NFL insider notebook: Browns appear stuck with Baker Mayfield for another year, plus Week 18 picks

Just more than a month ago I wrote in this space about the five options the Cleveland Browns had with Baker Mayfield. You can read the full post here, but the long and short of it was no matter how the season ended, he’d likely be back for 2022 playing under the fifth-year option.

As terrible — and, in fairness, injured — as he looked Monday against the Steelers, I still believe that’s the more likely option.

After speaking with sources around the league about what the Browns could do with Mayfield after he finished his fourth season with zero fourth-quarter comebacks or game-winning drives, a market issue began emerging.

The Browns would need a veteran QB to want to be traded there. That vet would need to be convinced of his receiving weapons. Cleveland’s receiving weapons are far from convincing and I don’t see how they markedly improve in three months by free agency.

Jarvis Landry just turned 29 and put together his worst career year. Whatever draft capital the Browns have in 2022 would be set away in a trade for said QB. And the free agent market for wide receivers will be bottom heavy. Davante Adams may get franchised. Chris Godwin is coming off an ACL. JuJu Smith-Schuster is coming off a shoulder injury. Michael Gallup just tore his ACL.

Are you really going to attract Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson to Cleveland with this group of receivers, even if you boast a fantastic offensive line and running game? Market forces, plus the sunk cost of Mayfield’s fifth-year option, could make it so the Browns have little choice but to move ahead with the former No. 1 overall pick for another season.

Baalke backlash not swaying Khan

Jaguars owner Shad Khan severely underestimated the fan reaction — nay, revolt — over his intention to retain GM Trent Baalke. But I’m told Khan remains steadfast in his decision to retain Baalke as general manager of the team moving forward.

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