The Baker Mayfield era for the Cleveland Browns likely felt like a bad rollercoaster ride to many fans.
Mayfield himself put a discordant end to his stint in The Land by asking to be traded back in March, shortly before the team acquired Deshaun Watson.
At age 27, Mayfield still has the opportunity to turn his career around and max out the tremendous potential many have always seen in him.
But the Browns could’ve prevented the headaches that came with him well before they even started.
Reportedly, back in 2018, the Seattle Seahawks offered to trade Russell Wilson to the Browns in return for the top pick in that year’s draft.
Of course, the Browns turned down that offer and instead used that pick to take Mayfield.
“The Seahawks, according to someone in Wilson’s camp and the Seahawks’ front office, called the Cleveland Browns before the 2018 draft to discuss a trade that would have swapped Wilson for the No. 1 overall pick,” wrote Brady Henderson of ESPN.
As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, but this is a trade the Browns may have executed if they could back to the spring of 2018 in a time machine.
Wilson Could’ve Stabilized The Browns
Ever since the Browns were re-established in 1999, they have largely been a franchise in turmoil, and they haven’t exactly had a sterling reputation outside of Northeast Ohio.
The best way for a franchise to get out of such a situation is to build a winning culture brick by brick, and that typically starts by finding a franchise quarterback.
Wilson would’ve been a wonderful choice, as he was already a Super Bowl champion at the time, and he could’ve brought some of what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll built in Seattle out to Cleveland, especially given his strong leadership skills.
Russell Wilson makes everything work for Seattle:
"I always talk about 30% of what you're paying a QB is leadership. I've never seen anything like it… Russell Wilson throws a Super Bowl INT, an INT last night. It doesn't bother him for a minute." — @ColinCowherd pic.twitter.com/kR6H0mXz11
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) November 12, 2019
Russell Wilson’s leadership on display all season – getting his young #Seahawks receivers ready to play – paying off in a big way with DK Metcalf’s record setting performance against the Eagles. pic.twitter.com/neXS8HkIgQ
— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) January 8, 2020
In Seattle, Wilson spent lots of time handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, who was then one of the game’s best running backs, and therefore coming to the Browns may have been a somewhat easy transition for him, as he could’ve relied heavily on Nick Chubb.
In addition, with Wilson under center, Cleveland likely wouldn’t have traded for Watson this year, a move that has seemingly divided the fan base in half and drawn even more ire from fans of other teams who already hated the Browns.
A Wilson Trade Could’ve Served Both Sides Well
One of the reasons Wilson wanted out of Seattle this offseason was that he reportedly wasn’t happy with the direction the team was heading in.
After being a perennial contender several years ago, the Seahawks have sagged back to the pack more recently, missing the playoffs in three of the last six seasons.
Lynch left following the 2015 season, and it seemed to trigger a slow demise for the squad.
If Wilson had joined the Browns in 2018, he would’ve been joining the young and talented core that executive Andrew Berry was just starting to assemble.
His first couple of years in Cleveland may not have been pleasant, but things could’ve been very fruitful afterward.
As it turned out, Mayfield had a very strong 2020 campaign, and in doing so, he led the Browns to their first playoff win since the 1994 season.
They could’ve found themselves in a better place right now, at least in terms of optics, but it is what it is, and once Watson serves his 11-game suspension, they could find themselves on the upswing for some time afterward.