tweet from Mayfield himself last night:
With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is. pic.twitter.com/psipN96cmh— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) March 16, 2022
If Mayfield has to be traded without Watson going to Cleveland, it is possible, of course, that the Browns would want Jimmy Garoppolo, but that is unknown at this point.
Baker could be very attractive to all the teams that lose out on the Watson sweepstakes. He’s a former Heisman Trophy-winning number one overall draft pick that turns 27 next month. More than that, he’s cheap. Mayfield will play 2022 under the fifth-year option amount of $18.86 million.
The Colts, Saints, Panthers, and Seahawks are all still going to need quarterbacks. The Seahawks, in particular, would be able to make something happen with all the extra draft picks they acquired in the Russell Wilson trade. You could certainly do a lot worse than Baker, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett the year after moving on from the best quarterback in franchise history.
This is why the 49ers should never have let things get to this point with Jimmy Garoppolo. As I have said many times since the season ended, the specific return in the deal isn’t as important as the cap space the team would gain by trading him.
Any return at all is like found money. Even if it’s only a day-three draft pick, you take it because you’re getting assets for someone you were getting rid of anyway. Considering how well the 49ers have drafted in the later rounds, why would they choose to cut Garoppolo and get nothing instead?
The 49ers had the perfect market in which to trade a quarterback. While there were some superstars available via trade, there were far more QB-needy teams out there. Couple that advantage with the incredibly weak draft class and free-agent crop of quarterbacks, and there’s simply no reason for Jimmy Garoppolo to be still counting against the team’s salary cap just hours from the new league year.
Let’s hope Baker Mayfield doesn’t take away another of the dwindling options the 49ers have left.