How Baker Mayfield can be a top-tier quarterback — in the right offense

Baker Mayfield will have another NFL team in 2022 and beyond. Here’s how that team can turn Mayfield back into the top-tier quarterback he was in 2020.

In 2022, the Cleveland Browns went all-in on a bet that could hamper the franchise for a good long time. When they traded first-round picks in 2022, 2023, and 2024, as well as the 104th overall pick in 2022, a third-round pick in 2023, and a fourth-pick in 2024 for a 2024 sixth-round pick and former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson… well, it’s a franchise-defining move, but what that means, we have no idea. Watson’s NFL disciplinary hearing in the wake of a torrent of sexual assault lawsuits (many of which have been settled) happens this upcoming Tuesday, and word is that the league will be aiming for a suspension that lasts at least the entire 2022 season, if not indefinitely.

So, that’s a lot for a guy who will play for you… who knows when. In the interim, the Browns have completely alienated Baker Mayfield, the quarterback they selected with the first overall pick in the 2028 draft out of Oklahoma. The likelihood of Mayfield playing for the Browns in 2022 and beyond is somewhere between null and void; should Watson be out of the equation, backup Jacoby Brissett is the likely starter. The Browns have not traded Mayfield yet. The hangup there seems to be the amount of salary the trading team would be willing to take on. Mayfield is set to make a guaranteed $18.858 million in 2022, the final year of his rookie contract, and he’ll obviously want a new contract in his new home. The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks have been tagged as the most likely destinations.

Setting aside the mess the Browns have put themselves in with Watson and his new, fully-guaranteed, $230 million contract that goes through the 2026 season, there’s the specific issue of Mayfield’s future as a starting quarterback, and where he fits best. After two NFL seasons in which he showed some promise and a lot of exasperating plays, Mayfield enjoyed a watershed season in 2020 — including the postseason, he completed 349 of 557 passes for 4,030 yards, 2,376 air yards, 30 touchdowns, nine interceptions, an ANY/A of 6.9, a passer rating of 95.7. an EPA of 49.17, and a Positive Play Rate of 49.0%. This put him in at least the top half of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks in every category, though he was in an offense that didn’t always play to his strengths.

The follow-up season, which got the Browns headed down that fractious Watson path, was not nearly as productive. Mayfield worked through a ton of injuries and more dysfunction in the passing game, completing 253 of 418 passes for 3,010 yards, 1,571 air yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, an ANY/A of 5.4, a passer rating of 83.1, an EPA of -59.03, and a Positive Play Rate of 43.2. Mayfield had gone from top-half to bottom-third in one season, and though it wasn’t all his fault (given the injuries, it wasn’t mostly his fault), but we are left with the realities of things.

So, with that in mind, and with the goal to give an honest picture of what Mayfield can offer another team, we’re going to look far more at Mayfield’s 2020 season, assume his 2021 was a negative outlier based on injury, and project things forward from there.

How can a new NFL team help Baker Mayfield become the best possible version of himself? We have a few thoughts.

(All advanced metrics courtesy of Sports Info Solutions unless otherwise indicated). 

Cleveland Browns re-signing Jadeveon Clowney

The Browns and Jadeveon Clowney have agreed to contract terms

The Cleveland Browns’ fierce defense is keeping another strong piece.

The AFC North team has agreed to terms with former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, NFL Network reported Sunday.

Clowney played for Cleveland in 2021 and had 9 sacks in 14 games along with a pair of forced fumbles.

Clowney was expected to be a generational force when chosen first overall out of South Carolina by the Houston Texans in 2014.

It has been a strange ride, however. Clowney remained with Houston through 2018, with consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2016-18.

Since, he has played for Seattle, Tennessee, and Cleveland.

Overall, he has 41 career sacks with a high of 9.5 in 2017 with Houston.

 

What rookie CB Martin Emerson brings to the Browns’ defense

Touchdown Wire’s Laurie Fitzpatrick breaks down cornerback Martin Emerson’s versatility and how he fits in the Cleveland Browns’ defense.

The Cleveland Browns reached an agreement with their rookie defensive back, Martin Emerson. His rookie deal has a total value of $5.75 million with a signing bonus of $1.36 million. The Browns didn’t have a pick in the 2022 draft until the 68th overall pick in the third round — mostly as a result of the Deshaun Watson trade — but they were eager to get Emerson on board as their first selection.

