Baker Mayfield

AFC North Notes: Green, Mayfield, Big Ben

During the Bengals’ loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, receiver A.J. Green moved within one touchdown of Chad Johnson for the franchise’s all-time record. But while he was chasing that milestone on the field, his comments after the game might be more significant. Speaking to the media, Green made it “very clear” there’s a good chance he won’t be back in Cincy next year, Ben Baby of ESPN.com writes. “I love my time here,” Green said. “Who knows what is going to happen? I will be ready for anything and be excited to get back to playing football whether it is here or somewhere else.” It’s a stark shift in tone for Green, who has always insisted he envisioned himself playing his entire career with one team.

Green is in the midst of a disappointing season that was supposed to be a triumphant comeback for the former All-Pro after he missed all of 2019 with an ankle injury. Cincinnati placed the franchise tag on him this offseason to buy some time on making a long-term decision, but his production obviously hasn’t matched his price tag so far. There was speculation earlier this year that he wanted to be traded after his usage declined, although he publicly denied that. So far on the year Green has caught only 41 of 88 targets, racking up 419 yards and two touchdowns. Baby notes that Green’s tone has “drastically changed,” and it looks like we might be nearing the end of what was a legendary run with the Bengals. For many years in a row, the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft was one of the best wideouts in the game. Assuming he does explore his options on the open market this spring, at 32 and coming off multiple recent injury-plagued years, he likely won’t be getting any sort of big contract.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Baker Mayfield had himself a night on Monday Night Football, even as the Browns fell to the Ravens. The former first overall pick has really turned it on recently, and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote even before last night’s game that the young quarterback was “playing himself into blockbuster extension territory in the offseason.” Kay Cabot writes that the coaching staff in Cleveland has grown convinced as the season has gone on that they’ve got their quarterback of the future, and that if he closes the season strong “he can expect to receive the blockbuster extension in the offseason.” It’s been a nice turnaround for the Oklahoma product, as his struggles early on in the year had many questioning whether he was the long-term answer for Kevin Stefanski. With his performances the last few weeks, he’s silenced most of the critics. He has only one interception in his last six games, and has the Browns on the verge of clinching a playoff berth. Mayfield is still under team control for two more seasons after this one, and Kay Cabot writes that at the very least the Browns will be exercising the fifth-year option in his contract for 2022 this offseason. It sounds like he’s about to get a whole lot more than that though.
  • Mayfield isn’t the only member of the Browns looking for an extension. Receiver Rashard Higgins is playing out the final year of his deal, and while Kay Cabot writes Cleveland will “likely” re-sign him, she also says nothing is imminent on that front. While she notes that players like Higgins are in a holding pattern as teams wait to see what the 2021 salary cap will look like, she also says he “will likely be wrapped up long-term.” The 2016 fifth-round pick had a huge touchdown on Monday night, and now has at least 65 yards in three of his past four games. His playing time has fluctuated through multiple different coaching staffs during his time with the team, and he had only four catches in ten games last year. But when given the opportunity he has usually delivered, like when he had 572 yards and four scores in 13 games in 2018. Now, it sounds like he might finally get rewarded after playing 2020 on a deal that paid him only $910K.
  • The Steelers have now lost back to back games, and Ben Roethlisberger has struggled mightily in both of them. Even before Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports wrote that sources told him Roethlisberger’s lingering knee injury has “become a source of greater concern” within the organization. Interestingly, La Canfora reports that Roethlisberger’s close relationship with offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner “has been the cause of some worry” within the team. La Canfora notes that Big Ben is granted wide authority to change calls as he sees fit, and the implication seems to be that he has been checking out of runs too much and dictating the short passing game offense that has begun struggling mightily in recent weeks. Roethlisberger has now gone four straight games averaging 5.8 yards per attempt or fewer. The ground game still wasn’t able to get anything going against Buffalo, and if Roethlisberger’s knee issue turns out to be more serious than we’ve realized, this Steelers offense could be in permanent trouble. This will be a situation to monitor as the regular season draws to a close.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/11/20

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: DL Tyrone Crawford
  • Claimed off waivers from Colts: DL Ron’Dell Carter

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Browns Place QB Baker Mayfield On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns have placed starting quarterback Baker Mayfield on the reserve/COVID-19 list, according to a team announcement. Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network was first to report the news (via Twitter), and the team’s statement can be found here.

Luckily, Mayfield did not test positive for the coronavirus. Instead, he is considered a close contact with a staff member who tested positive, and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal says that staff member is not a coach. Based on when the contact occurred, Mayfield could be back at practice on Wednesday if he continues to test negative.

