Baker Mayfield recently reiterated to the media what he’s always believed for years – he’s a “great match” for Cleveland.
“I think the things that I said even before the draft and right after the draft of Cleveland is it’s a town that’s about work ethic and a blue-collar mentality, and that’s what I’ve always been about,” Mayfield said before the second day of mandatory minicamp. “I think that’s why it’s been a great match.”
Mayfield also said he’s in “no rush” to sign an extension with the Browns but expressed how much he would like to do so. But, he’s also signed through 2022 for Cleveland. Right now, all that matters to Mayfield is leading the Browns to new heights and thinks extension talks would be an unfair distraction to his teammates.
“I’m in no rush because I’m just trying to win games,” said Mayfield. “I’m sure (agents) Tom and Jack Mills are handling that. I don't try to feed too much into that because that’s wasting my time and energy and thought process on stuff that I’m not in control of right now. I’m going to handle what I can control.”
Sure, the Cleveland signal-caller is saying all the right things but the impending extension for Mayfield is going to create a ton of outside noise for the organization. That in itself is a distraction which is something neither Mayfield nor the Browns necessarily want. A lot of it can depend on timing so it might be best to strike when the iron’s hot, especially if Mayfield leads Cleveland to a Super Bowl. An extension signed by another quarterback, say in-division rival Lamar Jackson, could also reshape things for Mayfield and the Browns.
That being said, Mayfield isn't as sure a thing as some of the recent quarterbacks to sign extensions. Even if he had a bounce-back season under head coach Kevin Stefanski, it can be easy to doubt committing so much money to Mayfield after a strong 2020 campaign. Couple that with the fact that the pandemic impacted the league’s economy and it doesn’t seem likely that Mayfield will sign an extension similar to Houston’s Deshaun Watson (four years, $160 million) or Seattle’s Russell Wilson (four years, $140 million) either.
The one thing Mayfield does have going for him is age. Entering the 2022 season, when his extension would begin, the former Heisman winner would be 27 years old. If he were to sign a standard four-year deal, his contract would end in his early 30s. Because of that, Mayfield could seek a five-year or an extension that lasts even longer to ensure he’s making money for the majority of his career. As of 2021,10 quarterbacks have an annual average value of $30 million on their contract. Jimmy Garoppolo's extension, signed in 2018 with the San Francisco 49ers, had an average annual value of $27.5 million.
Don't expect Mayfield to go for any less than that, and should look to make somewhere around $30 million annually. That means, if anything, the Browns quarterback will sign with the team for a deal ranging from around $150 million to $180 million, depending on the length. Extending Mayfield isn't without risk, of course. But Kevin Stefanski seems to have unlocked the right offense for Mayfield, and that amount of money is just the going rate for quarterbacks these days. Browns fans probably wouldn't want to add to that very long list of bad quarterbacks to have played for the franchise since it was reborn in the late-90s. That's why locking up Mayfield might be the best option.
Barring anything unforeseen, Cleveland should sign Mayfield sooner rather than later. It'll only prove to be an ongoing distraction as the season looms. If things work out in Cleveland's, and Mayfield's, favor, it could cost the Browns more than they ever bargained for with their star quarterback.