Could the two NFL quarterbacks most oft-mentioned in trade talks this offseason be dealt … for each other?
With the Browns bracing for a potentially lengthy Deshaun Watson suspension in the wake of two dozen sexual misconduct lawsuits — 20 of which he settled, the accusers’ attorney announced Tuesday — the team could be in the market for another quarterback. ESPN’s Jake Trotter suggested the team could “look for another quarterback trade” — and the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo could be a target.
Both Cleveland and San Francisco made moves to replace their incumbent quarterback in the past 16 months. The Browns are on the outs with Baker Mayfield after a rough, injury-plagued season in 2021, having traded for Watson to replace him in the long run. The 49ers traded three first-round picks to move up and select Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft.
However, the paths for Watson and Lance to start in 2022 seem murky at best. Watson is reportedly bracing for a year-long suspension, while the FCS product Lance has allegedly struggled to adapt to the NFL. At the very least, both teams could be in the market for competent backups.
For Cleveland, Garoppolo — who struggled in 2021 and is coming off shoulder surgery — could at the least steady the ship in the run-heavy scheme, as he has done in San Francisco over the past few years. And for the 49ers, Mayfield would presumably be a high-upside contingency plan if Lance is still not ready to play.
The possibility still appears remote, and for Cleveland, a Mayfield trade to Carolina seems likely. The two teams have been in talks for several weeks, with a trade reportedly nixed at the last second on NFL Draft night, though both sides have continued negotiations.
Still, it’s a fun idea to think about. The Browns appear highly unlikely to keep Mayfield as the starter should Watson be suspended, as the two sides had a rocky end to their relationship. Mayfield said in a podcast interview that he felt “disrespected” by how the organization treated him after his rough 2021 season.
For the 49ers, the team could cut Garoppolo and save $25 million, but they have made it clear they would prefer to trade him and gain some value in return. Perhaps the Browns could be the team desperate enough to bite.