Mandatory minicamps have officially begun around the NFL. By the end of next week, every NFL team will have completed the third phase of their offseason workouts consisting of organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory veteran minicamps. While the veteran minicamps are mandatory for all of the players on a team, some players and teams agree to excuse a given player from showing up. Most recently, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns “mutually” agreed that Mayfield could be excused from next week’s minicamp.
There are a couple of things this could mean.
The first possibility is that Mayfield is still trying to demonstrate his frustration with the Browns. After Cleveland made it clear early in the offseason that they were trying to be a part of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, Mayfield requested to be traded. He knew that even if the Browns lost out on adding Watson to the team, they had already made it clear that they were looking to move on from their former first overall pick.
Not only did Cleveland bring Watson into the fold, they signed him to a new, fully guaranteed five-year contract worth $230 million, breaking the record for most guaranteed money in an NFL contract. If it hadn’t been clear before, the Browns had just announced to the world that they didn’t plan on keeping Mayfield around.
In the months since the trade, no real progress has been made toward a deal involving Mayfield. The closest it’s come, it seems, was a potential trade that would have sent the quarterback to Carolina ahead of the draft, though it quickly fell through.
For now, Mayfield is stuck in a weird purgatory. The team he plays for clearly doesn’t see him as their ideal starting quarterback for the future but at the same time may still need him given the ongoing investigations—and likely looming suspension—surrounding Watson. Mayfield’s future is completely uncertain, so he could be using his absences from OTAs and minicamp to use what power he has left to get out of Cleveland ahead of this season.
There’s also a possibility that Mayfield’s absence has nothing to do with his frustration with the Browns at all. Instead, it could just be a result of his ongoing rehab and recovery from the shoulder surgery he underwent earlier in the offseason.
In January, soon after the Browns’ season ended, Mayfield underwent a surgery to repair a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, something he had suffered early last season. Recovery from a surgery like that is expected to take anywhere from four to six months, and Mayfield is currently still going through rehabilitation.
It’s very possible—even likely—that the former No. 1 overall pick preferred to stay away from the team’s offseason workouts to instead focus on recovering. After all, Mayfield showing up to the Browns’ facilities would just provide more distraction for him and the team with the many questions he’d be asked about where he stands with the Browns.
It’s possible Mayfield really is trying to press his team into trading him by sitting out of OTAs and now veteran minicamp, but it’s more likely that he’s just focusing on his recovery. The Browns’ agreement to excuse him from minicamp seems to indicate there has been some communication between the two parties. Plus, Cleveland and Mayfield both know how badly the team might need him when the season begins with the remaining uncertainty surrounding Watson’s investigation by the NFL.
In all likelihood, Mayfield just wants to finish his recovery away from the distractions and commitments minicamp requires. He’ll presumably return to the team once training camp begins in about a month.
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