With Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing beginning this week, even as new details are emerging in the case, the Cleveland Browns are bracing for whatever length suspension their new quarterback might face.
In light of that, some Browns fans have wondered: What direction will they go when Watson's punishment is eventually handed down?
And to take it a step further: Could their ex officio QB Baker Mayfield somehow factor into the Browns' equation this season? He does, after all, remain on the team's books (at a considerable salary) for the time being.
Judging by Mayfield's responses on the matter, that scenario still feels pretty remote, albeit not impossible.
Asked at his youth football camp in Norman, Oklahoma, on Tuesday, Mayfield made it seem as if both he and the Browns are ready for a fresh start — even with Watson's fate hanging in the balance.
“No, I think for that to happen there would have to be some reaching out," Mayfield said. "But we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides.”
Baker Mayfield cites 'mutual decision' for both sides moving on
Mayfield said his goodbyes to the team on social media this offseason following a frustrating 2021 campaign that saw him struggle while playing through a shoulder injury. He and the team likely shared some of the blame in how last season was handled, but too many bad feelings might still exist for a reconciliation to occur, whether or not Watson is suspended for the 2022 season — or beyond.
"I think it's been pretty obvious, the mutual decision on both sides is to move on," he said.
But Mayfield said he still cherished parts of his experience in Cleveland.
"I'm thankful for my four years in Cleveland," Mayfield said. "There [were] a ton of ups and downs and learning experiences that, uh, I'll forever keep with me. But [there have been] teammates and friends and relationships that I'll have for a lifetime.
"I'm thankful for it. There's no resentment toward the city of Cleveland by any means."
The Browns reportedly have tried to move Mayfield in a trade. He's due a salary just north of $18.8 million this season, the final year of his rookie deal. Mayfield played in 14 games (13 starts) in 2021, logging career lows in passing yards (3,010) and TD passes (17) in his four NFL seasons while dealing with a left shoulder injury.
The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks have been two teams mentioned as possible trade partners. The Browns and Panthers reportedly were trying to work out a trade during the 2022 NFL draft, but when that fell apart, Carolina pivoted to draft Ole Miss' Matt Corral in Round 3.
Training camp is now less than a month away, and it's uncommon to see quarterback trades occur this time of year outside of a team suffering a major injury at the position.
Mayfield said he's tried not to let the slow-moving process affect him, understanding that the matter is essentially out of his hands now.
"I think I got frustrated with it not happening before minicamp and all those things," he said. "But that's the stuff that's out of control, so, you know, let those things happen and fall into place ..."