If the Browns are thinking about moving on from Baker Mayfield at he end of the season they will be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement.
Even after gifting the Packers four interceptions on Christmas Day, Mayfield remains the best option for the Browns under center for the 2022 season.
That is not to say that Mayfield has had a good season, or that there should not be any question who should start for the Browns but rather it’s a telling critique on the options out there.
With a weak quarterback class entering the draft, something that Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth reminded us multiple times on Monday night as Ian Book struggled in his NFL debut, the time to find a replacement is not now.
The projected free agent list of quarterbacks include Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Lets take a moment to look over those options. Dalton was named QB1 for the Bears who immediately drafted a quarterback in the first round and has been forgettable when he has been able to be on the field. Newton was reunited with the Panthers at midseason and seemingly draws the ire of his head coach weekly while Fitzpatrick threw all of six passes before suffering a season ending hip injury. That leaves Winston as the only viable option after leading the Saints to a 4-2 record before going down to injury. The Browns will hardly be the only team looking for an option at quarterback.
The issue with Winston is that it is not clear if he is even an improvement on Mayfield and making such a decision and leaving both men on the roster would appear to set the team up for a constant second guessing every time something did not go as desired.
With two must win games left on the schedule for the Browns the time for Mayfield is now. If he wins out and performs well the questions for 2022 should be squelched. Whether it is by choice or just a lack of options, Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is in Mayfield’s corner as the season comes to a close.
“Baker told you guys, I’m sure the other night, he didn’t play up to his standard. And we expect him to play at a high level,” Stefanski said, via Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I think confidence-wise, with the quarterback position, you get too much credit, you get too much blame. And that’s just how it is. And he’ll bounce back and I think he’ll be better for it.”
The Browns surely would like to know what they have in Mayfield and perhaps work out a contract but right now playing Mayfield in year five without a contact still appears to be better than any other option.