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Should the Seahawks trade for Baker Mayfield?

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Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Anyone who has read the Comments section the past few days knows that I am “a hard NO” on the idea of the Seattle Seahawks trading for Baker Mayfield.

The reason is simple: Compensation.

Before diving into that, let me say that I like Baker Mayfield as a person. The “At Home with Baker Mayfield” commercials he makes with/for Progressive Insurance are fun and make me smile. I may have even gone out of my way to show a few of them to other people.

As a player, I think Mayfield is “good, not great.” I think he would be “fine” in a Pete Carroll-Shane Waldron offense. As good as Russell Wilson? No. But almost certainly better than Geno Smith - which is more than I would say I expect from Drew Lock.


Compensation

Cleveland exercised Baker Mayfield’s 5th-year option last April. That means his 2022 salary is a fully-guaranteed $18,858,000.

Compensation comes in two forms though.

What it would take, from a draft pick perspective, to acquire Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns? The current consensus appears to be that two recent trades provide a guideline (slash baseline) for a Mayfield trade:

March 9th, 2022: The Washington Commanders agreed to acquire Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts for a 2022 third-round pick (#73 overall), a conditional 3rd-round pick in 2023 (becomes a 2nd-round pick if Wentz plays more than 70% of Washington’s offensive snaps in 2022), and a swap of 2022 second-round picks (with Indy moving up to #42 and Washington moving back to #47).

Note: Wentz is under contract through 2024.

April 5th, 2021: In a trade for Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers sent the New York Jets their 2021 sixth-round pick (#226 overall), plus their 2nd-round and 4th-round picks in 2022. The 2022 R2 turned out to be #38 overall, and the 2022 R4 is #111.

Note: Darnold was entering his 4th season and had a 5th-year option available at the time of the trade.

Other factors to consider when determining Mayfield’s trade value:


Rock, meet hard place

Now that the world knows the Browns are the “winners” of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, their hands are tied because the world also knows that they have to trade Baker Mayfield.

Per OTC, the Browns currently have $16.26M in cap space - which isn’t enough to squeeze Deshaun Watson onto their books. And, because Mayfield’s contract is fully guaranteed, releasing him does the Browns no good; they’d still have his $18.86M on their books.

The Browns could obviously release some players and/or restructure a contract or three (Denzel Ward, David Njoku and the recently-acquired Amari Cooper are the obvious candidates), but that’s probably not the Browns’ preferred route.

Trading Baker Mayfield needs to happen.

And everyone knows it.

Update: The Browns restructured Amari Cooper’s contract on Saturday night (per Tom Pelissero, via Twitter).


Teams with a “need” at quarterback

We’ll talk about the Seahawks later.

First ...

Per a report (aka tweet) from Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Indianapolis Colts are the preferred landing spot for Baker Mayfield.

The Colts do have enough cap space to accommodate Mayfield’s 2022 salary with $39,853,446 of space as of Saturday afternoon (per OTC).

And the Colts need for a QB after sending last year’s QB1 packing.

That said, Jeff Howe’s tweet (embedded above), speculates that the Browns may not want to send Mayfield to a conference rival. I’m not sure they’d care, but let’s pretend he’s right for the time being.

Other QB-needy teams include the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, with the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and Washington Commanders exhibiting some signs of neediness as well (depending on your perspective of their current situation). Also, given their pursuit of Deshaun Watson, we’ll add the Atlanta Falcons to the list.

Let’s look at each of those 9 teams real quick.

Carolina

  • Cap space: $33,546,712
  • Current QB1: Sam Darnold
  • Thoughts: Darnold has the exact same contract as Baker Mayfield (aka an $18.86M cap hit), but the number of teams that would trade for him is probably ... zero. So Carolina would need to carry both Darnold and Mayfield or cut Darnold and pay him anyway. Possible? Sure. Likely? Not so much.

New Orleans

  • Cap space: $26,298,822
  • Current QB1: Taysom Hill (or maybe Ian Book?)
  • Thoughts: The Saints’ pursuit of Deshaun Watson leaves them further under the cap than I remember seeing them in years. They’re not going to use that newfound wealth on Baker Mayfield though; not with Jameis Winston waiting in the wings. ready to re-sign with them.

Houston

  • Cap space: $31,413,022
  • Current QB1: Davis Mills
  • Thoughts: If Houston wanted Baker Mayfield, he’d have been included in the trade.

Detroit

  • Cap space: $22,187,934
  • Current QB1: Jared Goff
  • Thoughts: Us 12s have made a habit of bashing Jared Goff (for good reason; and FTR!), but would Detroit really consider Mayfield to be an “upgrade”?

Minnesota

Pittsburgh

  • Cap space: $21,061,376
  • Current QB1: Mitch Trubisky
  • Thoughts: After signing Trubisky to a 2-year deal in free agency, the Steelers seem to be “set” at quarterback in 2022. While it’s possible that the Steelers might consider taking a QB in the 2022 NFL Draft, trading for one has to be considered extremely unlikely - especially one whose 2022 cap hit is higher than Trubisky’s cap hit the next 2 years combined.

