The Browns are no longer in the running to land Deshaun Watson. The team has been informed Watson will not waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a move there, leaving Baker Mayfield as the team’s projected starting quarterback (Twitter link via Mike Garafolo of NFL Network).
Nate Ulrich of The Akron Beacon Journal notes that the team’s owners, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “authorized a massive trade offer” for Watson. While that won’t take place now, since he isn’t interested in coming to Cleveland, it further demonstrates the team’s willingness to pursue an upgrade over Mayfield.
It came out earlier this week that the former No. 1 overall pick wouldn’t be part of the trade package the Texans would be receiving for Watson, if the Browns had won the bidding war to acquire him. Mayfield made it clear his preference would not be to end up Houston, but this whole process has led many to expect he will be playing somewhere other than Cleveland next season.
Mayfield, who will be 27 by the start of next year, has publicly acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding his future with the Browns. However, as Garafolo notes, the team informed him they would only search for “top-tier” signal callers to take his place. With Watson no longer available, keeping the former Heisman winner at a cost of $18.8MM is “still very much an option“.
As for Watson, the list of potential landing spots has been narrowed to three: New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina. It was reported earlier today that the Saints have met with the three-time Pro Bowler for a second time, and have made the necessary salary cap moves to absorb his contract. At a minimum, this news makes it all-but certain Watson will be headed to the NFC South.