Baker Mayfield

QB Case Keenum To Start For Browns Tomorrow

Baker Mayfield will officially miss his first game since taking over as the Browns starting quarterback in 2018. The Browns announced that they’ll be without their starting QB tomorrow against the Broncos. Cleveland will have backup Case Keenum under center.

Keenum will have a chance to start against his former team, as the veteran started all 16 games for Denver back in 2018. He went 1-7 in eight starts with Washington in 2019, but he still got a three-year, $18MM deal from the Browns in 2020. In one-plus seasons with the team, the 33-year-old has seen time in four games, completing six of his 13 pass attempts for 52 yards.

“We have full confidence in him to lead us and do the things necessary to put us in position to win,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of Keenum. “Baker fought really hard to play, he’s a competitor and obviously wants to be out there but just couldn’t make it on a short week. We know he will continue to do everything in his power to return as quickly as possible.”

Mayfield suffered a shoulder injury back in mid-September, but he’s continued to play through the injury. He aggravated the injury during the Browns’ loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, and ESPN’s Jake Trotter writes that Mayfield was advised not to play by both team doctors and his own personal doctor.

Earlier this week, Mayfield clarified that he wouldn’t see the field if he ever thought he’d be hurting his team’s chances.

“Only I know how my body feels,” Mayfield said (via Trotter). “If anyone questions whether I am hindering the team and going out there injured, that’s just not right. It’s my decision. I get to say whether I am able to play or not, and that’s just how it is.”

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QB Baker Mayfield, Browns Haven’t Had “Substantive Extension Talks”

The Browns’ season opener is only days away, but it doesn’t sound like the organization is any closer to extending Baker Mayfield. Cleveland’s front office and Mayfield’s reps still haven’t engaged in “substantive extension talks,” per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.

This isn’t a huge surprise, as Cabot notes that “this has been the plan all along” and both sides are “cool” with the timing. On the flip side, it’s a bit surprising that the two sides haven’t at least swapped different variations of an extension. It was assumed that the two sides would be able to proceed on negotiations after Josh Allen inked his new deal with the Bills, but there haven’t been any developments in Cleveland since early August.

From Mayfield’s perspective, it makes some sense to wait on a new deal. After all, the former first-overall pick is already locked into his $18.85MM salary for 2022. If Mayfield takes another step this upcoming season, he could command a new contract that pays north of $40MM per season. His track record probably doesn’t warrant that demand at the moment.

The former No. 1 overall pick finished second in the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year voting but regressed in 2019. After the Oklahoma product bounced back in 2020, the Browns may be willing to see if he can keep that momentum going to start this season before committing. For what it’s worth, Mayfield recently made it clear that he didn’t mind negotiating during the upcoming season, so one of the sides could end up blinking in the upcoming weeks.

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Baker Mayfield Fine With Negotiations Continuing Into Season

Josh Allen became the 2018 class’ first contract domino to fall, signing a monster extension with the Bills. This provides a clearer road map for Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield.

While Jackson and Allen have thus far ascended to high higher peaks than Mayfield, who has yet to secure his first Pro Bowl invite, the Bills’ extension decision stands to help his cause. Browns GM Andrew Berry attempted to downplay the impact Allen’s $43MM-per-year extension will have on Mayfield talks, though the Bills quarterback’s deal will certainly factor into the Browns’ equation.

The Browns could wait, but Allen provides yet another example of teams locking in QBs ahead of their fourth seasons. Dak Prescott represents the outlier here from recent years, and the Cowboys did not exactly benefit from their wait. The NFL now having a third $40MM-per-year player, with Allen joining Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, stands to benefit other passers.

I’m worried about winning. I think the rest will take care of itself,” Mayfield said, via the Akron Beacon Journal’s Nate Ulrich, on Allen’s contract’s potential effect on his situation. “It’s good for the quarterback position overall. I’d be lying if we said otherwise, but I’m worried about winning right now. I don’t know the timeline on it. We haven’t talked about it because I’m worried about winning this season.”

Since the 2016 draft class became eligible for new deals in 2019, six QBs have signed big-ticket extensions. Five of those — Mahomes, Allen, Deshaun WatsonCarson Wentz and Jared Goff — agreed to terms in the summer before their fourth seasons. Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill did the same from the 2012 class. Extending Nick Chubb and discussing a deal with Denzel Ward, the Browns are taking care of their other core pieces ahead of what could be a tricky negotiation with Mayfield.

The former No. 1 overall pick finished second in the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year voting but regressed in 2019. After the Oklahoma product bounced back in 2020, the Browns may be willing to see if he can keep that momentum going to start this season before committing. Mayfield does not plan to set a hard deadline on negotiations this year.

