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Commentary: Browns making Baker Mayfield situation more complicated than needs to be … just cut him already

The other day a friend of mine said, “With the Browns, nothing is ever smooth.”

It’s true. No matter what it is, no matter how big or small the project, if the Browns are the ones doing the doing, it invariably becomes the equivalent of building the Panama Canal.

The best current example is the Baker Mayfield Imbroglio, which should have been addressed, resolved and dismissed posthaste — your basic “badda-boom, badda-bing” — like the day after the team traded for Deshaun Watson, which happened nearly two months ago.

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Granted, this is a unique situation, but one that could have, and should have, been taken care of in a single business day. In fact, the uniqueness of the situation is what demanded its rapid resolution, of which, logically and defensibly, there could be one, and only one:

Cut Baker Mayfield.

It should have happened the day after the Browns traded for Watson. That it didn’t happen, and still hasn’t happened, is further proof that sometimes the Browns, after all these years of coaching, front office and regime changes, are still frequently their own worst enemy.

It goes without saying that those who work in the analytics wing of the Berea Bunker undoubtedly demand that no team assets should ever be just given away. That everything, to one degree or another, has value. In that, The Nerd Patrol is correct.

Everything does have value. But that also includes not just the organization’s tangibles, but its intangibles, as well: its name, its reputation and its image as a consistently smooth-running, professionally astute and intellectually nimble organization.

Like, say, (pardon the expression) the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Instead, nearly two months after Cleveland traded for its long-coveted franchise quarterback, its instantly obsolete, misjudged but not yet discarded, mislabeled franchise quarterback is still, inexplicably, on the team’s roster.

Ironically, a squeaky wheel even on his best days, Mayfield can sit back and quietly enjoy the show as his former team, which is also his current team — you can’t make this stuff up — tries to figure out what to do with him.

Or continues to wait for another team to inquire about him.

Good luck with that.

Because, at this moment in time, there is plenty of evidence that Mayfield is not exactly coveted by the other teams in the league. During the NFL Draft, teams willingly went fishing for quarterbacks in an underwhelming pool of flawed collegiate passers, rather than pursue the Browns’ very available spare tire.

In time, that will likely change. Quarterbacks are always getting hurt, and the Browns have undoubtedly let all the other teams in the league know that operators are standing by waiting to accept their calls.

Which is a big reason Mayfield should have been gone the day after the Browns traded for Watson. Because one of the most obvious repercussions from the team’s decision to trade for Watson was the Browns announcing to the football world that Mayfield was officially a non-factor in Cleveland.

We’re coming up on the two-month anniversary of the quarterback who is a non-factor in Cleveland still being in Cleveland.

The day the Watson trade became official was the day the Browns’ next priority should have been to remove Mayfield from their roster as soon as possible, even if it means cutting him. Sure, that would be expensive. The Browns would have to eat the nearly $19 million owed Mayfield in 2022. But so what?

You’re either all-in or you’re not all-in. You can’t pay your new quarterback $230 million, then try to avoid paying the $19 million it will take to remove the old quarterback from the roster.

Especially this old quarterback, who is still wildly popular among many of the team’s fans, and — double especially — when the new quarterback arrives with enough baggage to fill a Lake Erie freighter.

The Watson-in/Mayfield-out roster adjustment should have been simultaneous, to the point that it should have been one big move. Badda-boom, badda-bing, and it’s done.

Instead, it’s been allowed to linger into separate transactions, only one of which has taken place. The cost of that? A team that had no leverage to begin with continues to remind everyone in the league that it still has no leverage.

That may be a good way to induce buyers, but my guess is they don’t teach that strategy in Horse Trading 101.

Or, to put it another way, the Browns are making this way more complicated than it should be. It’s hard to outsmart the competition when the system has already outsmarted you. That would appear to be the case since Mayfield wasn’t the franchise quarterback the Browns thought they were drafting with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Opposing teams are reiterating that fact by the apparently meager (non-existent?) offers they’ve made to the Browns for Mayfield.

So what should have been a one-day story threatens to become a summer-long saga.

Jim Ingraham is a sports columnist for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram and the Medina Gazette. Contact him at 329-7135 or [email protected] and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter


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