Editor’s notice: This was initially revealed Could 5 and has been up to date after Wednesday’s information the Browns have traded Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers.
BEREA, Ohio — The NFL draft got here and went, and quarterback Baker Mayfield was nonetheless a member of the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns could not swing a commerce with the Carolina Panthers on the time, and in line with a number of sources, by no means received shut. As talks intensified throughout the second spherical, sources mentioned Carolina needed Cleveland to pay a good portion of Mayfield’s assured $19 million wage subsequent season. The Browns balked and Carolina traded up into the third spherical to draft Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral.
The commerce talks resumed this offseason and Mayfield was traded to the Panthers on Wednesday in alternate for a conditional draft decide, a supply confirmed to ESPN. The Panthers can pay $4.85 million of Mayfield’s wage whereas the Browns can pay $10.5 million. The deal is pending a bodily.
In 2018, Mayfield arrived in Cleveland, a metropolis that has been trying to find a franchise quarterback because the Bernie Kosar period of the Nineteen Eighties, with monumental fanfare. However after quarterbacking the Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years in 2020, his standing with the entrance workplace and locker room declined. Struggles on the sphere, a messy cut up with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. that divided the staff, quarterback Deshaun Watson’s willingness to waive his no-trade clause to affix Cleveland, and a perceived slight from the Browns’ entrance workplace all contributed to successfully finish Mayfield’s time in Cleveland, pushing each side to hunt a contemporary begin.
In March, the Browns traded for Watson. Since March 16, 2021, 25 lawsuits have been filed towards Watson, alleging sexual assault and different inappropriate habits throughout therapeutic massage periods. Of these 25, one was dropped by the plaintiff when the decide dominated her petition needed to be amended along with her identify. Twenty of these civil fits, lawyer Tony Buzbee mentioned, have been settled. 4 stay and they are going to be tried after the 2022 season. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict Watson on legal expenses, however the NFL has been pushing for a suspension of at the very least a 12 months. Watson’s listening to earlier than the NFL and the NFL Gamers Affiliation’s collectively appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, completed after three days final week. There isn’t a timetable for Robinson’s determination. Watson mentioned he has “by no means assaulted, disrespected or harassed any girl” and that he had deliberate to battle the lawsuits earlier than most of them have been settled.
In final season’s opener towards the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs, Mayfield regarded just like the passer who had completed the 2020 season ranked No. 10 in QBR. The Browns scored touchdowns on their first three possessions earlier than lastly arising brief on Mayfield’s game-ending interception.
However in Week 2 towards the Texans, Mayfield suffered a torn labrum in his left — non-throwing — shoulder.
After that, he was by no means the identical.
Mayfield accomplished 82% of his passes in his first two video games final season, the most effective price within the NFL. The remainder of the best way, whereas carrying a harness to maintain his left shoulder in place, Mayfield’s completion price fell to 57.7%, second worst within the league.
His QBR tumbled to twenty seventh, the most important QBR drop-off (-30.4) of any passer from the 2020 season, in line with ESPN Stats & Info analysis.
By means of his advertising and marketing agent, Mayfield declined to talk to ESPN concerning the 2021 season or his exit from Cleveland. However throughout the “YNK” podcast revealed April 13, he mentioned the shoulder damage affected him mentally, in addition to bodily.
“When it began hindering my play and going downhill, that is after I was like, ‘Oh s—,” Mayfield mentioned on the podcast. “That is after I began shedding my very own self-confidence and simply shedding myself. This previous 12 months was tough.”
Following a 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 31, Mayfield’s season would get even rougher. And behind the scenes, his future in Cleveland would step by step develop into tenuous because the Browns quietly started exploring a possible substitute.
Hours earlier than the Nov. 2 commerce deadline, Beckham’s father posted a video on Instagram highlighting all of the occasions final season Mayfield did not throw Beckham’s means, or missed him when he was open. Odell Beckham Sr. trashed Mayfield within the feedback as nicely.