Note: I linked to Trubisky’s OTC page but, as of when I was writing this article (i.e,, Saturday afternoon), there are/were no details about his contract with the Steelers.

NY Giants

Washington

  • Cap space: $16,797,871
  • Current QB1: Carson Wentz
  • Thoughts: I would be willing to bet that Washington would have preferred to trade for Mayfield instead of Wentz but that ship has sailed. Washington can move on from Wentz after 2022 so it’s possible (maybe probable) that the Commanders will consider taking a QB in the draft, but trading for Mayfield right after trading for Wentz? Not gonna happen.

Atlanta

  • Cap space: $2,434,664
  • Current QB1: Matt Ryan
  • Thoughts: Say what you want about Matty Ice’s insane salary cap numbers ... or about the equally insane amount of dead money on his contract ... or about the absurdity of restructuring his contract and then moving on from him anyway. None of that would have stopped them from trading for Watson, but ... for Mayfield? I don’t see it.

Bottom line

While 5 of those 9 teams have the cap space to take on Mayfield’s contract, none of them have a compelling reason to do so.

My gut says it’s either Indy or Seattle.


Seattle, Seattle, Seattle

Admittedly, the idea of Mayfield in a Seahawks uniform isn’t a terrible one.

And with $34,727,502 in cap space (as of Saturday afternoon), Mayfield’s fully guaranteed salary wouldn’t be completely crippling.

But there’s a difference of $17,406,978 between Baker Mayfield’s 2022 salary and Drew Lock’s 2022 salary and I don’t think there’s a $17.4M difference between the Seahawks’ results in 2022 if Mayfield starts instead of Lock.

I also don’t think it’s worth giving up draft capital to acquire Mayfield.

But ...

What if Seattle and Cleveland did a version of the Brock Osweiler trade?

For those that don’t remember, the Houston Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a 4-year, $72M deal with $37M guaranteed on March 9th, 2016. One year later, to the day, the Texans traded Osweiler to the Browns.

In and of itself, a team “moving on” from a quarterback after a single season isn’t all that surprising. Indy just did that with Carson Wentz after all. And, who can forget the Cardinals trading Josh Rosen (the 2018 draft’s 10th overall pick) to the Miami Dolphins within hours of selecting Kyler Murray as the 1st pick in the 2019 draft?

What makes the Brock Osweiler trade interesting is the terms of the deal:

  • Houston got: a 4th-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft
  • Cleveland got: Brock Osweiler, plus a 2017 sixth-round pick, plus a 2018 second-round pick

Yes, you read that right. Cleveland basically “bought” a future 2nd-round pick by agreeing to take on the guaranteed money in Brock Osweiler’s contract.

Note: The Browns released Osweiler 6 months later (as part of their final roster cuts).

Believe it or not, the trade was perfectly legal (at the time) and the league signed off on it (as they must do with all trades).

To the best of my knowledge (which, admittedly, could be lacking), a trade such as this would still be “legal” from the league’s perspective. But, I question whether the Browns would want to tempt fate by exploiting league rules this way a second time.

FTR’s proposal

Keeping in mind the fact that I don’t think it’s worth taking on Mayfield’s salary this season (or signing him to the ~4/$100M extension he could command next offseason) ...

... and, yes, that’s a “realistic” contract for Mayfield next offseason ...

Note: Per this excellent article by The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia, there are currently 15 NFL quarterbacks making at least $25M per year.

Here is my proposed trade:

  • Cleveland gets: Seattle’s 5th round pick in this year’s draft (#153 overall) + Denver’s 2nd-round pick in 2023
  • Seattle gets: Baker Mayfield + Cleveland’s 2nd-round pick in this year’s draft (#44 overall) + Cleveland’s 5th-round pick in 2023

On paper, it’s basically a push with each team getting an R2 and an R5 (in opposite years) and the Browns getting cap relief (so they can consummate the Watson trade) while Seattle gets an “upgrade” (from Drew Lock, et al.) at QB1.

It’s a win-win.

Except for Seattle’s loss of cap space.


What say the 12s?

Should the Seahawks make a trade for Baker Mayfield?

Poll

Should the Seahawks make a trade for Baker Mayfield?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Yes! Seattle needs a QB and the salary + draft pick(s) needed to get Mayfield are worth it.
    (257 votes)
  • 8%
    Yes! But only if the Browns pay at least 50% of his 2022 salary.
    (166 votes)
  • 28%
    Yes! But only if it doesn’t really cost anything other than cap space (i.e., I like FTR’s proposal).
    (527 votes)
  • 34%
    No! The Seahawks are not going anywhere in 2022; save the pick(s) and the cap space.
    (634 votes)
  • 14%
    No! If Seattle wants to compete for a title in 2022, there are better QB options for them to explore.
    (265 votes)
1849 votes total Vote Now