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

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

Hello MaryKay: You know this locker room better than anyone. Do you think these players will accept Deshaun Watson with open arms? Do you think he was involved with players like Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb? Thank you Mary Kay for all your hard work! #new beginnings —Jeff Lerner, Avon, Ohio

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

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

Hello MaryKay: Do you think the Browns would consider playing Baker Mayfield earlier in the season with Deshaun Watson suspended? – Bob Ruple of Novelty, Ohio.

Hey Bob: The plan is to start Jacoby Brissett as the new backup when Deshaun Watson is suspended earlier in the season, rather than Baker Mayfield. The Browns hope to trade Mayfield by then and will only list him if they still have no takers for his $18.86 million contract.

But if they have to wait until a quarterback is out injured, they will. They don’t want to give him up, and they don’t want to pick up a chunk of his salary or throw in a draft pick when they don’t have to. If he’s there for a training camp, it will be awkward if he takes reps behind Watson, but the Browns may have to reckon with that until a deal is struck.

The tricky part is that quarterbacks don’t get hit and get hurt until the regular season. The Browns need to hope something decent comes along before then so they can close the chapter on the Mayfield era.

Hello MaryKay: Do you think Anthony Schwartz will be a key figure in the Browns’ receiving corps next season? I haven’t heard many people talk about its abilities and benefits lately. I think he can pose a serious threat to Deshaun Watson. What is your opinion? — Jordan Brimner, Leamington, Ontario, Canada

Hello Jordan: Greetings to Canada! I actually think Anthony Schwartz can be a nice addition to the receiving corps this season after his injury-ravaged rookie year. Schwartz, who has blistering speed, missed the entire offseason and preseason with a hamstring injury and then missed three games with a midseason concussion.

But Schwartz, still raw, has a tremendous work ethic and will be back for the offseason program poised to make a significant contribution. He’s smart, a quick learner and has learned a lot from his mentor Jarvis Landry. I think he will make a decent leap in Year 2 and do better with Watson throwing a precise deep ball. He will also return determined to end a disappointing rookie season.

Hello MaryKay: Do you think Andrew Berry might be waiting too long to sign more free agents? I thought DeVante Parker would be a good addition, but now he’s a patriot. The same goes for defenders. Is Baker Mayfield’s cap situation holding him back? – Robert Demyen, Hubbard, Ohio

Hello Robert: I don’t think Mayfield’s $18.86 million cap hit will stop Berry from signing more free agents as they still have more than $20.683 million in cap space, which is fourth place according to the NFL is overthecap.com. Berry structured Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper’s contracts so that they combined count for just $15 million against this year’s cap.

With potentially a little more maneuvering, the Browns still have what they need to cover their rookie class, signing Jadeveon Clowney and Jarvis Landry when they can and extending Denzel Ward — even if they keep Mayfield’s full contract for a while have to wear. Ideally, they’ll get most of this off the books as soon as possible. If its reps can find a team willing to fund the deal creatively, a pre-camp deal is more likely.

Hello MaryKay: With a likely impending suspension of Deshaun Watson, how will that affect the Browns’ ability to complete a postseason run with potentially less time to gel in the regular season? – Emmett Caskey, Northern Canton, Ohio

Hello Emmett: At the NFL Annual Convention in Palm Beach, Fla. last week, I was under the impression that NFL investigators will consider the two grand jury non-indictments against Watson as mitigating factors and that his suspension may be shorter than initially anticipated. It’s conceivable that it could be something like a six-game ban, reduced to four or something in that area.

In a 17-game season, that would still give the Browns plenty of time to make the playoffs out of tough AFC North. The AFC in general will be a fight to the finish with the additions of Russell Wilson in Denver and Matt Ryan in Indianapolis. It promises to be great theater for the second straight season.

Hello MaryKay: 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 along those lines? And maybe pay part of his salary? The Browns can use the bottom picks for punters and a kicker and some special teams players? — Stefanie Bay Frost, Petersburg, Virginia.

Hello Stefanie: I don’t think draft pick pay is the problem right now, but teams’ unwillingness to take on Mayfield’s $18.86 million fully guaranteed for 2022, especially when he’s competing for the starting job and not the guaranteed one QB1 fights.

There are three things preventing the Browns from moving headlong into the Deshaun Watson era: his 22 pending civil lawsuits, his pending suspension, and Mayfield’s presence on the roster.

Once those things are settled, the Browns can focus on football and attempt to reach the Super Bowl. The range of draft picks you’re proposing may be enough, but there’s no market for Mayfield right now, so even late-round pick offers are hard to come by.

Hello MaryKay: What does Denzel Ward’s contract extension look like after the Xavien Howard deal, plus Watson’s $50m+ cap next year? —Andrew Howe, Erie, Pa.

Hi Andreas: As usual, the longer a team waits with a major expansion, the price increases. Check out what the Ravens have to do with Lamar Jackson now, who they could have renewed for around $40 million a year prior to last season. Since then, Josh Allen has signed an extension worth $43 million, Aaron Rodgers $50 million and Deshaun Watson $46 million, including an NFL-record guaranteed $230 million. As for Howard, his $25,345 new money average over the last two years of the deal makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL for those years. (He will earn an average of $18 million over the full five years of the deal, fourth in the NFL). Howard got the top dollar in part because of his high interception totals: 27 in six seasons, including 10 in 2020 and five last year. Ward hit his career-high three last season and has 10 in his four years. But he’s likely still getting paid in the NFL’s top five corners because of his lockdown skills and because he’s the next man with rising salaries .

Hello MaryKay: Could Baker Mayfield be a draft day trade and what pieces do they plan to fill during the draft? – David Morales, Lorain, Ohio

Hello David: Teams know Mayfield is on the trading block, so a draft day trade is certainly possible depending on what teams can do in the draft. If a team lands a Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett, they will be less inclined to jump for Mayfield. I still think the Browns will be eyeing a starting receiver in the draft and a defender, especially an edge rusher. I think they should consider moving up from 44th overall in 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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