The Browns met with Deshaun Watson on Tuesday, and Dianna Russini of ESPN.com tweets the team did not inform Mayfield beforehand of its interest in the Texans quarterback. Mayfield then posted a tweet thanking Cleveland, creating an ominous tone for this relationship’s future.
Even if Watson does not end up in Cleveland, the Browns may be preparing to move on from Mayfield. The fifth-year quarterback and the Browns are “breaking up,” Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com said during a TV appearance Wednesday (h/t gifdsports; video link). Mayfield is expected to consider his options, with or without Watson in Cleveland, according to Russini (on Twitter). Mortensen also added the Browns want “an adult” at quarterback. That will surely go over well in what appears to be a divorce in progress.
The former No. 1 pick would be interested in the Colts or Seahawks, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes, adding the Browns are now open to trading their four-year starter. It is unclear if either team would reciprocate that interest, but Mayfield appears to be planning for a Cleveland exit. The Seahawks should be considered an option, per Mortensen, who mentions Jimmy Garoppolo as a possible solution for the Browns.
If Watson heads to one of the NFC destinations in play, the Browns would be making a move similar to the Colts’ Carson Wentz trade. Indianapolis currently lacks a viable QB option, ahead of a draft with limited options at the position. The Browns, at least, have their first-round pick in this draft. One year and $18.9MM remains on Mayfield’s rookie contract.
This would be an explosive conclusion to a rocky relationship. Mayfield nearly won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2018 but struggled mightily under Freddie Kitchens in 2019. After his 2020 bounce-back showing that led the Browns to the playoffs, the outspoken quarterback ran into multifront injury trouble — headlined by a significant shoulder malady, which required surgery in January — and saw his 2021 production crater as a result. Mayfield also became a flashpoint figure in the Odell Beckham Jr. drama. Still, the early offseason pointed to the Browns bringing back their quarterback for a redemption shot on his fifth-year option. Plans are changing fast.