Which teams should be thinking about making a run at Baker Mayfield?
For weeks, two teams have been linked to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield -- the Panthers and the Seahawks. With all teams in position to study film from offseason workouts and with plenty of teams perhaps not having clear answers at the position, which teams should be at least pondering the possibility of a potential upgrade from their current projected starter to Mayfield?
On this weekend featuring not much actual news, now is as good a time as any to try to identify the universe of teams that should at least be thinking about Mayfield. Here they are, in no particular order.
If Judge Sue L. Robinson decides that Deshaun Watson should miss the entire season, or if on appeal the Commissioner makes that ruling, the Browns will need a quarterback for all of 2022. Mayfield makes the most sense, on paper. Unfortunately, the bridge between Baker and the Browns has been obliterated. The only way to mend fences would be for the Browns to offer him more money and an unimpeded path to the open market in 2023. Even then, it’s probably not enough.
When the Steelers made quarterback Kenny Pickett the 20th overall pick in the draft, the door seemingly slammed on the possibility of Mayfield making a beeline to the ‘Burgh if he’s ultimately cut by the Browns. But with Pickett by all appearances not ready to play, isn’t Mayfield (if healthy) a better option than Mitch Trubisky? Mayfield definitely is. And while that would be an intriguing answer for 2022, it could throw a wrench in the plans for 2023, if the Steelers have a great year with Mayfield. Some would call that a good problem to have.
They’re reportedly still haggling with the Browns over the amount of money the two teams would pay toward Mayfield’s 2022 guaranteed salary of $18.8 million. At some point, the logjam needs to be broken. If the Panthers wait too long, one of these other teams may snatch him.
Baker Mayfield is a better option than Marcus Mariota. Maybe the Falcons will come to terms with that during the slow weeks. Maybe they’ll realize that it won’t get any easier to get people to buy tickets and attend games absent a quarterback who plays well enough to make an NFC South also-ran into a potential contender.
Despite periodic reports of significant interest, they’ve done nothing to demonstrate it clearly and conclusively. Maybe they’re simply playing the cards close to the vest in the hopes that he’ll eventually be released. Regardless, the Seahawks are doing a good job of selling the idea that they’re comfortable with Geno Smith or that new darling of the U.S. Open, Drew Lock.
They were one of the teams pursuing Deshaun Watson. That necessarily makes them a potential contender for Mayfield, despite the presence of Jameis Winston. Maybe the Saints genuinely believe that Winston when healthy is better than Mayfield when healthy. Reasonable minds definitely would differ on that point.
Those familiar with this specific web destination may remember that I’ve been trying to type this one into existence. Mayfield is better than Jared Goff. Period. And Mayfield much better fits the current vibe that coach Dan Campbell is trying to create than the California kid who landed in what must feel to him like Bizarro Oz.
The new power structure didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones. Although they refuse to explain it this way, they basically are betting that he won’t be good enough to make them want to apply the much pricier franchise tag in 2023. Isn’t Mayfield better and more accomplished than Jones? Yes and yes. If the Giants aren’t sold that Jones will be the guy for 2023, why not grab Mayfield now and see if he can become the future for a team that is still trying to adequately replace Eli Manning?
They claim to be all in with Davis Mills. And, in fairness to Mills, he’s possibly working his way toward a fairly high ceiling. Still, if the goal is to win now, Mayfield is the better option. And while they could have had him as part of the Watson trade, the Browns likely would have placed too much value on Mayfield at the time. As part of a separate transaction, the Texans possibly could get him for a lot less.
Could the best bridge to the Trey Lance era not be Jimmy G. but Baker Mayfield? Maybe. But they’ll be far better off letting Lance commence the process of becoming the best version of himself that he eventually will be.
I know I said I’d list the teams in no particular order, but I saved this one for last. TuAnon won’t like this, one bit. But let’s be fair. Mayfield, when healthy, can do much more than Tua has ever done. And with Mike McDaniel drawing up the plays, Mayfield could be exactly what the Dolphins need to hit their full potential in 2022 and beyond. If they can get him for cheap, they definitely should consider it. Even if they won’t.
That’s the full list. It probably means he’ll end up with a team that didn’t make the cut. Regardless, if he’s healthy, Mayfield has the ability to be very good. He could be the difference between making the playoffs and not qualifying. He could be the difference between one-and-out and winning a playoff game or two. Don’t let a 2021 season marred by a nasty Week Two shoulder injury cloud that reality.