As the Browns' brass flew back from a meeting with Deshaun Watson, who they hope will be the team's future quarterback, its current quarterback, Baker Mayfield, posted a statement to social media Tuesday night thanking the city of Cleveland and its fans "who truly embraced who I am."
"The past 4 years have been nothing short of truly life changing since I heard my name called in the draft to go to Cleveland. This is not a message with hidden meaning. This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me," he said. "We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs.
"I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process. I can only control what I can, which is trusting in God's plan throughout this process. I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I've always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap. Whatever happens ... I just want to say thank you to the fans who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city's hard working people.
"Cleveland will always be a part of Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives. Sincerely, Baker Reagan Mayfield."
The Browns flew to Houston on Tuesday to pitch Watson on waiving his no-trade clause to come to Cleveland, a league source told ESPN. The Browns are one of four teams, along with the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, that are attempting to land Watson in a trade with the Texans. Watson has already met with the Saints and Panthers and is scheduled to meet with the Falcons on Wednesday.
Watson did not play last season following an offseason request to be traded and the emergence of 22 civil lawsuits against him alleging sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions. A grand jury in Texas on Friday declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, signaling the end of criminal proceedings related to him in Harris County, where Houston is located.
Before meeting with the Browns on Tuesday, Watson answered questions on two of the 22 lawsuits filed against him during ongoing depositions, the plaintiffs' attorney, Tony Buzbee, told KHOU 11. Watson had invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when sitting for two sessions of depositions that began Friday.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski have publicly declared that Mayfield would remain their quarterback, up through the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
"We fully expect Baker to be our starter and bounce back," Berry said in January.
But that equation appeared to change Friday when the grand jury declined to indict Watson, leaving Mayfield's future in limbo with the franchise that selected him No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft.
Mayfield has endured a tumultuous tenure in Cleveland over four seasons. He played under four head coaches through his first three seasons in the league. Despite that, Mayfield led Cleveland to its first playoff victory in 26 years during the 2020 campaign.
But in Week 2 of the 2021 season, he suffered a torn labrum in his left, nonthrowing shoulder and struggled the rest of the way. He wound up finishing 27th in the league in QBR as the Browns missed the playoffs and finished with a disappointing 8-9 record.
Mayfield, who underwent surgery to repair the labrum Jan. 19 and is expected to be fully cleared well before training camp, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $19 million in 2022.