Baker Mayfield wants out of Cleveland immediately. The Browns aren't willing to let him go just yet.
And once again, a team with endless quarterback issues is dealing with another major mess.
Mayfield requested to be traded by the Browns on Thursday after the team failed in its pursuit of controversial Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, two people familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Mayfield asked to be dealt shortly after the Browns were told by Watson and his representatives that the three-time Pro Bowler wasn't waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The team, in turn, denied Mayfield's demand, said one person with knowledge of the Browns' decision.
It's a stunning descent for Mayfield, who just 15 months ago led Cleveland to its first playoff appearance in nearly 20 years and first postseason win since 1994.
The Browns' strong interest in Watson angered Mayfield, who is coming off a rough 2021 season followed by shoulder surgery in January. The overtures toward one of the NFL's top QBs appears to have ended Mayfield's tumultuous four-year run in Cleveland.
“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”
Led by Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam, the Browns sent a delegation to Houston on Tuesday and made a presentation hoping to entice Watson, who became a potential option for them after a grand jury declined to indict him last week on sexual misconduct claims brought by 22 women.
Watson is also being pursed by Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina.
The Browns' trip triggered a strong reaction from Mayfield. He ended his social media hiatus by posting what read like a goodbye letter on Twitter and Instagram, expressing disappointment and confusion over the situation.
“I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process," Mayfield wrote. "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."
Mayfield, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, is under contract for one more season at $18.8 million, the final year of his rookie deal. He's been eligible for a long-term extension, but the Browns haven't offered one.
The team seems willing to rectify the current situation with Mayfield. But that looks like a formidable challenge now that Cleveland has shown it doesn't believe Mayfield is the one to take it to the top of the AFC.
Because he's under contractual control, Mayfield can't go anywhere unless he doesn't want to play.
It wasn't long ago the Browns appeared to have finally moved on from drama that has plagued the organization for years. But the rift with Mayfield is at the least a public relations headache, if not a setback.
While there are no current plans to trade Mayfield, it's possible the Browns will be approached by other teams interested in the 26-year-old. Indianapolis and Seattle could both be landing spots for the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, who is 30-31 as an NFL starter.
If Mayfield is dealt, Cleveland would need a starting quarterback and could explore trades for San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Green Bay’s Jordan Love. There's also a free-agent market to consider with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston among the current QBs looking for a new team.
There's also the draft. Cleveland has the No. 13 pick and could use it to select a prospect to groom as its future starter or sit behind an established veteran.
The Browns have a plan.
At the moment, Mayfield isn't part of it.
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