The Cleveland Browns are 3-1 in 2021.
This is a continuation of an excellent 11-5 season that resulted in a playoff berth and a Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns are a young team with players still on their rookie contracts.
Among them is Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Browns have already exercised his fifth-year option for the 2022 season.
The Cleveland Browns have reportedly exercised the fifth-year options in the contracts of quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The move will keep both players under contract through the 2022 season. @RapSheet
— Eric👀Schefter (@EKaplan15) April 24, 2021
However, this is the NFL where contract extensions are negotiated early and often especially for quarterbacks.
Mayfield, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, and Sam Darnold of the Carolina Panthers are on the same timeline.
Their fellow draft mate Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills got his extension first.
Now that Josh Allen has signed a $258 million contract extension, @Foxworth24 is starting the "Pay that Mayfield" campaign TODAY!
"Josh Allen had one season that was better than Baker Mayfield, the rest of his seasons were not better than any of Baker Mayfield's seasons." pic.twitter.com/Hd9BxwnR15
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) August 9, 2021
Inside and outside of Cleveland, Baker Mayfield is a polarizing figure.
People either believe he is the Browns franchise quarterback of the future or is not a good quarterback at all.
Comparing his numbers to Allen’s or Jackson’s seems silly.
Each team runs a different type of offense so this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
The Going Rate
Dak Prescott and Allen have proven that the 2021 going rate for quarterbacks is $40 million per year.
The Browns can decide not to pay Mayfield top dollar.
They can put it off and franchise tag him in 2023, but the Dallas Cowboys pulled that stunt with Prescott and all it did was let time pass and the going rate increased.
Dak deal gonna look like a bargain in 6 months.
Just like we all said it would. Because that's how quarterback contracts work. The Bills were smart.
DON'T WAIT TO PAY YOUR EFFING QB! https://t.co/JvwKzl1mY9
— Dalton "Fall Damage" Miller (@DaltonBMiller) August 6, 2021
Perhaps they could draft a new quarterback and start over.
Or they can sign a free agent.
Free agents, especially established veteran ones, are costly also.
What Will Mayfield Do?
Mayfield has always admired Tom Brady.
Brady takes less than the going rate to play in the NFL for several reasons.
One, he has the TB12 and endorsements that provide plenty of income.
Secondly, he leaves money on the table for the team he is playing with to build around him.
Tom Brady is under contract through 2022 with a $18,395,588 salary cap number next year thanks to 2023-2025 voiding years being added to his deal. He could have demanded $45M for 2022 extension year in March & Bucs wouldn't have balked. Getting top dollar isn't Brady's M.O. https://t.co/ywX2SNv64V
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) October 3, 2021
It is really a wise move.
The Browns are going to be at a crossroads very soon.
Years of having so many top draft picks means those players are nearing the end of their rookie contracts so it is not just Mayfield who will need to be paid.
They took care of Nick Chubb already.
The #Browns and RB Nick Chubb have an agreement in principle on a 3-year contract extension worth $36.6M, per sources. $20M fully guaranteed. A huge deal for the bell cow in Cleveland. 💰 💰 💰
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 31, 2021
However, Wyatt Teller could be a free agent at the end of this year.
And Denzel Ward is on the same timetable as Mayfield.
There are only so many dollars to go around.
Mayfield has endorsements; could he go the Tom Brady route and take less money?
It would leave money on the table for the Browns to pay other young players.
Mayfield in 2021
On top of all of this, Mayfield has struggled the past two games.
Some argue he is dealing with the ramifications of a non-throwing shoulder injury in Week 2 requiring him to wear a harness.
#Browns QB Baker Mayfield, who has been wearing a shoulder harness to play, suffered a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder on Sept 19 vs the #Texans, sources say. No surgery needed as of now. He was listed on the report after the injury and hasn’t missed a practice snap.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 7, 2021
Does this minimize his market value?
Is his extension in jeopardy or potentially delayed longer?
No one really knows.
The Browns are not going to negotiate during the season so there is time to wait and wonder how this situation will turn out in the long run for both Mayfield and the Browns.NEXT: Baker Mayfield Reveals Injury That Could Affect His Play