Defending Baker Mayfield: Why would not the Cleveland Browns give him an extension? – Cleveland Browns Weblog

BEREA, Ohio – Within the wake of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz being dealt away from the groups that drafted them, the identical phrase has begun to reverberate close to the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback, Baker Mayfield.

“Cautionary tales.”

Two years in the past, Goff and Wentz, the highest two picks of the 2016 draft, signed the richest contract extensions in NFL historical past. But simply this month, the 2 had been jettisoned earlier than these file extensions had even kicked in, leaving their former groups with file heaps of dead-money blows to their respective cap sheets.

This offseason, one other former prime choose is extension-eligible coming off a banner third season quarterbacking his workforce to the playoffs. And but, some are questioning if the Browns ought to kick the can down the highway on a Mayfield extension, largely as a result of Goff and Wentz cratered quickly after signing theirs.

In fact, that’s a quite fatalistic viewpoint of Mayfield and the Browns. And one targeted on occasions elsewhere, as a substitute of the details on the bottom in Cleveland.

True, Goff and Wentz regressed for varied causes after having fun with success early of their careers. However that doesn’t imply Mayfield will observe go well with. In reality, all indicators level to him getting higher — subsequent season and past.

For the primary time because the Browns drafted him in 2018, Mayfield received’t need to dedicate his offseason to studying one more new offense. After enjoying for 3 totally different head coaches over his first two seasons within the league, Mayfield thrived in the course of the back-half of final season in first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski’s scheme, portending their budding future collectively.

“That’s an enormous a part of this,” Stefanski stated final month, whereas revealing how thrilled Mayfield was to lastly start rising inside the identical offense. “We are able to begin at that baseline and that basis and construct on what we’ve achieved.”

Mayfield had some tough moments early whereas adapting to Stefanski’s offense following a digital offseason studying it. However from Week 7 way of Week 15, simply final 12 months’s MVP (Patrick Mahomes) and this 12 months’s MVP (Aaron Rodgers) posted a greater QBR than Mayfield, who throughout that stretch tossed 15 touchdowns with simply two interceptions. Consequently, the Browns wound up ending the common season with 11 wins, their most since returning to the NFL in 1999.

“As soon as he began getting comfy with what we had been doing and as soon as I used to be utilizing extra ideas that he was comfy with, which is a giant a part of this,” Stefanski stated, “he actually began enjoying at a excessive stage.”

Mayfield continued to play at a excessive stage within the postseason, throwing for 263 yards and three touchdowns with out an interception in Cleveland’s first playoff victory in 26 years, a 48-37 win in Pittsburgh — the place the Browns had not received in 17 makes an attempt.

“You noticed progress from him as a participant from the primary sport to the final,” Stefanski stated. “Actually happy along with his progress, and I believe he acknowledges that he has room to develop.”

Any extension to any NFL participant comes with a minimum of some danger, because the circumstances of Goff and Wentz underscore. However at this level, the Browns both consider in Mayfield — or they don’t, a minimum of not but.

Cleveland already demonstrated that perception final offseason, committing a franchise-record $60 million in assured cash in free company to improve Mayfield’s supporting forged, with All-Professional proper deal with Jack Conklin and Professional Bowl tight finish Austin Hooper, plus veteran quarterback Case Keenum, to function Mayfield’s mentor.

The Browns additionally used the 10th choose within the draft on left deal with Jedrick Wills Jr. to solidify the offensive line. With vastly improved safety and a scheme befitting his ability set, Mayfield rekindled the boldness and contact he flashed throughout his first season when he broke the NFL rookie file with 27 landing passes. He additionally emerged because the unquestioned chief of the locker room.

Given the upward trajectory of Mayfield and the Browns, there’s nothing to counsel Cleveland received’t double-down once more on the previous No. 1 general choose within the coming months.

The Browns already should make a partial dedication to Mayfield this summer time. As colleague Dan Graziano identified, beginning with Mayfield’s 2018 draft class, fifth-year choices for first-round picks at the moment are totally assured on the time they’re executed, at a considerably greater worth than earlier than.

However going midway and pushing off an extension invitations draw back, too. What if Mayfield is best in 2021? A possible extension would value the Browns much more down the road, as Tim Hasselbeck famous on ESPN this week. That will solely make it harder to get one achieved in any respect.

On Wednesday, ESPN colleague Ed Werder instructed that the Dallas Cowboys may need to make use of their first-round choose on one other quarterback, if they’ll’t lock up Dak Prescott to a multiyear deal earlier than March 9. Returning to sq. one at quarterback just isn’t the place Cleveland desires to be once more anytime quickly.

To get a deal achieved with Mayfield this summer time, the Browns most likely should begin within the neighborhood of $35 million over 4 years. That will make Mayfield one of many 5 highest-paid quarterbacks within the league, pending what occurs with Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, who are also extension eligible.

However others down the road, like Mayfield’s former Oklahoma teammate Kyler Murray, are going to proceed to reset the quarterback market subsequent offseason. What may appear costly now might rapidly turn out to be a cut price, particularly because the league negotiates new rights offers.

The Goff and Wentz conditions additionally confirmed that even the worst-case situation can nonetheless be mitigated. The Rams had been capable of flip Goff into Matthew Stafford; the Eagles flipped Wentz into draft capital. Positive, the cap sheets in Los Angeles and Philadelphia will likely be a multitude this 12 months on account of these trades. But when Mayfield proves to not be the reply at quarterback, the Browns will already be in short-term hassle anyway, whether or not they prolong him or not.

Franchise quarterbacks are extremely arduous to seek out, and it is just about inconceivable to win with out one, as Cleveland has needed to painfully study over time. Now just isn’t the time to get cute, dodge about or fear why it’d go flawed, simply because it did in Philly or L.A.

The Browns seem — lastly — to have their franchise quarterback. Appearing in any other case might show to be a cautionary story of its personal.

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