CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Browns have been told they’re out of the Deshaun Watson trade sweepstakes, a league source told cleveland.com.
The Browns must now decide whether or not to trade Baker Mayfield, and they could try to trade for other quarterbacks such as the Raiders’ Derek Carr and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan.
Carr has been on their radar throughout the offseason. As of about two weeks ago, the Browns were not in the market for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo — who recently underwent shoulder surgery and won’t be able to throw until July — but that could change now that the QB market has dwindled. Garoppolo would also be easier to acquire than Carr and some others.
The Browns were eliminated from the Watson race on Thursday at about 11 am when the three-time Pro Bowler narrowed his choices to the Saints and Falcons. The Panthers also met with him.
Based on Mayfield’s letter to Cleveland fans Tuesday night that seemed like good-bye, and multiple conversations with sources, Mayfield and his camp will likely ask for a trade if the Browns don’t offer that opportunity first.
The fact that the Browns publicly courted Watson and supposedly and made a blockbuster offer including possibly three first-round picks didn’t sit well with Mayfield and his camp, and they will likely seeker green pastures. Mayfield has some top choices for a new landing spot — with the Colts heading that list — and the Browns will try to help him end up happy to the extent they can if comes to that point, a league source said.
There is still a chance that Mayfield can return as the starter, but one source told cleveland.com the chances are low. The Browns are believed to be fine with forging ahead with Mayfield, who’s rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder.
But Mayfield might need a change of scenery and force the issue. If he doesn’t — or if the Browns decline to accommodate his request — he’ll have to come back and do what Garoppolo did last year after the 49ers traded up to draft Trey Lance. Garoppolo put his head down, went to work, and led the 49ers to the NFC Championship.
If the Browns can soothe Mayfield’s hurt feelings, he can come back healthy with an upgraded receiving corps — one already bolstered by the trade for four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper — and try to get the Browns back into the playoffs.
If the Browns agree to move Mayfield, they’ll explore trades for Carr, Ryan and others. Carr checks all of the boxes, but it might be hard to pry him away from the Raiders and their new coach Josh McDaniels, who said at the NFL Combine that Carr is “absolutely” his starters for 2022.
But until his new extension is signed with the Raiders, everything is on the table for Carr, who’s heading into the final year of his contract at $19.87 million. The Colts might also make an aggressive push for Carr, as cleveland.com has reported. But the Browns have done their due diligence on Carr this offseason, and have been intrigued by him. Likewise, Carr would be interested in playing for the Browns if he doesn’t get the deal done with Las Vegas.
Ryan, 36, is another possibility for the Browns if Mayfield goes.
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