Will Deshaun Watson be accepted with open arms by Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and other new Browns teammates?  Hey, Mary Kay!

Will Deshaun Watson be accepted with open arms by Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb and other new Browns teammates? Hey, Mary Kay!

CLEVELAND, Ohio — In this edition of Hey, Mary Kay!, I answer questions about Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield and more.

Hey, Mary Kay: You know this locker room as well as anyone. Do you think these players will accept Deshaun Watson with open arms? Do you think he’s been in contact with players like Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb? Thanks Mary Kay for all your hard work! #newbeginnings —Jeff Lerner, Avon, Ohio

Hey, Jeff: Thanks. I know that Watson has been embraced by plenty of his new Browns teammates already. I’m told that Myles Garrett reached out to him early on and welcomed him to the team. I know that he spent time with Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah when he was in town for his introductory press conference and they were excited to have him. I’m sure he’s been in contact with his new No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper, and I know that linebacker Anthony Walker willingly gave up his No. 4 to him, and that made him feel immediately accepted.

I’m sure he’ll have plenty in common with Nick Chubb because they’re both from Georgia, they’re both 26 and they’ve undoubtedly crossed paths and have mutual friends. I’ve heard that his former Texans teammate Jadeveon Clowney would love to be reunited with him, and Jarvis Landry’s agent, Roosevelt Barnes, told me that Watson’s addition makes the Browns more intriguing to him. Browns players are poised to win, and I think they believe like the Browns do that Watson makes them an instant Super Bowl contender.

Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think the Browns would consider playing Baker Mayfield to start the season if Deshaun Watson is suspended? — Bob Ruple from Novelty, Ohio.

Hey Bob: The plan is to start new backup Jacoby Brissett if Deshaun Watson is suspended at the start of the season, and not Baker Mayfield. The Browns hope to trade Mayfield before then, and will only have him on the roster if they still have no takers for his $18.86 million contract. But if they have to wait until a starting quarterback goes down with an injury, they’ll do so. They don’t want to give him away, and they don’t want to pick up part of his salary or throw in a draft pick if they don’t have to. If he’s around for training camp, he will be awkward having him take reps behind Watson, but the Browns might have to roll with it until a deal comes along. The hard part is that quarterbacks don’t get hit and thus hurt until the regular season. The Browns have to hope something decent comes along before then so they can close the chapter on the Mayfield era.

Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think Anthony Schwartz will be a key price in the Browns’ receiving corps next season? I haven’t heard many people speak about his skill and upside recently. I believe he can be a solid deep threat for Deshaun Watson. What’s your opinion? —Jordan Brimner, Leamington, Ontario, Canada

Hey, Jordan: Greetings in Canada! I actually do think Anthony Schwartz can be a nice, complementary piece on the receiving corps this season after his injury-marred rookie year. Schwartz, who has blazing speed, missed the whole offseason and preseason with a hamstring injury and then missed three games with a concussion during the season. But Schwartz, who’s still raw, has a tremendous work ethic and will come back for the offseason program ready to contribute in a significant way. He’s smart, a quick-study and has learned a ton from his mentor Jarvis Landry. I think he’ll make a decent leap in Year 2, and he’ll fare better with Watson, who throws an accurate deep ball. He’ll also return determined to erase a disappointing rookie season.

Hey, Mary Kay: Do you think Andrew Berry might be waiting too long to sign more free agents? I thought DeVante Parker might be a good addition but now he’s a Patriot. Same goes for defensive linemen. Is the Baker Mayfield cap situation holding him up? —Robert Demyen, Hubbard, Ohio

Hey, Robert: I don’t think Mayfield’s $18.86 million cap hit is preventing Berry from signing more free agents, because they still have more than $20.683 million in cap space, which is fourth in the NFL, according to overthecap.com. Berry structured the contracts of Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper in such a way that they count for only a combined $15 million against this year’s cap. With possibly a little more maneuvering, the Browns still have what they need to cover their rookie class, sign Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Landry if they can, and extend Denzel Ward—even if they have to carry Mayfield’s full contract for awhile. Ideally, they’ll get most of it off the books as soon as possible. If his reps can find a team willing to creatively finance the deal, a trade before camp will be more likely.

Hey, Mary Kay: With a likely Deshaun Watson suspension coming, how will this effect the Browns’ ability to make a postseason run with possibly less time to freeze in the regular season? – Emmett Caskey, North Canton, Ohio

Hey, Emmett: I got the impression at the NFL Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. last week that NFL investigators will view the two grand jury non-indictments of Watson as mitigating factors and that his suspension could be shorter than originally anticipated. It’s conceivable it could end up being something like a six-game ban that gets knocked down to four, or something in that range. In a 17-game season, that would still give the Browns plenty of time to make the playoffs out of the tough AFC North. The AFC in general will be a battle to the finish with the additions of Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. It promises to be great theater for the second straight season.

Hey, Mary Kay: Wouldn’t it be better to trade Mayfield for lower-round draft picks like a fourth and fifth this year and a fifth and sixth next year or something to that effect? And maybe pay for some of his salary? The Browns can use the lower picks for punter and a kicker and some special team players? — Stefanie Bay Frost, Petersburg, Va.

Hey, Stefanie: I don’t think the draft pick compensation is the issue right now as much as teams’ unwillingness to take on Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.86 million for 2022, especially if he’s competing for the starting job and not the guaranteed QB1. There are three things preventing the Browns from moving headlong into the Deshaun Watson era: his 22 pending civil suits, his looming suspension and Mayfield’s presence on the roster. Once those things are resolved, the Browns can focus on football and get down to the business of trying to get to the Super Bowl. The array of draft picks you propose might suffice, but there’s no market for Mayfield right now, so even offers of late-round picks are hard to come by.

Hey, Mary Kay: How does the Denzel Ward contract extension look following that Xavien Howard deal, plus Watson’s cap hit being $50 million-plus next year? — Andrew Howe, Erie, Pa.

Hey Andrew: As usual, the longer a team waits to do a big extension, the price goes up. Look at what the Ravens are facing now with Lamar Jackson, whom they could’ve extended before last season at around $40 million a year. Since then, Josh Allen has signed an extension worth $43 million, Aaron Rodgers $50 million, and Deshaun Watson $46 million, including an NFL-record $230 million guaranteed. As for Howard, his new-money average of $25,345 over the final two years of the deal makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL in those years. (Over the full five years of the deal, he’ll average $18 million for fourth in the NFL). Howard received top dollar partly because of his high interception totals: 27 in six seasons, including 10 in 2020 and five last year. Ward tied his career-high with three last season, and has 10 in his four years. But he’ll still likely be paid among the top five corners in the NFL because of his lockdown ability and because he’s the next man up with salaries soaring.

Hey, Mary Kay: Could Baker Mayfield be a draft day trade and what are the pieces they plan to fill during the draft. —David Morales, Lorain, Ohio

Hey David: Teams know Mayfield is on the trading block, so a draft day trade is certainly possible depending on what teams are able to do in the draft. If a team lands a Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett, they’ll be less inclined to spring for Mayfield. I still think the Browns will have their eye on a starting receiver in the draft, and a defensive lineman, particularly an edge-rusher. I think they should consider trading up from No. 44 overall into the first round or at least higher in the second to secure one of the better receivers or edge defenders. It’s deep enough at those two positions to land a starter at 44.

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