Since the Browns have a bye this week, it appears that Mayfield won’t miss any game action. If something should change in that regard, Case Keenum is available to take the reins.

Mayfield has had an up-and-down season in 2020 after a disappointing sophomore effort last year. He was terrific in a Week 7 win over the Bengals, but he flopped in Cleveland’s Week 8 loss to the Raiders. At 5-3, the Browns still have a good chance at a playoff berth, especially considering their favorable schedule, but questions about Mayfield persist.

On the season, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft has completed 61.4% of his passes and has thrown 15 TDs against seven picks, good for a 90.9 QB rating. But he has feasted on teams with poor defenses and has struggled against playoff contenders.

He will have a chance to right the ship against the Texans next week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Baker Mayfield’s Job Not In Jeopardy

Browns QB Baker Mayfield‘s inconsistent play this season, combined with his disappointing sophomore campaign in 2019, has led to plenty of speculation that the former No. 1 overall pick could be benched in favor of backup Case Keenum. However, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says that’s not going to happen.

Per Cabot, Mayfield will get the final 10 games of the season to prove himself. Though she does add that he may not keep his job if he continues to throw a high number of interceptions, the Browns are still high on Mayfield and believe his performance will improve.

Mayfield obviously offers far more upside than Keenum, and Cleveland has far more invested in the third-year passer, so the decision is not an especially difficult one. Still, the fact that Mayfield has played well against poor defenses in 2020 and has struggled mightily against the better teams is cause for concern. He did play through sore ribs in last week’s blowout loss to the Steelers and had only one full day of practice leading up to the game, so perhaps there is reason for optimism moving forward.

After all, the 4-2 Browns have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, and after they battle the Bengals this afternoon, they will have a bye next week. At that point, Mayfield should be completely healthy and ready to lead a talented offense towards a playoff berth.

If he does play well down the stretch, Cabot says Cleveland will certainly pick up his fifth-year option, though the team’s evaluation may be made more difficult by the relatively low level of competition that Mayfield will be facing. If he does not play well, or if he continues to be hit-or-miss, new GM Andrew Berry will have a very tough call to make.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Notes: Garrett, OBJ, Mayfield

On Sunday, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett will face off against the Steelers for the first time since last year’s infamous contest. During the final moments of Cleveland’s win over Pittsburgh last November, Garrett ripped off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and proceeded to hit him over the head with the object. The fracas resulted in a season-ending suspension for Garrett.

The 2017 first-overall pick told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that he considered walking away from the game during his ban.

“I would’ve been OK,” Garrett said. “I love football. I love competing, I love my teammates, and I definitely want to win, but at the end of the day, I’m still a guy. I’m still a young man who has a lot of life to live and my life is much more than football. I just would’ve moved onto something else I enjoy and found another way to save my competitive nature, whether it would’ve been trying out for a basketball team or going to play baseball like [Michael] Jordan.

“I would’ve found something else I love to do, whether I was a writing coach or whatever. I would’ve left with my head held high and I wouldn’t have looked back.”

Garrett hasn’t missed a step following his return to the field. Through the first five games of the 2020 campaign, the 24-year-old has 15 tackles, six sacks, and a league-leading three forced fumbles.

Some more notes out of Cleveland:

  • Garrett also told Cabot that he’d welcome a face-to-face meeting with Randolph. “If it were to happen, I’d be fine with it,” he said. “Not just fine, but I wouldn’t mind it and I’d be happy to make it happen, if there were a way. I’m not sure how I’d go about that, how I’d broach that. I’m not even sure if he’d want to do that but I wouldn’t have a problem sitting down with him and just not talking about the incident, just talking man-to-man, how we move forward, and just being better men and football players and not letting something like that happen again…Whether we can do that, I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to extend the olive branch and make that happen.”
  • Cabot tweets that wideout Odell Beckham Jr. had his second COVID-19 test come back negative today. As a result, he’s been cleared to play against the Steelers tomorrow. The receiver was sent home Thursday after coming down with an illness, and he stayed away from the team facility on Friday. ESPN’s Jake Trotter notes that Beckham continued to participate in meetings remotely. Following a three-touchdown performance in Week 4, Beckham had five receptions for 58 yards during last week’s win over the Colts.
  • After suffering a rib injury during last weekend’s win, Baker Mayfield was a limited participant at practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately, he was back to full participation on Friday, and despite his questionable tag for tomorrow’s game, it sounds like the quarterback is on track to play. “Like we’ve been saying all along, he’s improving every day,” said head coach Kevin Stefanski (via the team’s website).

