Browns GM Andrew Berry still 'fully' expects Baker Mayfield to be team's starter in 2022

Nate Ulrich
Akron Beacon Journal

INDIANAPOLIS — General Manager Andrew Berry didn't waver one bit with his public messaging about Baker Mayfield.

Berry said Tuesday during the NFL Scouting Combine his expectation that Mayfield will be the starting quarterback of the Browns next season hasn't changed since he initially stated it Jan. 11.

"No, I fully expect that," Berry told a group of Browns beat writers at the Indiana Convention Center.

Plans can change, and nothing should be entirely ruled out this time of year.

But Berry continued to paint a picture of the Browns giving Mayfield a chance to rebound from a disappointing, injury-plagued 2021 season.

Asked whether he expects to at least have competition at quarterback for Mayfield, Berry didn't rule it out.

“I don't know that I can really speak in detail in any [position group's] room at this point because we're at March 1 and day two of the combine," Berry said. "It really is about matching resources to opportunity. This is one I'm not necessarily trying to be evasive with, but that is the truth.

"We really do look at it like it's an expansion team, and if we have opportunities to match resources with talent, we do want to continue to add talent to the roster, and that applies to every position."

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks off the field after the Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 21-16 in an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

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Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers). Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks). Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans). Derek Carr (Las Vegas Raiders). Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings). Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons). Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers).

All are veteran quarterbacks whose futures could change with a trade this offseason.

"We anticipate Matt being a part of the team, but you know, I think you don't ever back yourself into a corner [in case] somebody gives you an offer you can't refuse,"  Falcons coach Arthur Smith said of Ryan at the combine. "Matt knows how we feel about him. I think Matt's got a lot of good football in him."

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And what about legendary quarterback Tom Brady potentially coming out of retirement and asking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to trade him?

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said it would be "bad business" to deal Brady.

What would another team need to offer to make such a stunning move worthwhile for the Bucs?

"Five No. 1 [picks]? Maybe," Arians quipped.

Berry doesn't envision as much movement among veteran quarterbacks as fans and media members might anticipate. He specifically said he's not sold on there being a rare level of opportunity on the QB trade market.

“I don't know that I necessarily buy that," Berry said. "I think that ends up being a lot of speculation. I mean, quarterbacks rarely move.”

Even if the Browns don't trade for a quarterback on the heels of their 8-9 season, they could sign one in free agency, which officially kicks off at 4 p.m. March 16, or select one in the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

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Impending free-agent quarterbacks include Teddy Bridgewater (Denver Broncos), Mitchell Trubisky (Buffalo Bills), Marcus Mariota (Raiders) and Jameis Winston (New Orleans Saints).

What is widely considered a less-than-stellar QB draft class is headlined by Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, Liberty's Malik Willis, Mississippi's Matt Corral, North Carolina's Sam Howell, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and Nevada's Carson Strong.

The Browns will likely draft a wide receiver or a defensive end in the first round (13th overall), but quarterback is a wild-card possibility. Most draft analysts project Pickett and Willis to be chosen in the opening round.

“There’s going to be starting NFL quarterbacks coming out of this class for sure,” said Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, whose franchise seeks a successor to recently retired quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Berry said the Browns haven't done more research on quarterbacks than usual this offseason because they're always digging into the sport's most important position regardless of who's on their roster.

Mayfield struggled last year, when he played virtually the entire season hurt after suffering a completely torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder in a Week 2 win over the Houston Texans.

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Berry said Mayfield is "right on track" in his rehabilitation from Jan. 19 surgery on the labrum. The Browns previously stated Mayfield is expected to begin throwing again in April and be fully recovered by the start of training camp in late July.

"He’s worked his tail off since the surgery," Berry said, adding he spoke to Mayfield right after the surgical procedure and the QB and organization have been in touch since then. 

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Mayfield is under contract through next season, when he'll be due $18.858 million guaranteed because Berry exercised the fifth-year option on the player's rookie deal this past April.

"The reality is we’ve seen him play at a high level before," Berry said. "Being realistic, the injury does have some impact on his performance. We’re focused on him getting healthy. We know how he works. We think he’s talented. We’ve seen him play at a playoff-caliber level before. I don’t think there’s any reason that he can’t rebound to that level next year."

General manager Andrew Berry of the Cleveland Browns looks on before the Browns take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com.