The Cleveland Browns have yet to find a trading partner for Baker Mayfield, but safety John Johnson III says the team is mentally prepared not to see their former quarterback anywhere near Berea when offseason workouts are in full swing.
The Browns announced this week that Mayfield will be exempt from mandatory mini-camp scheduled for June 14-16. With Mayfield’s future up in the air, the Browns players are looking to move on and avoid what has been one of the main talking points in the league since a blockbuster trade brought Deshaun Watson to Cleveland in March.
“Obviously you look at the list and he’s still there. He’s not here, but I think it’s just business. I think we all understand that now more than ever,” Johnson told reporters from OTAs on Wednesday. “We’ve got three quarterbacks here now, so it tends to be that he’s not here, so I wouldn’t say we’ve broken up mentally, but we’re kind of preparing for him not being here.”
Those three quarterbacks are Joshua Dobbs, Jacoby Brissett and — of course — Watson, who is dealing with serious lawsuits and allegations of sexual misconduct.
“In the locker room I’m around him, in the sauna I’m around him. We talk. We chop it up about everything,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it really gets in the way. I think he’s a pro. When he comes to work, it’s about the work.”
There have been some rumors that the Browns are holding onto Mayfield so he can play if Watson receives a hefty suspension from the league. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski would not consider the idea of Mayfield starting again for the team and gave his basic canned answer.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” said Stefanski. “I’m just going to make sure I deal with everything we have to do with football. Everything outside the building is confronted with it on a daily basis.”
At the moment, Watson is taking over all first-team representatives while Brissett queues up with the second team. At the moment, it would be Brissett – who is 14-23 as a starter – who would replace Watson if a suspension is imposed by the NFL.
“We’re staffing the quarterbacks appropriately, and as more information becomes available, you can change and adjust what you’re doing,” Stefanski said.
Johnson trusts Brissett to hold the line if Watson is out.
“I think Jacoby Brissett, he was a starter on teams and even as a backup when the starter dropped out he jumped right in and did a pretty good job,” Johnson said. “I think we’re prepared for that on paper. Throughout the training camp we just have to see, keep competing, improve each other. So all three of these guys can eventually step up and play a part.”
The trade market has been pretty lukewarm for Mayfield, with the bulk of that being down to the $18.9 million he expects to earn next season thanks to his fifth-year option the Brown received last offseason.
But with minicamps getting underway across the league, it could spark more urgent trade talks for Mayfield to join his new team before training camp. Panther insider Joseph Person of The Athletic reported this week that trade talks between Carolina and Cleveland could resume shortly, with mandatory mini-camp approaching later this month.
The sides were intensely involved in trade talks during the draft, but failed to agree on how Mayfield’s salary should be distributed. According to The Charlotte Observer, the Panthers wanted the Browns to pay more than $13 million of Mayfield’s contract.