Injury Updates: Mixon, Mayfield, Mahomes

Week 1 of the NFL season unfortunately saw a bunch of big names go down. Nick Foles is out indefinitely after breaking his clavicle, and Tyreek Hill will miss a few games with a shoulder issue. They weren’t the only ones to suffer potentially significant injuries, and we’ve got all the latest updates down below:

  • The 49ers already suffered a blow to their deep backfield when they placed Jerick McKinnon on IR prior to the start of the season, and now they’re down another member of the group. Tevin Coleman was knocked out of their Week 1 game against the Bucs by an ankle injury, and he left the locker room with a boot on his foot, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Maiocco notes he’ll have an MRI on Monday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game he was “concerned” about Coleman’s ankle, Matt Barrows of the Athletic tweeted. Shanahan also implied the team will promote Jeff Wilson Jr. from the practice squad, and said the team will look at adding outside running back help. Matt Breida figures to take on a more prominent role in the meantime while Coleman is sidelined.
  • Speaking of running backs with ankle injuries, Joe Mixon suffered one of his own. The Bengals’ runner is “believed to have just an ankle sprain,” according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, who tweets that “early reports [are] optimistic.” It’s unclear how sever the ankle sprain is, although fortunately it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be a longterm absence for the Oklahoma product.
  • Baker Mayfield had a rough game in his highly anticipated 2019 debut. He threw three interceptions, and to make matters worse also hurt his hand. Mayfield had his wrist and hand wrapped and went for an X-Ray after the Browns’ to the Titans, sparking some concern. Fortunately he suffered only a bruise and the injury is “not considered serious,” a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).
  • Fans were also left holding their breath when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes went limping off the field. Mahomes returned to Kansas City’s win over the Jaguars, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid said after the game Mahomes had a sprained ankle, according to Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). It doesn’t sound like Mahomes will miss any games, although his mobility may be limited moving forward.
  • The Falcons got blown out by the Vikings, and they also lost a key piece. The team fears that rookie first-round pick Chris Lindstrom fractured his foot, according to Jay Glazer of The Athletic (Twitter link). Lindstrom won the competition to start at right guard, and the organization thinks very highly of the 14th overall pick. Lindstrom’s rookie year could be over, as former NFL team doctor David Chao tweets the type of fracture “will determine if part of the season can be salvaged.” Even if he does make it back, it won’t be for a while.

Latest On Dolphins, Josh Rosen

Sent to the Dolphins for second- and fifth-round picks, Josh Rosen apparently did not go on the trade block until minutes before the Cardinals selected Kyler Murray.

Steve Keim texted Rosen’s agent, Ryan Williams, just before the Murray pick to give him permission to join the Cardinals in finding a Rosen trade partner, Robert Klemko of SI.com reports. When Keim asked Williams if the Patriots were interested in making Rosen Tom Brady‘s heir apparent, Williams wondered why this wasn’t worked out weeks ago — when the Murray-to-Arizona rumors started.

The Redskins laughed at the Cardinals’ request for a first-round pick, per Klemko, who adds Keim did have a contingency plan that involved keeping both Murray and Rosen on the roster.

The Dolphins did not enter into the Rosen equation until the draft was 20 minutes old, with the Giants’ and Redskins’ first-round quarterback picks eliminating the other primary Rosen suitors. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wonders if the NFL was responsible for the Cardinals’ 11th-hour approach to dealing their previous starter, with a pre-draft Rosen trade removing the drama surrounding the first overall pick.

When Keim and Chris Grier spoke at the Combine, Rosen’s name did not come up, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Grier called Keim about Rosen 20 minutes into the draft, but Breer adds the GMs did not reconnect on the quarterback until Friday afternoon.

We’d fielded some calls from some people asking if we were willing to move down in the second round,” Grier said, via Breer. “Our goal before the draft was, if we’re able to pick up a first or a second in 2020, that was something we’d consider. But we were more than willing to take a player at (pick No.) 48. There was a player we really liked. And we had a couple calls.

We were ready to pick at 62 (after a trade with the Saints). And I’m telling you, Steve was pushing hard for what he wanted, and so were we. So we were to a point there where I wasn’t sure if it was going to get done or not.”

Miami’s previous front office studied Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen more closely than Rosen as prospects last year, Breer notes, due to the thinking, at the time, those two had a better chance of dropping to the team’s No. 11 overall draft slot in 2018. Because the Dolphins were able to land Rosen at an extreme discount, compared to his No. 10 overall price last year, Grier said the pick will not stop them from looking at first-round-caliber quarterbacks next year.