OBJ did not disavow his father’s feedback publicly, and he did not name or textual content Mayfield privately, in line with a number of sources, although they’d usually performed video video games collectively and had vacationed in Huge Sky, Montana, with teammates on Labor Day weekend.
The Browns launched Beckham on Nov. 5, clearing the best way for him to signal with the Los Angeles Rams, with whom he’d go on to win a Tremendous Bowl.
Beckham, a former star with the New York Giants earlier than becoming a member of Cleveland in a blockbuster commerce in 2019, had develop into one of the well-liked gamers within the Browns’ locker room.
Throughout his first coaching camp with Cleveland, Beckham took undrafted rookie receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi underneath his wing. Earlier than Cleveland’s 2019 preseason opener, Sheehy-Guiseppi misplaced his cleats, so Beckham gave him his, which Sheehy-Guiseppi wore whereas returning a punt 86 yards for a landing. When Sheehy-Guiseppi was later reduce earlier than the season, he posted a heartfelt message about Beckham on social media.
That very same coaching camp, Beckham carried over a customized from New York, sitting with totally different teams of gamers at every meal within the cafeteria.
“You have to get to know who you’re battling with,” Beckham mentioned then of the custom. “When the whistle blows, it is simply us on the market. These are guys … you will ceaselessly keep in mind and cherish.”
The COVID-19 pandemic restricted how a lot teammates may work together within the apply facility over the subsequent two seasons. However Beckham would proceed to ask teammates over to his home to take no matter garments or sneakers they needed from his sizable closet.
After Beckham’s father ripped Mayfield publicly and hypothesis grew about Beckham being on his means out, a number of gamers lobbied for Cleveland to maintain OBJ on the staff.
“I really feel like nearly all of this locker room would like to have him on this constructing,” security John Johnson III mentioned then. “Flat out.”
As one supply put it, the best way Beckham exited Cleveland “poisoned the nicely” for Mayfield with some teammates.
Shortly after Browns coach Kevin Stefanski introduced Beckham would not be coming again, one other starter was requested if he’d seen the video Beckham Sr. had posted of Mayfield misfiring on throws to his son. “Why would I watch the video?” the participant requested rhetorically, in line with a supply conversant in the comment. “I see it day-after-day in apply.”
On the time of Beckham’s launch, Cleveland was already wanting into Watson, who was on the Texans’ energetic roster however did not play in 2021. Normal supervisor Andrew Berry mentioned as a lot throughout Watson’s introductory information convention on March 25.
“It was by this actually five-month odyssey, and knowledge that we have been capable of amass and the reference work, and clearly working by due course of and the authorized course of, that received us comfy pursuing the commerce for Deshaun,” Berry mentioned then of the staff’s investigation into Watson.
Because the Browns started contemplating Watson as an possibility, Mayfield continued to wrestle.
On Christmas Day, after rejoining the Browns from the reserve/COVID-19 checklist, Mayfield threw 4 interceptions in a loss at Inexperienced Bay that diminished Cleveland’s playoff hopes. After Mayfield’s second interception, Johnson, who was again in Cleveland on the reserve/COVID-19 checklist, immediately tweeted, “RUN THE DAMN BALL.”
Regardless of the turnovers, the Browns nonetheless had an opportunity for a profitable drive late within the fourth quarter. However Mayfield was picked off once more, sealing the loss. Cleveland can be mathematically eradicated from the postseason earlier than taking part in one other recreation.
“I damage this staff,” Mayfield mentioned then. “It was simply missed throws. There isn’t any excuse.”
As Mayfield was shedding confidence in himself, he had additionally begun shedding religion in Stefanski, in line with a number of sources, although the 2 had thrived the 12 months earlier than throughout Cleveland’s sudden playoff run.
That feeling escalated the subsequent week, on Jan. 3 throughout a Monday Night time Soccer recreation in Pittsburgh. In what proved prone to be his last begin for the Browns, Mayfield was sacked 9 occasions. Afterward, he referred to as out Stefanski’s recreation plan.
