Not long after the Browns wrapped up their meeting with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on Tuesday night, Mayfield thanked Cleveland and conceded he doesn’t know what his NFL future holds.
If the Browns were to complete a trade for the controversial Watson, they would obviously deal Mayfield to another team.
But even if Watson chooses to waive his no-trade clause for one of his other suitors — the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers or Atlanta Falcons — and thereby leaves the Browns hanging, Mayfield will still likely want out of Cleveland.
As of Tuesday night, Mayfield had not requested a trade, a league source told the Akron Beacon Journal, but there are obviously hard feelings about the franchise’s pursuit of Watson.
Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct or sexual assault by two dozen women during massage appointments. On Friday, a grand jury decided Watson wouldn’t be criminally charged. He still faces 22 civil lawsuits and a likely NFL suspension, yet the grand jury declining to indict Watson kicked off the sweepstakes for the services of the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
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The Saints and Panthers met with Watson on Monday in Houston before the Browns did the same Tuesday. The Falcons have a meeting scheduled Wednesday, NFL Network reported. Each team has been required to submit a trade proposal to the Texans to get a meeting with Watson, ESPN reported.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, Mayfield struggled mightily last year as the Browns went 8-9 and missed the playoffs despite entering the season with Super Bowl expectations. He played the vast majority of the season with a torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder suffered in Week 2 and couldn’t build on his successful 2020 season. He had shoulder surgery Jan. 19.
If the Browns fail to land Watson and still trade Mayfield, they’ll be hunting for another starting quarterback.
Like Watson, the Browns view Las Vegas’ Derek Carr as an upgrade over Mayfield, but the Raiders might commit to Carr with a new contract rather than deal him. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) and Gardner Minshew (Philadelphia Eagles) are among the other potential trade targets. Marcus Mariota (Raiders) and Jameis Winston (Saints) remain available in free agency, which officially begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The Browns also have the 13th overall pick in the April 28-30 NFL Draft and could seek a quarterback earlier than what had been previously expected. Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett are widely projected to be chosen in the first round.
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Mayfield announced Jan. 25 he would go on a self-imposed social media hiatus because of its “toxic” nature.
But Mayfield was compelled Tuesday night to use social media to distribute this letter to Browns fans, accompanied by the caption “With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is”:
“The past 4 years have been nothing short of truly life changing since I heard my name called in the draft to go to Cleveland,” Mayfield wrote. “This is not a message with hidden meaning. This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me. We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs.
“I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process. I can only control what I can, which is trusting in God’s plan throughout this process.
“I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I’ve always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap. Whatever happens I just want to say thank you to the fans who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city’s hard working people.
“Cleveland will always be a part of [wife] Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.