Will Deshaun Watson be accepted with open arms by Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and other new Browns teammates? Hey, Mary Kay!

CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this edition of Hey, Mary Kay!, I answer questions about Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield and more.

Hi Mary Kay: You know this locker room as well as anyone. Do you think these players will accept Deshaun Watson with open arms? Do you think he has been in contact with players like Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb? Thank you Mary Kay for all your hard work! #new beginnings —Jeff Lerner, Avon, Ohio

Hi Jeff: Thank you. I know Watson has already been embraced by many of his new Browns teammates. I’m told Myles Garrett reached out to him early on and welcomed him into the team. I know he hung out with Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah when he was in town for his introductory press conference and they were thrilled to have him. I’m sure he’s been in touch with his new No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper, and I know linebacker Anthony Walker willingly gave up his No. 4 to him, and it made him feel instantly accepted.

I’m sure he’ll have a lot in common with Nick Chubb because they’re both from Georgia, they’re both 26 and they’ve no doubt crossed paths and have mutual friends. I heard his former Texans teammate Jadeveon Clowney would like to be reunited with him, and Jarvis Landry’s agent, Roosevelt Barnes, told me the addition of Watson makes the Browns more intriguing for him. The Browns players are on the verge of winning, and I think they, like the Browns, believe that Watson makes them an instant Super Bowl contender.

Hi Mary Kay: Do you think the Browns would consider playing against Baker Mayfield to start the season if Deshaun Watson is suspended? — Bob Ruple of Novelty, Ohio.

Hi Bob: The plan is to start new replacement Jacoby Brissett if Deshaun Watson is suspended at the start of the season, not Baker Mayfield. The Browns hope to trade Mayfield before then and will only have him on the roster if they still have no takers for his $18.86 million deal. But if they have to wait for a starting quarterback to get injured, they will. They don’t want to give it away, and they don’t want to take part of his salary or throw away a draft pick if they don’t have to. If he’s here for training camp, it will be awkward to have him take reps behind Watson, but the Browns may have to keep going until a deal is done. The hard part is that the quarterbacks are not touched and therefore injured before the regular season. The Browns have to hope something decent happens before then so they can close the chapter on the Mayfield era.

Hi Mary Kay: Do you think Anthony Schwartz will be a key prize in the Browns’ receiving corps next season? I haven’t heard many people talk about its skills and benefits lately. I believe he can be a solid and deep threat to Deshaun Watson. What is your opinion? —Jordan Brimner, Leamington, Ontario, Canada

Hi Jordan: Greetings to Canada! In fact, I think Anthony Schwartz can be a nice complementary piece in the receiving corps this season after his injury-plagued rookie year. Schwartz, who has blistering speed, missed the entire offseason and preseason with a hamstring injury, then missed three games with a concussion during the season. But Schwartz, who is still raw, has a tremendous work ethic and will return for the offseason program ready to contribute in a meaningful way. He is smart, a quick learner and learned a lot from his mentor Jarvis Landry. I think he’ll make a decent jump in Year 2, and he’ll do better with Watson, who throws a deep, accurate ball. He will also return determined to erase a disappointing rookie season.

Hi Mary Kay: Do you think Andrew Berry may be waiting too long to sign more free agents? I thought DeVante Parker might be a good addition, but now he’s a Patriot. The same goes for defensive linemen. Is Baker Mayfield’s cap situation holding him back? —Robert Demyen, Hubbard, Ohio

Hi Robert: I don’t think Mayfield’s $18.86 million cap is stopping Berry from signing more free agents because they still have over $20.683 million of cap space, which is fourth in the NFL. , according to overthecap.com. Berry structured Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper’s contracts in such a way that they only count for a total of $15 million against this year’s cap. With perhaps a few more maneuvers, the Browns still have what they need to cover their rookie class, sign Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Landry if they can, and extend Denzel Ward – even if they have to wear the Mayfield’s full contract for a while. Ideally, they will remove most of the books from it as soon as possible. If his reps can find a team willing to creatively fund the deal, a pre-camp trade will be more likely.

Hi Mary Kay: With a likely Deshaun Watson suspension looming, how will that affect the Browns’ ability to make a playoff run with perhaps less time to gel in the regular season? – Emmett Caskey, North Canton, Ohio

Hi, Emmett: I got the impression at the NFL annual meeting in Palm Beach, Florida last week that NFL investigators will consider Watson’s two non-indictments by the grand jury as mitigating factors and that his suspension could be shorter than initially expected. It’s conceivable that it could end up being something like a six-game ban that is reduced to four, or something in that range. In a 17-game season, that would still give the Browns plenty of time to qualify for the tough AFC North playoffs. The AFC in general will be a battle until the end with the additions of Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. It promises to be great theater for the second consecutive season.

Hi Mary Kay: Wouldn’t it be better to trade Mayfield for lower draft picks like fourth and fifth this year and fifth and sixth next year or something to that effect? And maybe pay part of his salary? Can the Browns use the lower picks for the punter and a kicker and some special team players? — Stefanie Bay Frost, Petersburg, Virginia.

Hello, Stefanie: I don’t think compensation for the draft pick is the issue right now as much as teams’ reluctance to take on Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.86 million for 2022, especially if he’s competing for the job of departure and not the guaranteed QB1. There are three things keeping the Browns from heading headlong into the Deshaun Watson era: his 22 pending civil lawsuits, his impending suspension and Mayfield’s presence on the roster. With those things ironed out, the Browns can focus on football and get down to trying to make it to the Super Bowl. The range of draft picks you offer may be enough, but there’s no market for Mayfield right now, so even late-round pick deals are hard to come by.

Hi Mary Kay: What does Denzel Ward’s contract extension look like after that deal with Xavien Howard, plus Watson’s cap hits $50 million and more next year? — Andrew Howe, Erie, Pennsylvania.

Hello, Andrew: As usual, the longer a team waits to make a big expansion, the higher the price goes. Look at what the Ravens are up against now with Lamar Jackson, who they could have extended before last season at around $40 million a year. Since then, Josh Allen has signed extensions worth $43 million, Aaron Rodgers $50 million and Deshaun Watson $46 million, including an NFL record $230 million guaranteed. As for Howard, his new money average of $25,345 over the final two years of the deal makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL over those years. (Over the full five years of the deal, he’ll average $18 million for No. 4 in the NFL). Howard got the big bucks in part because of his high interception totals: 27 in six seasons, including 10 in 2020 and five last year. Ward tied his career high with three last season and has 10 in four years. But he’ll still likely be paid among the top five corners in the NFL because of his lock-in ability and because he’s the next man with skyrocketing salaries.

Hi Mary Kay: Could Baker Mayfield be draft day and what plays do they plan to fill in the draft. —David Morales, Lorain, Ohio

Hi David: Teams know Mayfield is on the trading block, so a draft day trade is certainly possible depending on what teams are able to do in the draft. If a team lands a Malik Willis or a Kenny Pickett, they’ll be less likely to jump for Mayfield. I still think the Browns will have their eye on a starting receiver in the draft and a defensive lineman, especially a point forward. I think they should consider moving from No. 44 in the first round or at least higher in the second to secure themselves one of the best receivers or point defenders. It’s deep enough at those two positions to land a starter at 44.

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