“If you’ve received [NFL defensive player of the year] T.J. Watt over there, and we’re not giving our rookie deal with [James Hudson] a complete lot of assist, it is not going to be good for us,” mentioned Mayfield, who at one level had thrown 10 consecutive incompletions within the 26-14 loss.
As Mayfield labored by a listless efficiency, the Browns saved him in to the ultimate offensive play, which was an interception.
In accordance with a number of sources, these near Mayfield — who to that time had missed one recreation due to his shoulder damage — puzzled on the time if the Browns have been attempting to make Mayfield look as hapless as doable in prime time, to doubtlessly pave the best way for the franchise to extra simply clarify why it is likely to be shifting on from him within the offseason.
The Browns, by a spokesman, declined to touch upon these suspicions.
After the Pittsburgh loss, Mayfield instructed reporters he can be conferring along with his household and agent — not the staff — about whether or not he would play within the season finale towards Cincinnati.
“I am a particularly aggressive man,” he mentioned then. “Now it is time for me to begin what’s in the most effective curiosity of me and my well being.”
Mayfield had grown annoyed along with his state of affairs in Cleveland through the years, in line with a number of sources. He was the fourth quarterback in league historical past to play for 4 totally different head coaches in his first three seasons. The Browns picked up the fifth-year possibility on Mayfield’s contract on April 23, 2021, however even after the playoff win, the staff shunned participating Mayfield’s camp on extension talks final offseason, in line with a number of sources. It was a sign to Mayfield that the staff was not sure he was their long-term reply at quarterback. Since final offseason, Berry has repeatedly declined to touch upon Mayfield’s contract standing.
Nonetheless, the Browns entered this offseason ready to maneuver ahead with Mayfield.
“We totally count on Baker to be our starter,” Berry mentioned in January, “and bounce again.”
Regardless of the turmoil of 2021, Mayfield had recommitted to the Browns as nicely.
Sources described his exit interview with Stefanski as productive, and Mayfield’s rehabilitation from a Jan. 19 surgical procedure to restore the labrum was forward of schedule. After Cleveland traded for vast receiver Amari Cooper on March 12, Mayfield reached out to him to start planning a throwing session collectively.
On the mix in February, Berry knowledgeable Mayfield’s agent the Browns may pursue an All-Professional-caliber quarterback, like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, in line with a supply conversant in the dialog. Mayfield’s camp was additionally conscious Cleveland’s brief checklist may embrace Watson. When a Harris County grand jury in Texas declined to pursue legal expenses towards Watson on March 11, the Browns went all-in to get him.
However what upset Mayfield much more, in line with a number of sources, was discovering out over social media on March 15 that Stefanski, Berry and Browns homeowners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have been flying to Houston to fulfill with Watson. Earlier than the Browns officers had landed again in Cleveland, Mayfield posted a letter on social media thanking town of Cleveland and its followers “who really embraced who I’m.”
He would later say on the “YNK” podcast that he felt “disrespected” by the Browns.
“I used to be instructed one factor,” he mentioned, “and so they utterly did one other.”
However the last straw for Mayfield, in line with a number of sources, got here on March 16, when ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen mentioned he believed Mayfield’s time in Cleveland was over and that he was instructed the Browns needed “an grownup” at quarterback.
The subsequent day, Mayfield requested a commerce. The day after that, on March 18, the Browns landed Watson, signing him to a five-year deal value a document $230 million, totally assured.
“Opposite to what’s on the market within the press, we predict extremely of Baker and didn’t get down on him,” Jimmy Haslam mentioned on a video name with the media following Watson’s introductory information convention. “[I know] Baker felt that [“adult” comment] got here from possession, however that is not true. Baker gave it all the pieces he had whereas he was right here.
“No person can query his effort this previous 12 months, and no person can query the 4 years he gave to town of Cleveland.”
It has been a chaotic journey. And it has now reached its finish.