Every team in the league is looking for that guy that’s going to lead them to championships,” Grier said. “And so for us, we’re in a position where we’re trying to find that guy, like a lot of teams in the league. So yeah, it was an easy decision. And it doesn’t stop us from doing anything in the future. Who knows? If things go well and we feel he’s the guy, who knows? But it doesn’t stop us from doing anything.”

The Dolphins were the first team reported to be playing a 2020 long game at quarterback, having been connected to what is expected to be a Tua Tagovailoa– and Justin Herbert-fronted 2020 class for months. They will enter this season with Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick headlining their quarterback room, likely set to observe the former’s development while studying top college prospects. The Cardinals will go into OTAs with Murray and Brett Hundley as the main cogs in their quarterback room.

I absolutely would have competed if (the Cardinals) kept me, but I would’ve been kind of bummed about it because I knew I wouldn’t get a fair shake,” Rosen said, via Klemko. “A GM’s not going to draft a quarterback and draft another one the next year, higher, and then play the first one. It’s admitting you made two mistakes. It just wouldn’t happen.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets

Having ended their veteran quarterback search with a Ryan Fitzpatrick agreement, after pursuing Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor, the Dolphins continue to embark on a rebuilding track. In fact, the word “tanking” came up during one of the team’s head coach interviews, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald notes. Chris Grier, as could be expected, denied the team will use 2019 to tank.

Often one of the most active teams during free agency, the Dolphins this year have parted ways with starters Ryan Tannehill, Josh Sitton, Ted Larsen, Andre Branch and Danny Amendola. They let Ja’Wuan James and Cameron Wake walk. This leads Salguero to the notion the Dolphins are indeed tanking with the prospect of being in best position to land a high 2020 draft pick and have cap space when that league year begins. As of now, early projections have the Dolphins at $107MM in 2020 cap space — second in the league behind the Cowboys. And with Dallas set to extend several young talents, Miami looks poised to lead that pack. Fitzpatrick has made at least eight starts in a season nine times; his teams finished with a winning record in one of those seasons. Sunday’s move lends further credence the Dolphins are targeting the 2020 quarterback class.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Rob Gronkowski has not given the Patriots his decision on if he will continue his career in 2019, but if the future Hall of Famer wants an extension, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes this cannot happen until August 30 — a year after his previous contract adjustment, per an NFL rule. Long dissatisfied with a contract he agreed to in 2012, Gronkowski would be entering the final year of that deal if he returned for 2019. The Patriots could approach Gronk about a pay cut, however, at any point this offseason, per Volin. Gronkowski is due a $10MM salary and to count $11.86MM on the Patriots’ cap. The latest word on Gronk’s status is a return for a 10th season is more likely than a retirement.
  • Conversely, a Tom Brady extension can happen at any point this offseason. Since the Patriots did not adjust their quarterback’s cap number via the unmet incentives last year, Volin notes they can extend his contract before the 12-month mark from when the team included those incentives. Brady’s deal appears likely to be adjusted, with the 41-year-old passer’s contract-year cap figure sitting at $27MM.
  • Dialogue about the trade that moved the Jets up to last year’s No. 3 overall pick began at the 2018 Senior Bowl, with Jets VP of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger approaching Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds that January about a possible trade, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Christopher Johnson emphasized the Jets focus on quarterback scouting in 2017, primarily Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. The Jets targeted No. 3 overall because their sources indicated to them the Giants were zeroing in on Saquon Barkley, Cimini adds. Gang Green put its plan B into action a year ago today after Kirk Cousins spurned them.
  • The Dolphins are interested in acquiring a fullback, which marks a change from recent years. Specifically, they are exploring the addition of Michael Burton, per Salguero. Burton was Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-rated fullback last season but only played 49 snaps, not enough to qualify for full-time status. Only five fullbacks did meet those standards, illustrating this position’s scarcity on most teams. If not Burton, a four-year veteran who has played in Detroit and Chicago, Miami may target another UFA blocking back.
  • Prior to LaAdrian Waddle signing with the Bills, the Patriots conveyed interest in bringing him back, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com notes. The Pats kept an open dialogue with their swing tackle but were not willing to match the Bills’ offer, Reiss adds.