I’m not doing the negotiations, so quite frankly, I don’t give a damn,” Mayfield said on negotiating in-season. “I’m worried about winning Week 1 and going onto Week 2 and focusing on that week one week at a time. That’s my mindset, so no matter how many times I get asked this question throughout the year, it’s going to be the same answer because that’s just the truth.”

With Allen’s deal done, the focus will shift to Mayfield and the self-represented Jackson. Mayfield should be expected to join the $40MM-AAV club, Ulrich estimates. The former Heisman winner’s uneven start to his career injects intrigue into this situation, as does the Browns’ near-20-year struggle finding a quarterback between their relaunch and Mayfield’s arrival. Mayfield is signed through 2022 and set to make just $920K in base salary this year.

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Latest On Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward

We heard at the end of June that the Browns were “working on” an extension for cornerback Denzel Ward, and it sounds like that has become the top item on the team’s agenda. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Cleveland and Ward are actively discussing a new deal now that RB Nick Chubb has put pen to paper on an extension of his own

Ward, a 2018 first-round choice, saw his fifth-year option for 2022 exercised earlier this year, so player and team do have some time to hash things out. Of course, the Browns have Ward’s draftmate, quarterback Baker Mayfield, looking for a new contract as well, and it sounds as if Cleveland is at least trying to get everything else off its plate before digging in on the inherently more complex QB negotiations.

Indeed, Fowler adds that talks with Mayfield have not yet heated up. As soon as Josh Allen signed his mega-deal with the Bills, the NFL world turned its attention to Mayfield and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, but Cleveland GM Andrew Berry downplayed the impact that Allen’s contract would have on Mayfield’s situation.

I think for really any player or any positional market, we’re always aware of the deals that have been done over the past couple years and certainly any deals that come up over the next couple weeks because we realize that impacts the market to some degree,” Berry said (via Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of the Akron Beacon Journal). “But at the same time with any player that we’re considering extending, we really deal with it on a case-by-case and individual level. We really operate within the parameters that we think make sense for our organization and our team, and that’s what we’ll continue to do really across positions.”

That’s generally what one would expect a GM to say, but we also heard back in June that, if Allen and Jackson landed contracts paying them north of $40MM per year — and now that Allen is sitting at a $43MM AAV, Jackson will certainly get something in that neighborhood — Mayfield would not “settle” for a yearly rate of $35MM (his current market value per Spotrac). So once the Browns open Mayfield negotiations in earnest, it will be interesting to see how much of a gap there is between the two sides.

Ward, meanwhile, currently has a market value of $18.5MM per year, which would position him near the top of the league’s CBs. Despite being forced into more zone coverage than he probably would have liked in 2020, Ward finished as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd-best corner out of 121 qualifiers. Though he has missed at least three games due to injury in each of his first three professional seasons, his performance between the lines has been everything the Browns could have hoped for. He earned Pro Bowl honors in his rookie season, and he has tallied 40 passes defensed and seven interceptions — including one pick-six — in his young career.

Given the value of top-flight boundary corners, expect Berry to make a strong push to get a deal finalized. It’s presently unclear where things stand with guard Wyatt Teller, yet another extension candidate.

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Browns, Baker Mayfield Have Not Exchanged Proposals

Baker Mayfield‘s agent, Jack Mills, recently predicted that his client and the Browns would agree to terms on a contract extension this summer. But that might be a bit optimistic. According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Mayfield’s camp and the Browns have not even exchanged proposals yet, and she suggests that a new deal might not get done until late October.

Why then? Because at the start of the 2020 season, for which there were no spring workouts and no preseason, Mayfield was still getting used to head coach Kevin Stefanski‘s offense. But as Cabot observes, Mayfield was Pro Football Focus’ second-highest-rated QB over the final seven games of the year, and both player and team believe that is more representative of who Mayfield is (even though he did have some quality performances over the first few weeks of the campaign as well). By waiting until the end of October to authorize a massive extension, the Browns will essentially have a full season of data on how Mayfield performs in a quality offense that he completely understands.

The Browns are also working on new contracts for other key members of the roster, like CB Denzel Ward, RB Nick Chubb, and G Wyatt Teller (this is the first we have publicly heard that the club is talking contract with Teller and Ward, though it’s hardly a surprise). The front office might want to get those less costly pacts out of the way before turning its full attention to the Mayfield situation.

And Mayfield, who is perfectly content to bet on himself, also has reason to wait. If draftmates Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson sign extensions with AAVs in excess of $40MM, Cabot says Mayfield will not “settle” for a $35MM AAV, which Spotrac currently considers to be his market value.

