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Baker Mayfield for Aaron Rodgers? Why such trade speculation doesn't add up

After Aaron Rodgers reportedly requested a trade from the Green Bay Packers, some have listed the Cleveland Browns as a potential destination.

CLEVELAND — In news that sent shockwaves through the NFL, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers reportedly demanded a trade from the Green Bay Packers. And it didn't take long after news of Rodgers' request was first made public for the Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield to become a part of the conversation -- at least as far as some prognosticators were concerned.

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On the morning after Rodgers' request made the rounds ahead of the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN's Max Kellerman made the case that the Browns should be the first team to inquire about the reigning NFL MVP.

"Could you imagine Aaron Rodgers on that team? Baker Mayfield is a nice quarterback, but the Cleveland Browns have the No. 1 rated offensive line blocking for the passer, blocking for the quarterback and blocking for the run," Kellerman said on First Take last Friday. "Odell Beckham Jr. is coming back. Oh my god, the weapons. They have two all-world running backs, a great offensive line, great receivers everywhere you look, Odell coming back with a chip on his shoulder and a defense.

"Aaron Rodgers on the Browns right now, in my view, makes them Super Bowl favorites over the Bucs and the Chiefs." 

But while Kellerman may be right that adding Rodgers to its roster would make Cleveland the favorite to win Super Bowl 56, there's just one problem: nothing about the mechanics of such a potential trade makes sense.

As evidenced by last month's release of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the Browns are more positioned to be subtracting salary than they are to be adding it. That's not to say that Cleveland couldn't get creative if it acquired Rodgers, whose base salary of $14.7 million for 2021 is drastically greater than Mayfield's of $920,000; it would just require Browns general manager Andrew Berry drastically restructuring the roster he's spent the past two years meticulously building.

In other words, going from Mayfield to Rodgers might seem great on paper for Cleveland -- until you consider the other key players it could cost the Browns both in the long and the short term.

"Every deal that we structure is with the mindset of giving ourselves the greatest both short-term and long-term cap flexibility so we are in a really healthy spot not just presently but moving into the future," Berry said during a pre-draft press conference last month, answering a question unrelated to Rodgers.

And then there's the matter of compensation.

While it's tough to project what type of trade package Rodgers might command -- established franchise quarterbacks rarely get traded in the NFL -- that hasn't stopped some from trying. As a part of a column ranking seven hypothetical trade offers for the three-time MVP, ESPN's Bill Barnwell proposed a deal in which the Browns would receive Rodgers and cornerback Josh Jackson in exchange for Mayfield, tight end David Njoku and first-round picks in 2022 and 20223.

Suffice to say, that seems like a lot, especially to acquire a quarterback who will be 38-years-old by the team next season's playoff starts. In essence, Cleveland would not only be creating additional holes on its roster in order to find the salary cap space to acquire Rodgers, but it would also be losing two valuable first-round picks that it could use to fill those holes.

Plus, who's to say the Packers would even accept such an offer from the Browns, considering that Green Bay already used its 2020 first-round pick on a quarterback in Jordan Love. In shopping Rodgers, the Packers will likely place a premium on draft picks -- something that more QB-needy teams like the Denver Broncos, Mami Dolphins or New York Giants would likely be willing to part with.

Add it all up and it's hard to find a compelling case for why the Browns would restructure their roster -- both in the short and long term -- to acquire Rodgers or why Cleveland would be the most appealing trade partner for Green Bay.

Neither the Browns nor Rodgers are strangers to attracting attention, so it isn't a surprise this speculation has occurred. But when it comes to the possibility of Rodgers actually landing in Cleveland, the conversation seems like more than a stretch than anything else.