Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has cost himself a lot of money due to his on-field performance this season.
No doubt several injuries have impacted Mayfield’s play.
Since Week 2, Mayfield has played with a torn labrum and fracture in his left shoulder.
Mayfield, 26, also has injuries to his knee, foot and groin.
In the 2021 season, Mayfield has thrown for 2,413 yards (21st in the NFL), 11 touchdowns (23rd), six interceptions (tied for eighth) and has a 37.8 QBR (26th).
The Browns enter their bye week with a 6-6 record, which is last in the AFC North.
Here is a look at three contract options for Mayfield that Browns general manager Andrew Berry and the team’s company could consider:
1. Let Baker Mayfield’s rookie contract expire
In April, the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on Mayfield’s contract to keep him under contract through the 2022 season.
Spotrac.com shows Mayfield is due to make about $5.11 million this season and $18.86 million in 2022.
Once Mayfield’s deal expires after the 2022 season, the Browns could let the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft see what he’s worth on the open market.
Also, the Browns could try to trade Mayfield while he’s under contract.
The Browns have some financial flexibility to get creative with about $39.62 million of salary-cap space in 2022.
If the Browns let Mayfield leave in free agency, they could look to draft a rookie quarterback in the next two years, sign a free-agent quarterback or make a trade.
The list of available quarterbacks in the 2022 free agency period is underwhelming.
If the season ended Friday, the Browns would have the 15th overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft.
2. Put the franchise tag on Baker Mayfield
Berry could put the franchise tag on Mayfield to keep him in a Browns uniform for the 2023 season and the 2024 season.
Non-exclusive franchise tag values for quarterbacks were $25,104,000 in the 2021 season.
It’s safe to assume that figure will increase to about $30 million by 2023, and even more by 2024.
The Browns might value Mayfield more than the NFL’s other 31 teams given the franchise’s horrific quarterback play through the years.
Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, Mayfield is among 31 players the Browns have started at quarterback.
In 2019, Mayfield became the first Browns quarterback to start all 16 games since Tim Couch did in 2001.
In the 2020 season, Mayfield led the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 campaign, and led the team to its first playoff win since Jan. 1, 1995.
3. Sign Baker Mayfield to a contract extension
Earlier this week, Berry was very non-committal about Mayfield’s future with the team.
It’s likely Mayfield will want a figure similar to fellow 2018 first-round pick and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who signed a contract extension where he is due to make an average of $43 million per year through the 2028 season.
The key difference is Allen is an MVP candidate whereas Mayfield is not.
The Bills enter Week 13 with a 7-4 record, and BetOnline lists Allen at +375 odds to win the 2021 NFL MVP.
Allen’s odds are behind only Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who is listed at +300 to win the MVP.
Berry and the front office will eventually need to determine whether to offer Mayfield a contract extension.
What might be even more important is how much guaranteed money to offer Mayfield, if anything.