Baker Mayfield won’t be part of Browns’ offer for Deshaun Watson, but could be dealt with even if trade doesn’t happen: Mary Kay Cabot

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baker Mayfield will not return to Texas as part of the trade offer for Deshaun Watson, but he could be processed even if the trade does not go through.

A league source told cleveland.com that the Texans want picks, not players, which is a big reason Mayfield isn’t in the Browns’ package. The Texans are also set to launch Davis Mills, their 2021 third-round pick at Stanford, again next season.

That’s probably fine with Mayfield because Houston probably wouldn’t be his first choice for a landing spot.

The Texans are looking for three first-round picks for their three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, and the Browns will have to pay that price if they hope to land Watson. In fact, they might even have to up the ante on the two teams he met Monday night — the Saints and the Panthers — because the Browns are an enemy of the AFC and could face the Texans for a Super Bowl berth. at one point. The Falcons are also scheduled to meet Watson, 26, on Wednesday, according to NFL Network.

If the Browns, who met with Watson on Tuesday afternoon in Houston to vet him further and try to convince him to waive his no-trade clause for them, complete the successful deal, they will have to find another home for Mayfield. , who is under contract for 2022 at his fifth-year option amount of $18.86 million. At this bargain price for a starting quarterback, Mayfield promises to have several suitors, including some of the teams losing Watson.

The Browns meet Deshaun Watson on Tuesday

Several other teams in need of a starting quarterback would be good landing spots for Mayfield, including the Colts, who went 9-8 last season and missed the playoffs when Carson Wentz faltered late. , and the Seahawks, who went 7-10 in Russell Wilson’s final season there before he was dealt last week to the Broncos. Seattle received two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick, along with Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant and defensive lineman Shelby Harris. The Broncos got Wilson and a fourth-round pick.

The Colts are poised to win right away with good quarterback play, and some of the other teams are intriguing. The Saints went 9-8 and missed the playoffs, the Falcons 7-10 and the Panthers 5-12. The Giants, who were reportedly interested in Mitchell Trubisky before he signed with the Steelers, may also want another starter to compete with Daniel Jones.

The Browns have arguably the best roster of all of Watson’s suitors, including their shiny new toy in former Cowboys Pro Bowl catcher Amari Cooper, whom they traded on Saturday. They will also promise more weapons to come in the draft or elsewhere. But if Watson chooses another team, it could be difficult for the Browns and Mayfield to coexist, and he could still be dealt.

Mayfield, who was understandably rocked by Odell Beckham Jr.’s ordeal last season, would no doubt find it difficult to return to Cleveland in 2022 and start for a team that flew the Haslams private jet to Houston on Tuesday after- noon to woo his eventual replacement and offer the farm to pick him up.

Mayfield also publicly criticized Kevin Stefanski’s play twice last season and was not always happy with the scheme or the way it was used. Even if the Watson trade fails, Mayfield and his camp may decide that a change of scenery would be best for him in the final year of his contract.

The Browns had publicly stated at the NFL Combine two weeks ago and reiterated to Mayfield’s agents that they fully expect him to be their starter in 2022, while simultaneously acknowledging that they will explore all opportunities to improve. each position on the list.

At the time, Watson still had criminal charges pending in connection with 22 massage therapists who accused him of sexual assault and harassment. That hurdle was cleared Friday when a grand jury decided not to indict him, but he still has several civil lawsuits pending and still faces suspension by the NFL under his personal conduct policy.

If the Browns lose the Watson contest to the Saints or another team, their options for another starting quarterback dwindle. If the Falcons land him, four-time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan will be available, but the price would be steep. The Browns have had Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on their radar this offseason, but new coach Josh McDaniels is committed to keeping him and will likely push for the big extension Carr is seeking. The Browns haven’t been hot on the Jimmy Garoppolo trail, but he might look more appealing if Mayfield decides he wants out and the pit runs dry.

They could also draft a first-round quarterback and pitch him right away, but some of the quarterbacks in this draft, including Liberty’s Malik Willis, could need a year to watch and learn.

The Browns could still move forward with Mayfield and hope he accepts his fate, puts his head down and wins football games like Garoppolo did last season after the 49ers traded for Trey’s draft Spear. Garoppolo led the 49ers to the NFC Championship, knowing full well he was likely gone after the season.

But the visit with Watson appears to be a dealbreaker, and Mayfield and the Browns could be headed for a divorce whether Watson lands here or not.

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