The negative leaks about Baker Mayfield from the Browns began even before the quarterback was traded — and now they’ve continued.
In March, before the Browns had consummated their deal with the Texans to bring in Deshaun Watson, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the team wanted an “adult” at quarterback, the implication being that Mayfield was not one.
In a postmortem of Mayfield’s Browns era, Jason Lloyd, a Cleveland-based writer for The Athletic, wrote that this leak “was an awful look” for the Browns, considering they were acquiring Watson amid heavy baggage over accusations of sexual assault from two dozen Houston-area massage therapists.
But, Lloyd noted, the characterization of Mayfield in Mortensen’s report “isn’t entirely untrue.”
“Mayfield was widely viewed as childish and immature,” Lloyd wrote. “His behavior annoyed teammates and divided the locker room. He was often difficult to coach.”
It has been widely documented that Mayfield had relationships deteriorate in Cleveland.
A prominent example came when Odell Beckham Jr.’s father distributed a video showing his son being open but not getting the ball from Mayfield in what was a clear shot at the quarterback.
The Athletic column was careful to note that the Browns organization deserves some of the blame that Mayfield did not make it to a second contract with the team that drafted him first overall in 2018 and was beset with a revolving door of the offensive coaching staff. Last season, there was a breakdown in the trust between Mayfield and Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, the story said.
A year ago it would have been difficult to see this coming.
While the Browns did not break the bank to give Mayfield a longterm extension and it was always possible there would be a divorce, they’d come off an 11-5 season in which they defeated the rival Steelers in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Mayfield played through a shoulder injury (which affected him but also was not the be-all-end-all of his performance struggles, according to Lloyd) for much of last year. The Browns went 8-9 — and 6-8 in the games he started — and missed the postseason.
Ultimately, the quarterback was traded to the Carolina Panthers in a deal in which the Browns had to take on about half the money remaining on his contract for next season. Cleveland also got a conditional fifth-round pick in 2024.
Mayfield, meanwhile, will compete with Sam Darnold in an attempt to reclaim the promise of his career.