CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this edition of Hey, Mary Kay! I answer questions about Baker Mayfield, Jadeveon Clowney, Deshaun Watson and more.
Hey, Mary Kay: What are the chances that Baker Mayfield plays if Deshaun Watson is not available? — Gary L. Hahn, Crossville, Tennessee.
Hey, Gary: I think the chances of that are very slim. For starters, I think the Browns will find a trade partner for Mayfield before training camp even if they have to pay part of his $18.86 million salary. I think some team will be smart enough to trade for Mayfield, who can still help a team team and represents an upgrade over a handful of current starters in the NFL.
But if for some reason Mayfield is still hanging around at the start of the season, he won’t start for Watson if he’s suspended. That job will go to No. 2 quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who’s been here working in the offseason program and developing timing with his new teammates.
If Brissett gets injured amid a Watson suspension and Mayfield is still here, the Browns would have to decide between Mayfield and Josh Dobbs, but I don’t see it getting to that point. It behooves the Browns to trade Mayfield as soon as they can and eliminate the distraction.
Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think that the uncertainty surrounding Deshaun Watson’s possible suspension will have any impact on whether Jadeveon Clowney signs with the Browns? —Steven C., Beavercreek, Ohio
Hey Steven: I don’t think Watson’s situation will have any bearing on whether or not Clowney re-signs with the Browns. I do think that he’s probably more eager to come back now that Watson is here, but I don’t think the uncertainty of the suspension will negatively impact his decision. I think Clowney enjoyed playing for the Browns, and they want him back. I think they’d like to settle the Baker Mayfield situation first if they can, and have some extra cap space to work with. But with mutual interest, there’s no reason it shouldn’t get done sometime soon. Clowney was an integral part of the d-line last season, and it makes sense to keep the band together.
Hey, Mary Kay: Why don’t we just trade Baker Mayfield for Panthers receiver Robby Anderson (who won’t play with Mayfield anyways) and split the $4 million difference in salary. Seems simple to me. — Leo Sender, University Heights, Ohio
Hey, Leo: For starters, the Browns aren’t in the market for a veteran receiver right now, and would prefer a draft pick in return. Secondly, the Panthers just restructured Anderson’s contract in March, converting $11.765 million to a signing bonus prorated over the next two years, so they can’t really afford to move him right now. It will be awkward if Mayfield ends up in Carolina, but I don’t see Anderson coming here at this point. Of course, if the Browns are determined to get a deal done, they might be willing to consider things they previously didn’t.
Hey, Mary Kay: You reported that the Browns said they planned to use Demetric Felton more as a running back this coming season. The running back room is even more crowded after the draft, and there still seems to be a shortage of proven receivers. So is it possible they will reverse course and use him more as a slot receiver, or does the addition of David Bell make that less of a need? Also, does that shortage of receivers mean we might see Kareem Hunt used more in the passing game, even if Nick Chubb is also on the field? Thanks. —Howard Katz, Cleveland.
Hey, Howard: On draft weekend, Kevin Stefanski said Felton will continue to work with both the running backs and receivers and see how it shakes out. Felton is a specialty player, so doing double duty will maximize his chances to get on the field. The addition of Bell does also take care of the slot role for the most part. I do think Kareem Hunt will be used more in the passing game this season, in part because of Deshaun Watson and in part because he should be healthier and able to do more. I’ve always liked the idea of him and Chubb on the field together, but it hasn’t happened much to this point for one reason or another.
Hey, Mary Kay: Who do you think the Browns will most likely face in primetime this year, and how could a possible Deshaun Watson suspension impact the schedule? —Cal, Westlake, Ohio.
Hey, Cal: I think the NFL would love to feature a primetime matchup of Deshaun Watson vs. Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson this season. They might also like to showcase Watson vs. Tom Brady. If the league hopes to catch Watson in primetime, they might want to schedule those games later in the season, but I don’t think they’ll let his possible suspension dictate the primetime slate.
Hey, Mary Kay: With the drafting of running back Jerome Ford in the fifth round, do you think we’re planning on keeping five running backs on the 53 especially with Andy Janovich gone? If not, what do you see happening? Thank you and love the show. — Brent Watson, lifelong Browns fan, Punta Gorda, Florida.
Hey, Brent: Thanks for listening to the Orange and Brown Talk podcast. We enjoy doing it. The selection of Ford at No. 156 gives the Browns some flexibility in the running back room, and it remains to be seen how it will play out. They drafted Ford primarily as a developmental back with D’Ernest Johnson and Kareem Hunt both in the final years of their contract. If Ford looks good this offseason, beginning with rookie minicamp this weekend, he could possibly make someone such as Johnson expendable.
The Browns will also have to determine if they need a full-time fullback on the roster or if they can accomplish the role another way. They don’t necessarily have to count Felton as a running back, so they can still afford to keep five (Nick Chubb, Hunt, Johnson, Ford, Johnny Stanton IV), providing some can contribute on special teams. They also have more flexibility with the practice squad, so they should be able to keep whoever they want.
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