The Browns have made substantial commitments to core offensive linemen this week, re-upping Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio on consecutive days. Entering the second half of the season, however, Baker Mayfield remains on his rookie deal.
Although Mayfield is open to extension talks taking place in-season, he and the Browns still have not engaged in substantive negotiations, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. It is a bit unusual for a team not to lock up its franchise quarterback ahead of his fourth season, but both Mayfield and Lamar Jackson are going through their respective fourth years on rookie deals.
Mayfield has gotten off to an unremarkable start, sitting 25th in QBR and having thrown just eight touchdown passes through nine games. Passer rating is a bit friendlier here, slotting the former No. 1 overall pick 12th. Mayfield’s yards-per-attempt number (8.5) also sits well north of his career-best mark of 7.7, set in his rookie year.
It will be interesting to see if the former Heisman winner’s play picks up without Odell Beckham Jr. in the picture, as it did during the second half of last season. The Browns moved on from OBJ on Monday, after beating the Bengals 41-16 without him in Week 9. Mayfield and Beckham struggled to establish an on-field rapport throughout the latter’s Cleveland tenure.
Legitimate negotiations not commencing yet does not mean they will not this season, as the Teller and Bitonio pacts illustrate. Mayfield finishing strong would obviously put him in stronger negotiating position. The Browns have Mayfield signed through 2022, via the fully guaranteed fifth-year option ($18.9MM).
Josh Allen‘s $43MM-per-year pact and the eventual extension Jackson reaches stand to factor into the Browns’ equation, but perhaps only to some degree. Mayfield has not delivered work worthy of MVP discussions like his two 2018 draft classmates yet and leads a run-based offense. The 26-year-old passer is also attempting to play through a major shoulder injury, which could limit his ability to put up big numbers down the stretch. The search for potential middle ground will add a fascinating element to the eventual Mayfield-Browns talks.
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