Emerson’s frame is what caught the eye of Browns’ coaching staff. This former Mississippi State cornerback stands 6-foot-2, weighing 201 pounds with a wingspan of nearly 80 inches. He’s taller than both of Cleveland’s starting outside corners, Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II, and has weight on them both as well.

When asked about the nickel position, head coach Kevin Stefanski said, “I think we have multiple guys who can fill that role and have filled that role. I think that’s why we talk about versatility. If you’re playing corner or you’re playing safety, you’re going to be trained to play in the slot or play our nickel position. I think we have multiple guys who can do that.”

So, the question we have with Emerson is where he fits. His size would immediately label him as a boundary corner, but his skillset and the defensive scheme might say otherwise. Let’s go to the film to see where Emerson fits best!

NFL probing Browns for tanking in 2016 and ’17

The NFL is probing whether the Cleveland Browns intentionally lost games over 2016 and ’17.

A National Football League investigator has spoken to the Cleveland Browns about the 2016 and ’17 seasons, which former coach Hue Jackson said saw the team intentionally lose games.

A couple of months ago Jackson took to social media and claimed the team incentivized him to lose games. He eventually recanted those statements.

The NFL is now probing those claims.

Spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed the league engaged former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to look into Jackson’s allegations.

“The review is ongoing and is expected to conclude soon,” McCarthy said in an email to The Associated Press.

Cleveland went a combined 1-31 in the seasons in question. Jackson, was fired eight games into the 2018 season with a 3-36-1 mark with the Browns.

Reached by Sports Illustrated for comment, Jackson, who is the head coach at Grambling State, said, “Two years ago I tried to do this the right way, through the bylaws and constitution of the National Football League, to ask them to investigate the Cleveland Browns for all the allegations that I’ve made. So why open an investigation now?”

The Browns say they are cooperating with the investigation and released a statement.

Even though Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made, it was important to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations,” a team spokesman said. “We welcomed an investigation and we are confident the results will show, as we’ve previously stated, that these allegations are categorically false.

“We have cooperated with Mary Jo White and look forward to the findings.”

 

 

Deshaun Watson says he has ‘no regrets’ as Browns introduce quarterback

The Cleveland Browns introduced Deshaun Watson Friday and the media wasn’t focused on football

The Cleveland Browns introduced Deshaun Watson at a press conference on Friday. Football was not the main topic of conversation to no one’s surprise.

Watson said it is not his intent to settle the 22 active civil suits. He wants to fight to clear his name.

The quarterback who is still facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault addressed the controversy.

This will certainly trigger a reaction:

Watch the presser below.

Some of the reactions:

 

Second grand jury decides not to indict Browns QB Deshaun Watson

There will be no grand jury charges against Deshaun Watson, once again

Deshaun Watson was faced with another grand jury deciding whether he committed any crimes regarding sexual assault and misconduct in Texas.

And, like the first one, the second decided on Thursday the Cleveland Browns quarterback will not be indicted and will not face charges.

The 22 civil lawsuits remain in play against Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns by the Houston Texans last week. He also faces a potential suspension from the NFL.

Browns’ research into Deshaun Watson creates questions

The Cleveland Browns said they did deep research on Deshaun Watson’s character

The Cleveland Browns said they did their due diligence and thorough research into Deshaun Watson before acquiring the controversial quarterback from the Houston Texans.

It seems the organization’s definition of thorough is going to be questioned.

The Athletic did a piece on how the trade came together with plenty of intriguing details, especially who Browns management spoke to about Watson before trading a bunch of draft picks for the QB who still has 22 civil suits alleging sexual harassment and assault in his future.

Per The Athletic: 

The Browns say they received overwhelmingly positive feedback from people in Watson’s past and maintain they investigated the accusations, but they did not contact Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing the accusers, for fear that their interest would become public.

They did, however, speak extensively with three female attorneys associated with Hardin’s defense team. They were the women, including attorney Letitia Quinones, who vetted Watson on whether or not to take the case. They went to Georgia, where Watson was staying and spent two days gathering information before agreeing to represent him. What the attorneys told the Browns about the case went a long way toward getting the Haslams comfortable with moving forward and pursuing a trade for Watson.

So, the Browns spoke to three attorneys with the team representing Watson and didn’t reach out to anyone from the alleged victims’ side.