At this point, Cleveland and Mayfield have no doubt that a deal will get done. It’s really just a matter of when.

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Latest On Browns, Baker Mayfield

The Browns have Baker Mayfield under contract through 2022, thanks to his fifth-year option. Now that the quarterback is firmly in extension territory, agent Jack Mills believes that a long-term arrangement is just around the corner. 

I think something will be done this summer,” Mills said (via Tony Grossi of WKNR). “As far as trying to get a deal done, I don’t know if it’ll get done. It’s something that would be pretty much in the team’s control.”

Mayfield’s fully-guaranteed $18.858MM salary for ’22 is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s less than 14 other quarterbacks are making in average annual value. For his part, Mayfield says he isn’t sweating it.

I’m in no rush because I’m just trying to win games,” the QB said earlier this month. “Like I said, it’ll handle itself. I’m sure [agents] Tom and Jack Mills are handling that. I don’t try and feed too much into that because it’s like wasting my time and energy and thought process on things I’m not in control of right now.”

After the Browns declined to pursue Aaron Rodgers this offseason, it’s safe to say that they’ll move fast to get Mayfield locked up for years to come.

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Baker Mayfield “In No Rush” To Sign Extension

Browns QB Baker Mayfield is under club control through the 2022 season after Cleveland exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie contract earlier this year. That option is worth a fully-guaranteed $18.858MM, a healthy sum to be sure, but there are 14 quarterbacks making more than that on an annual basis.

Still, Mayfield doesn’t sound too concerned about when he will secure his place among the league’s high rollers. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft told reporters today, “I’m in no rush because I’m just trying to win games. Like I said, it’ll handle itself. I’m sure [agents] Tom and Jack Mills are handling that. I don’t try and feed too much into that because it’s like wasting my time and energy and thought process on things I’m not in control of right now. So I’m going to handle what I can control” (via Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk).

The last we heard, the Browns had not yet initiated extension talks with Mayfield’s camp. Owner Jimmy Haslam, however, made it clear that his team has every intention of keeping Mayfield in Cleveland for the long haul, which is why the Browns — a trendy Super Bowl pick — are not interested in disgruntled Packers star Aaron Rodgers.

Both sides do have reason to wait, though. After all, Mayfield was a mess in his sophomore campaign, and while he appears to have righted the ship under the steady hand of head coach Kevin Stefanski last season, the Browns might want him to prove that he can sustain his success. And Mayfield — who said today that he has no problems betting on himself — may prefer to have 2018 draftmates Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen ink their big-money extensions first.

Barring an All-Pro type season, Mayfield is unlikely to earn as much on his next contract as Jackson and Allen will on theirs, but their deals will still help push Mayfield’s price point a little higher.

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WR Rumors: Jones, Toney, Giants, OBJ

Julio Jones trade rumors first surfaced because the Falcons identified his contract as a way to create much-needed cap space, but later reports indicated the decorated receiver requested a trade out of Atlanta in March. Traded to the Titans for a package headlined by a second-round pick, Jones described his Falcons divorce as mutual.

We discussed everything. We just made the decision,” Jones said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was just cut and dry. There was nothing toward football; it’s business. So, you just had to accept whatever happens, happens. Like I said, it was a mutual agreement on it. We just split up.”

The 32-year-old wide receiver built a Hall of Fame resume in Georgia and, for a bit this spring, was slated to team with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. But this reality never appeared to be on the table. Jones did, in fact, request a trade in March, Ledbetter adds. The All-Pro target said his Atlanta exit did not come about because of the team’s transition from the Dan Quinn era to an Arthur Smith-led staff. The Titans agreed to take on all of Jones’ $15.3MM guaranteed 2021 salary, separating them from the rest of the trade suitors.

Here is the latest wide receiver news from around the league:

  • Odell Beckham Jr. skipped much of the Browns‘ 2019 offseason program and did not work out with Baker Mayfield during the COVID-19-marred 2020 offseason. Beckham was rehabbing an offseason surgery at that point. Despite having torn an ACL Oct. 25 of last year, OBJ joined Jarvis Landry in working out with Mayfield in Austin this week, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes. Landry confirmed Beckham was running routes at Mayfield’s workouts, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A lack of chemistry between Beckham and Mayfield has been evident during their 1 1/2 seasons together; extra reps should help ahead of a key season for the former Pro Bowl wide receiver. The Browns, who have seen many veterans stay away from OTAs, will convene for minicamp next week.
  • Kadarius Toney also avoided his team’s OTAs, skipping the Giants‘ pre-minicamp workouts. The first-round pick doing so surprised the team, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Toney did not sign his rookie contract until last week but had inked a waiver to protect himself in case of an injury during OTAs. Rookies often work out with their teams before signing their deals. Toney’s four-year, $13.7MM contract is fully guaranteed.
  • Shortly after the Giants selected Toney 20th overall, Joe Judge called Sterling Shepard to discuss his future with the team, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “I thought it was necessary to talk to Shep specifically because when we drafted Toney, the word in the press as he was reading those headlines was specifically he’s a slot receiver,” Judge said. “Which, look, we are not bringing in someone to play one position. I thought it was relevant at the time to contact Shep out of respect for how he is with our program to communicate that with him.” Shepard is the longest-tenured Giant, arriving during the Jerry Reese regime. Although Shepard is signed through 2023, the Giants can create more than $6MM in cap space by moving on from him next year. The sixth-year veteran is expected to play more in the slot, following Kenny Golladay‘s arrival, after working there a career-low 34% of the time in 2020.

