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Could Browns QB Baker Mayfield Be a Sneaky Trade Option for the Colts?

It’s possible another former franchise quarterback could be on the move shortly.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Indianapolis Colts could be a good landing spot for Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield—who could be traded soon, even if the Browns aren’t successful at acquiring Houston Texans passer Deshaun Watson:

“Several other teams in need of a starting quarterback would be good landing spots for Mayfield, including the Colts, who went 9-8 last season and missed the playoffs when Carson Wentz faltered at the end, and the Seahawks, who went 7-10 in Russell Wilson’s final season there before he was dealt last week to the Broncos,” writes Cabot.

“. . . The Colts are ready to win right away with some good quarterback play, and some of other teams are intriguing.”

The former first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft was selected by Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s former mentor, John Dorsey, when he was the prior general manager of the Browns back then.

Of course, Ballard reported to Dorsey, when they were previously both higher ups in the Kansas City Chiefs’ football operations department, before Ballard joined the Colts in 2017. It’s quite possible they value similar traits at evaluating starting quarterbacks.

There’s no question that Mayfield hasn’t quite played up to his top draft billing, but being still only 26 years old, perhaps a chance of scenery could serve him well—as the Browns franchise has been by no means a ‘quarterback factory’ (with arguably the league’s worst franchise history over the past 20 years at finding and developing a long-term answer at the position).

Mayfield stats in 2021 were very underwhelming, as he completed 253 of 418 attempts (60.5%) for 3,010 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a passer rating of 83.1 during 14 starts. However, he was also playing through a partially torn labrum, hindering his play—and eventually requiring late season-ending surgery.

His 2020 stats, when fully healthy, where he completed 62.8% of his passes for 3,563 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a passer rating of 95.9 during 14 starts is presumably a more accurate indication of his true ability.

He’s also fairly mobile, which again, would allow Colts head coach Frank Reich to run his ideal offensive system with RPOs, play-action, and the occasional bootleg to complement Indy running back Jonathan Taylor and an oftentimes, dominant ground game.

For what it’s worth, Mayfield has an $18.9M cap hit in 2022, which is a relative bargain for a starting caliber NFL quarterback—and that the Colts, with projected available team salary cap space of $62.5M, can easily absorb in a trade.

Here’s why I think the Colts may be ‘waiting and seeing on Mayfield too’, as well as other emerging mystery options, because why hasn’t the franchise made a move yet at starting quarterback otherwise?

If the Colts really wanted free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota, isn’t it reasonable to think that just like the Pittsburgh Steelers quickly scooped up free agent Mitch Trubisky on Monday as their new starter that he’d already be signed by now?

If the Colts were really pushing for Jimmy Garoppolo, and he’s really ‘their guy’ going forward in 2022, are they really going to hold up a deal haggling about the difference with the 49ers regarding whether it should be a 3rd or 4th round pick in surrendered trade compensation? (*Although maybe the 49ers are holding out hope that his market value will increase again once Watson goes to a team—with the losing suitors all potentially joining the bidding).

Instead of bartering over the last nickel, make sure you get your guy and move on.

As the Colts saw firsthand last year, quarterback isn’t a position where you can just plug in anyone, it has to be the right fit from a leadership, locker room, and production standpoint.

Therefore, it’s highly important to get not just a guy, but the right guy.

From that standpoint, given his youth, past solid production, and first round pedigree, Mayfield makes some sense to at least ‘wait and see’ for a bit longer—although the Colts can’t wait too long and lose out on potential ‘Plan B’ options like Jimmy G. or Mariota.