That’s not exactly what one would consider thorough scouting, is it?

Browns ownership releases statement on decision to acquire Deshaun Watson

The Browns released a statement explaining their decision to trade for Deshaun Watson

The Cleveland Browns officially acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans on Sunday, landing the controversial quarterback for a bunch of draft picks.

Team ownership also released a statement explaining its thought process — justifying? — the decision to land Watson, who will not face criminal charges but has 22 civil lawsuits in front of him.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time exploring and investigating the opportunity to trade for Deshaun Watson,’’ owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in the release. “We are acutely aware and empathetic to the highly personal sentiments expressed about this decision. Our team’s comprehensive evaluation process was of utmost importance due to the sensitive nature of his situation and the complex factors involved. We also understand there are still some legal proceedings that are ongoing and we will respect due process.

“Those in-depth conversations, the extensive evaluation process, his dedication to being a great teammate and devotion to helping others within the NFL, within the community, and through his charitable initiatives provided the foundation for us to pursue Deshaun. We are confident in Deshaun and excited about moving forward with him as our quarterback and supporting his genuine and determined efforts.”

The statement from Dee and Jimmy Haslam:

USAT

Watson is not quoted in the statement.

Cleveland also traded backup QB Case Keenum on Sunday.

Cowboys sending Amari Cooper to Browns for draft picks

The Cleveland Browns are adding Amari Cooper to their wide receiver corps

The Dallas Cowboys are moving on from wide receiver Amari Cooper.

The NFC East champs are in the process of dealing their third-leading receiver by receptions in 2021 to the Cleveland Browns for a pair of draft picks it was reported on Saturday.

Cooper caught 68 passes for 865 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2021. He was behind CeeDee Lamb (79) and Dalton Schultz (78) in receptions.

Cooper spent three-plus years with the Cowboys after coming over from the Oakland Raiders. In his time with Dallas, Cooper made 225 receptions good for 3,183 yards and 19 touchdowns.

The Browns let go of Odell Beckham Jr. in the 2021 season and the situation with Jarvis Landry is uncertain, so adding Cooper is a big plus.

Browns DT Malik McDowell arrested on multiple charges in Florida

The Browns’ Malik McDowell was arrested in Florida on multiple charges

The troubles of Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik McDowell continue.

McDowell was arrested Monday in Florida on multiple charges. They include battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, and public exposure.

The battery and resisting officer are both felony charges while the exposure charge is a misdemeanor, according to Broward County court records.

“We are aware of the very concerning incident and arrest involving Malik McDowell and are in the process of gathering more information,” the Browns  said in a statement. “We understand the severity of this matter and our thoughts are for the well-being of all involved. We will have no further comment at this time.”

Per the police report obtained by Cleveland.com:

… a Broward County Sherriff’s officer responded to a report of a naked male walking near a school on Monday afternoon. When the officer arrived, he observed McDowell sitting on a curb. The report states McDowell charged at the officer at full speed with a closed fist and the officer was unable to avoid the attack or use non-lethal or de-escalation tactics.

A judge found probable cause for the charges during McDowell’s first court appearance Tuesday morning.

Authorities say The Learning Experience on Hillsboro Technology Drive was in session when surveillance video shows McDowell going naked onto the property. The learning center — which caters to children 6 months to 6 years old — went into a brief lockdown, with Nan Zamora of the company saying they saw “a gentleman roaming the parking lot without any clothing on. And he seemed to be not himself.”

McDowell allegedly fled and was tasered after a brief pursuit on foot and handcuffed.

McDowell was a second-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks out of Michigan State in 2017. He never played for them after suffering a head injury in an ATV accident before training camp.

More from Cleveland.com:

McDowell has had a number of legal issues since entering the league, most notably when he fought with two Lathrup Village police officers after getting stopped for suspicion of drunk driving in 2019, according to the Detroit News. The NFL suspended him for the first two games of the 2019 season as a result of the incident. He also faced charges of concealing stolen property two months later: a $74,000 Ford F-150 Raptor pickup he claimed to have bought off the street.

McDowell pleaded guilty to charges of assault/resisting arrest, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and receiving and concealing stolen property in October 2019. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison and three years probation and had to write three essays as part of his sentence.
He had 33 tackles and three sacks while starting 14 games for the Browns in 2021.