CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The news that Deshaun Watson asked the Houston Texans for a trade set the Browns Twitter trade machine into overdrive Thursday.
Here are six reasons why entertaining such a trade would do more harm than good for the Browns.
First and foremost, the Browns do not need Watson.
Unlike the Colts, Jaguars, Jets and up to a dozen other teams, for the first time in two decades the Browns are not deficient at quarterback.
Baker Mayfield proved himself in 2020.
Mayfield proved his durability by playing through a cracked rib. He proved he can take care of the football by cutting his interceptions from 21 in 2019 to 8 this past season. He proved the Browns can win with him – to wit: there are 29 former Browns quarterbacks who could not win 11 games in a season and 27 of them didn’t win 11 games during their Browns career. He proved he can lead the Browns on and off the field through adversity. He proved the Browns can make the playoffs and he can win in the playoffs with him at quarterback.
Had it not been for a missed helmet-to-helmet call that caused a fumble at the end of the first half or the inability for the defense to get a critical stop with the game on the line in the final minutes, the Browns could’ve been a win away from the Super Bowl, with Mayfield at quarterback.
Secondly, Mayfield’s resume through three seasons, despite having three different offenses and head coaches to play for, is nothing to sneeze at, no matter how hard some national media troll him.
With 75 career touchdowns in the regular season, Mayfield trails only Peyton Manning (85) and Andrew Luck (86) for the most passing touchdowns by a No. 1 overall pick in his first three years.
Mayfield is just the third player in NFL history to record at least 3,500 passing yards with at least 20 touchdown passes in each of their first three seasons, joining Peyton Manning (1998-00) and Andrew Luck (2012-14).
Mayfield is only the second Browns quarterback to start all 16 games in consecutive seasons. Brian Sipe started all 16 games in four straight seasons from 1978-1981. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick’s streak of 46 consecutive starts is the longest by a Browns QB since Sipe started 70 straight from 1978 to 1982.
His 95.9 passer rating in 2020 was the third highest by a Brown (14 attempts per game average) in single-season history, behind Otto Graham in 1953 (99.7) and Milt Plum in 1960 (110.4).
Third, attempting to trade for Watson would create a rift between the Browns and Mayfield at a critical time as they move into year two with Andrew Berry running the front office and Kevin Stefanski in charge of the team.
Cleveland is expected to pick up the fifth-year option on Mayfield’s rookie deal worth around $20 million for the 2022 season this spring. The Browns will also likely engage in exploring a contract extension with Mayfield and his agent.
He’s earned it.
Selling Mayfield on a potentially lower annual figure to enable the front office to retain additional salary cap flexibility to help them to continue to surround Mayfield with top talent to win now would become next to impossible if they try to acquire Watson.
Plain and simple, it doesn’t take a Harvard degree to know that there’s no better way to offend your franchise quarterback after he helped end the longest playoff drought in the NFL than by exploring trading for someone to replace him. In the NFL, trust is everything.
Fourth, trading for Watson would consume valuable assets needed to move the team forward in 2021 and beyond.
The Texans just aren’t going to give Watson away. He will cost a ton in draft capital, which the Browns would be wiser using on players that can contribute immediately – and more importantly – on cheaper rookie contracts with the salary cap tightened due to the pandemic.
Fifth, the financial impact with a reduced salary cap could cripple Berry and the Browns.
The Browns control Mayfield on the rookie wage scale for two more seasons whereas Watson’s four-year, $156 million extension kicks in a year earlier.
Berry has to plan for today and tomorrow.
Assuming the cap for 2021 would be at the $175 million salary cap floor, Cleveland is estimated to have approximately $24 million in space available which will be needed to bring in plenty of new faces – especially on the defensive side of the ball.
A total of 24 players have expiring contracts this offseason including valuable contributors Rashard Higgins, Kendall Lamm, Larry Ogunjobi, Olivier Vernon, B.J. Goodson, Terrance Mitchell, Karl Joseph and Cody Parkey.
The financial flexibility to improve the roster would be significantly impacted with a trade.
And sixth, the Browns could come to terms on a trade with the Texans and Watson could reject it, which again, would do irreparable harm to their relationship with Mayfield and sow seeds of mistrust.
Berry’s plate is already full to try and upgrade this roster to position the franchise to move deeper into the playoffs and sustain their success beyond the 2020 season.
Starting quarterback is not a position that he needs to address.