Browns Won’t Pursue Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers wants out and plenty of teams figure to chase the Packers star. However, the Browns won’t be among them, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer (Twitter link).

Some have speculated that the Browns could upgrade from Baker Mayfield to the reigning MVP. That won’t be happening, because the Browns are “ecstatic” about Mayfield’s progress in 2020, which culminated in their first playoff win since the ’99 reboot. Meanwhile, the Packers see Jordan Love as their future solution under center, which means Mayfield wouldn’t make much sense for them.

The Packers star looked as sharp as ever last year, but the Browns prefer the long-term upside of their 26-year-old passer to the 37-year-old. Meanwhile, Rodgers is looking for a multi-year pact to reflect his most recent performance. The Browns were happy to exercise Mayfield’s option worth $18.858MM for 2022. Beyond that, the Browns will be willing to furnish Mayfield with $30MM-$35MM per annum if he stays on course. And, no matter where Rodgers lands, he’ll want something in the neighborhood of Dak Prescott‘s $40MM/year deal.

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2022 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 3 to officially pick up their options on 2018 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. In a change from years past, fifth-year option seasons are fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement, and specific performance metrics:

  • 2-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • 1-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the 3rd-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • 75%+ snaps in two of their first three seasons
    • 75%+ average across all three seasons
    • 50%+ in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will get the average of the 3rd-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

Updated 4-30-21, 4:24pm CT

  1. QB Baker Mayfield, Browns: Exercised ($18.858MM)
  2. RB Saquon Barkley, Giants: Exercised ($7.217MM)
  3. QB Sam Darnold, Panthers (via Jets): Pending ($18.858MM)
  4. CB Denzel Ward, Browns — Exercised ($13.294MM)
  5. LB Bradley Chubb, Broncos — Pending ($12.716MM)
  6. G Quenton Nelson, Colts — Pending ($13.754MM)
  7. QB Josh Allen, Bills: Pending ($23.106MM)
  8. LB Roquan Smith, Bears: Exercised ($9.735MM)
  9. OT Mike McGlinchey, 49ers: Exercised ($10.88MM)
  10. QB Josh Rosen, Cardinals: N/A
  11. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Steelers (via Dolphins): Exercised ($10.612MM)
  12. DT Vita Vea, Buccaneers: Exercised ($7.638MM)
  13. DT Daron Payne, Washington — Exercised ($8.529MM)
  14. DE Marcus Davenport, Saints: Exercised ($9.553MM)
  15. OT Kolton Miller, Raiders — N/A (extension)
  16. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Bills: Pending ($12.716MM)
  17. S Derwin James, Chargers: Exercised ($9.052MM)
  18. CB Jaire Alexander, Packers: Exercised ($13.294MM)
  19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Cowboys: Pending ($9.145MM)
  20. C Frank Ragnow, Lions: Exercised ($12.657MM)
  21. C Billy Price, Bengals: Declined ($10.413MM)
  22. LB Rashaan Evans, Titans: Pending ($9.735MM)
  23. OT Isaiah Wynn, Patriots: Pending ($10.413 MM)
  24. WR D.J. Moore, Panthers: Exercised ($11.116MM)
  25. TE Hayden Hurst, Falcons (via Ravens): Pending ($5.428MM)
  26. WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons: Pending ($11.116MM)
  27. RB Rashaad Penny, Seahawks: Pending ($4.523MM)
  28. S Terrell Edmunds, Steelers: Pending ($6.753MM)
  29. DT Taven Bryan, Jaguars: Pending ($7.638MM)
  30. CB Mike Hughes, Vikings: Pending ($12.643MM)
  31. RB Sony Michel, Patriots: Pending ($4.523MM)
  32. QB Lamar Jackson, Ravens: Exercised ($23.106MM)