Five times the Cleveland Browns saw a star leave the team.
Whether you want to admit it or not, when we ended the 2020 season, no one thought Baker Mayfield would be gone by the start of the 2022 season. It was a shocking conclusion to a relationship that looked like it was going great. My, how times change. The departure of Mayfield was a shock, in part due to his profile at the time and his star status with the team.
While I’ll get some guff calling Mayfield a “star”, the fact is he is, to a degree and 2022 saw a few huge names leave the team, including Mayfield. Some of which were mostly due to the team deciding to move on from them but not all of them. Guys like Jarvis Landry, J.C. Tretter, Mayfield, and M.J. Stewart all left the squad for various reasons.
So it got me thinking, what are some other big names whose departure shook the foundation to a degree. This isn’t a “top five”, merely five examples of times it happened. So if you have others, let me know, I’d like to explore more of these in future pieces.
We won’t be covering anyone from the 2022 offseason, simply because, well, we’ve done that all spring and summer long.
Now, this isn’t about a guy getting traded, cut, or opting not to re-sign; it’s about all of them. Whether it was the player’s decision to leave or the club’s decision to move on, that’s what we’re looking at today.
Five times Cleveland Browns stars shockingly left the club for one reason or another
The Cleveland Browns made a tacky decision in 2017 to cut Joe Haden over a few million dollars difference. See, the Browns were being stingy with their Pro Bowl corner, wanting to cut as much money as possible from the payroll, and deciding that Haden wasn’t worth what he was getting paid. So they cut him, and he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers hours later. It sent shockwaves through the team and angered the fanbase for years.
Haden was still a Pro Bowl player, but when Bernie Kosar got cut by the Cleveland Browns it was still the middle of the season, and it shocked the fanbase unlike any other move in the history of Cleveland sports. It may not have been as big of departure of a Jim Thome or a LeBron James, but more than most saw those men leaving, Kosar getting cut mid-season? That was a shocker.
While Alex Mack wasn’t shocking or unexpected, it was almost needlessly delayed. Mack hated playing in Cleveland, even if he won’t say it. The man hated being in Cleveland so much that he tried signing an offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, Mack would rather play for the Jaguars than the Browns. So when he became an unrestricted free agent, the Browns had no chance to sign him. There are rumors he left behind his entire locker, 90% of his house’s contests, and his dog as he took off on foot for the airport to start his career in Atlanta. Now, maybe he didn’t “hate” Cleveland, but he sure didn’t love it, either. You don’t constantly try to leave if you’re happy.
The next two names may not be seen as “stars” but they either were on their way or became such elsewhere. With Jordan Cameron, the Browns had a Top 10, Pro Bowl tight end. He was athletic, fast, smart, a good blocker, and a great receiver. He easily could’ve had Travis Kelce-like stats if his quarterbacks were Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden. He left for Miami, who ended up having an even worse passing game, and then concussions ended his career. He’s doing alright for himself in retirement, however, as he’s in a relationship with Elin Nordegren.
You really can’t say much about the Browns in the early to mid-2000s, as they were terrible at talent evaluation. They had Shaun O’Hara, the best offensive linemen on a Super Bowl-winning Giants team. He went to three Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro. All in all, he had a good career. Yet the Browns couldn’t retain him for one reason or another. He was the best linemen on the team the moment he arrived but Carmen Policy and Butch Davis just didn’t see it until it was too late.