National Football League

Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield is eligible for a contract extension but questions remain

March 6

For Baker Mayfield, being locked up in the Dawg Pound wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback took the club to new heights last season, with a postseason run to the AFC divisional round before losing to the former defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Mayfield's play dramatically improved in the second half of the 2020 campaign, as he led the Browns to their best regular-season record since the 1994 season (11-5) and first playoff appearance since 2002.

With that, Cleveland is in its first offseason following a winning season in 13 years, and Mayfield is eligible to sign a long-term contract with the franchise.

However, while the option is on the table for an extension, the front office might not pull the trigger, and head coach Kevin Stefanski is keeping his lips sealed about negotiations.

"All of these decisions – it's a business – but things take care of themselves. It works itself out. I'm going to focus on the day to day and it applies to Baker I know he is going to do the same."

So without clarity from Stefanski, the question remains, will Mayfield play out his current rookie contract, or will the Browns pay the former No. 1 draft pick the big bucks?

According to Nick Wright, a huge payday for Mayfield isn't the move for the Browns this offseason, even though Mayfield has proven he's worth a reasonable salary.

"If any of those guys [Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson] want record-breaking contracts, I need to see it one more year. If you want to meet me in the middle on a deal, then we can get something done now."

NFL franchises are known for shelling out massive deals for signal-callers, but not all of them have gone as planned.

The most recent examples are the two top picks in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, both of whom earned the richest contract extensions in league history at one point.

But as of this offseason, neither of them is playing for the team that paid top-dollar for them, resulting in massive blows to the franchises' respective salary cap sheets.

Since, the quarterback market has constantly been reset. Prior to last season, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes signed a bank-breaking extension that made him the highest-paid athlete in North American sports history, a 10-year deal worth up to $503 million.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson sits in second after he signed a four-year, $160 million contract soon after Mahomes got his new deal.

Mayfield's projected market value would be a four-year, $140,806,156 contract with an average annual salary of $35,201,539, according to Spotrac.com, making him the third-highest paid player in the league behind Mahomes and Watson.

While Wright isn't fully convinced Mayfield deserves that hefty of a bag, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith doesn't want the Browns to have Mayfield sign anything this offseason.

"I think you take your time. You see what he does this year, and you move forward from there. I'm pleased with what we've seen. I'm pleased with the progress ... But in the end, am I sold on him yet? No."

There were indeed times this past season where Mayfield didn't quite look the part of a franchise game-changer

In seven regular-season games this past season, Mayfield threw for fewer than 200 yards, and in four games he failed to toss a single touchdown.

In addition, even though Cleveland capped the regular season with 11 wins – its highest total since 1994 – the numbers say that Mayfield beat up on bad teams.

The Browns had the fourth-easiest schedule in the league (.461 opponent win percentage), and against teams .500 or worse, Mayfield went 8-1, tossing 15 touchdowns and two interceptions while posting a 65.9 completion percentage.

However, against clubs .500 or better, Mayfield's play took a dip, as he posted a 2-3 record with 10 touchdowns, six interceptions, and a 60.3 average completion percentage.

Mayfield looks to be the quarterback of the future for Cleveland.

But at what cost?


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