Stanford RB Bryce Love Tore ACL In Final Game

Though it was not reported at the time, Stanford running back and NFL draft hopeful Bryce Love tore his ACL during his final regular season game, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel writes

Thamel reports the star back underwent surgery to repair the injury on Dec. 18 with Dr. James Andrews and is expected to make a full recovery. He will be at the NFL Draft Combine in February, but will obviously be extremely limited. He is also too early in the rehab process to have a return date set.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Andrews and his team for making the surgery a seamless process,” Love said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, there’s no such thing as an ideal injury, but I’m on the path to recovery, and my goal remains the same — getting drafted by an NFL team and being the ultimate professional. I’ll be back better than I’ve ever been.”

Love burst on the scene as a junior, taking over for the departed Christian McCaffrey in Stanford’s backfield and rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. The breakout season helped him finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, behind only Baker Mayfield. His senior campaign was not as impressive, however, as Love logged just 739 yards on 166 carries in 10 games.

According to WalterFootball.com, Love is tabbed as the No. 5 running back prospect in the upcoming draft, with a projected draft spot coming in Round 2 or 3. That is likely to take a plunge following the news of the serious knee injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hue Jackson Discusses Firing, Dorsey, Quarterbacks

The Browns unceremoniously fired head coach Hue Jackson earlier this week. Jackson ended his Cleveland tenure with a 3-36-1 record, including a 2-5-1 record this season. As the Browns prepare for their matchup against the Chiefs tomorrow, Jackson will be sitting out an NFL weekend for the first time since 2000 (when he was USC’s offensive coordinator).

Jackson has naturally appeared in a number of interviews over the past week, including a sit-down talk with Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. We’ve compiled some of his notable soundbites below, although the entire interview (in which Jackson also discusses the power struggle over the offense) is worth reading in full:

On if he was surprised by his sudden dismissal:

“I was surprised. I’m not going to say just totally blindsided because there was just so much noise out there about what was going on with our football team that I thought was not true. But anytime there’s all these undercurrents going, there’s something in there. 

“I was surprised when both Jimmy and John walked in my office and let me know that they’d be relieving me as being the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve given it your all, and you’ve worked extremely hard and you do everything you can to try to put the place in the best position to move forward. But again, it’s their decision. I have to respect it and move on.”

On if there was any “discord” within the organization/coaching staff:

“I didn’t perceive it (that way). I think you can disagree with people and not have it be discord. Discord to me is a strong word. It means there’s always infighting. That’s a pretty hot word. 

“I know there was disagreements and rightfully so. Who doesn’t disagree? But I think the term internal discord was a little much.”

On his relationship with general manager John Dorsey:

“If there was a guy who could flip a roster and acquire talent at the rate we needed, it was John Dorsey. I also knew that if we didn’t start winning, with John Dorsey on board, that changes were going to have to be made. This is why I chose a veteran OC in Todd Haley. It’s why I chose Greg Williams as well.”

“There is no such thing as a clean start, or total rebuild, or a reset. The faster you move on from people, the longer it could take from the next person to turn it into their vision. I believe the constant changes only compound the difficulties for the next person to have the time and patience to be successful. 

“I strongly believe that I did a lot of work in a short time of laying the foundation for turning the place around. It’s unfortunate that they took the approach they did the first two years because those were two years that I couldn’t get back from a record and value standpoint.

“Had we been doing in year one what I was able to get us to do in year three, there’s no question we would already be a winning football team. You can’t go 1-15 or 0-16 and have people like you unless you come out and explain to everyone that you’re going to lose. And you can’t say that publicly.”

On the Browns’ decision to pass on Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes:

“We passed on three franchise QBs the first two years in Wentz, Watson and Mahomes. We played with a QB room with zero wins in the league. We played with street free agents and practice squad players in WRs. Yet our offense was the same or better than what we were doing this year. There is no way that should happen.

“You can’t pass on quarterbacks. You never pass on a potential franchise quarterback because you don’t know who’s going to be there in the future. I think Baker Mayfield is going to be a sensational player if they surround him with the right people, but they’ve got to give him help and run a scheme suited to his skill set.” 

On what’s next for his career:

“I learned a lot from this experience. But just as important, I never lost what I knew from my previous experiences and successes. So I grew significantly as a coach over the last three years through this process. I went in assuming that it would be a simple transition of just getting to coaching and it being all about playing ball. I learned early on that this wasn’t an accurate assumption.

“When there’s such a deep history of losing, it compounds and impacts everything. So this experience has allow me to grow and be even more prepared for the next experience. 

“I’m the same coach from three years ago. As you’ve seen with other coaches who have went on to have success after their time in Cleveland, I expect nothing less of myself as well. So we’ll see. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.