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Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski on Monday said he was hopeful that the ongoing saga between the team and quarterback Baker Mayfield could resolve soon.
“I think we’ll see,” Stefanski said at the NFL owners’ meetings in Palm Beach, Florida. “I think everybody understands the situation. We’re hoping that there’s closure to it at some point.”
His comments as Mayfield remained on the Browns roster Monday, roughly 10 days after the team traded for former Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who agreed to a five-year, $230 million contract.
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Mayfield has been the Browns’ quarterback since his rookie season after the team selected him No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. This month, Mayfield thanked Cleveland fans in a message on social media, and his guaranteed full base salary of 18,858 million in 2022 is likely impacting trade efforts.
On Monday, Stefanski called the situation “unique.”
“We’ve got to see how it plays out,” the coach said. “I think of all of us would love an answer yesterday, but that’s not the reality of it.”
Stefanski said he expects Watson — who still faces 22 civil lawsuits over sexual assault allegations — to fully participate in the Browns’ offseason program beginning April 18.
He said the team has been welcoming of Watson despite his off-the-field issues and the coach noted he will try and make sure those issues don’t distract the team.
“I think that’s important for our players, coaches and our building in general,” Stefanski said, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “We understand that there are questions, and we’re going to continue to have that dialogue. But at the end of the day, we also have our work to do. We have to focus on that. … You have to be present and be where your feet are. That will really be our approach to everything.”
The Browns received backlash from the fans after hiring Watson, and the coach said the team had tried to be “understanding of everybody’s viewpoint.”
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“I want to just make sure that I’m available in our building to everyone to talk through because it’s not something that was taken lightly,” the coach added. “It’s just too important. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood that this is something that took weeks, months, weeks of gathering information, of discussions, and conversations. It’s not something we could take lightly.”
Mayfield battled a shoulder injury last season as he started 14 games and threw for just 3,010 yards and 17 touchdowns, the lowest totals in his career.
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In 2020, Mayfield led the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, throwing for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions.