Earlier this week, the rumor mill told the NFL world that the Cleveland Browns were talking to Deshaun Watson and likely pursuing him via trade. This presumably led to Baker Mayfield posting a good-bye message to Cleveland on his social media channels. Then nothing happened, and Thursday brought news the Browns were out of the Watson sweepstakes.
But the damage has been done. It was reported later on Thursday that Mayfield requested a trade from the Browns and feels the bridges have been burned.
Mayfield asking out is a surprise, but the possibility of him getting traded has been lingering since the end of a disappointing 2021 season. We theorized where Mayfield may end up back in January after his season ended due to various injuries. The QB landscape has changed significantly, to say the least, in the two months since it was published. It should be noted that Mayfield may not go anywhere, as it was later reported the Browns told the former No. 1 overall pick they wouldn't agree to his request.
It may just be posturing in an attempt to keep leverage with Cleveland. Maybe not. But the team would be remiss to not at least explore their options. With that in mind, here are three possible landing spots for Mayfield now that he's asked out.
The Vikings were named in the previous version of this article and now appear to be the only team who could give the Browns a quarterback back in a trade. Kirk Cousins signed an extension with the new front office in Minnesota, but they'd be wise to listen if the Browns called them up. Mayfield is younger than Cousins and, at this juncture, significantly cheaper. Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski coached Cousins for a few years up north and knows he can execute the offense at a reasonably high level.
In theory, both sides win here. The Vikings have hit their ceiling with Cousins and are beginning a new era after firing Mike Zimmer. They'd be better off seeing if Mayfield can turn it around and reach his potential than rolling with the known quantity currently on the roster. Cleveland gets an "adult" in the room, which is apparently what they want, and a player very familiar with the head coach's philosophy and scheme.
The Colts got off the quarterback carousel this offseason without a solid option on the roster after trading Carson Wentz. There are a few avenues they'll pursue to replace him, but Mayfield is their best shot at capitalizing on the quality roster they currently possess. He's young enough to be a long-term piece if it works out and his best seasons in Cleveland suggest he's more than capable of leading a team to the playoffs with solid stat lines.
The issue here is what the Colts would give up for Mayfield. They don't have a quarterback to offer the Browns in return for Mayfield's services. They've spent quite a bit of draft capital over the last few seasons and don't have their own first-round pick in this year's draft. Indy has a lot of high-end talent up and down the roster but wouldn't want to send out one of their best guys as a centerpiece for the trade. If the Browns get desperate, the Colts will pounce.
The Seahawks have the same issue Indy does -- they traded their starting QB from 2021 and don't have an established option to turn to. They claim to like Drew Lock but if a better option presented itself you can bet Seattle will jump right on it. Mayfield is that better option, young enough to reach his prime while Pete Carroll is still coaching and old enough that the Seahawks wouldn't be starting at square one like they would with a rookie or Lock.
Should Cleveland seek draft assets and draft assets alone in return for Mayfield, Seattle is a natural trade partner. They have a bunch of the Broncos' picks from the Russell Wilson trade, including No. 9 overall in this year's draft. It's unlikely the Seahawks would give up that pick but the fact that they have it makes trading other picks easier to swallow.