Sunday, January 16

Baker Mayfield is better off playing a long game with the Browns’ contract extension

No team has more enthusiasm for the 2021 NFL season than the Cleveland Browns. With that, there is a certain excitement about taking on a contract extension for quarterback Baker Mayfield.

But the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, who had just led the Browns to a playoff victory last season, has no good reason to honor the contract issue. With the state of the league’s franchise quarterback market, the later the better for Mayfield to sign a new deal.

MORE: No talks yet for Browns, Mayfield | Breaking Mayfield’s current contract

Mayfield took the big step to secure his future in Cleveland with a huge improvement in first-year efficiency from offensive-minded coach Kevin Stefanski. He went from a question mark to a goalkeeper in a key third year.

That also means he had a chance to hit his roof in his fourth season. That puts you in a great position to maximize the value of your next contract.

With quarterbacks’ salaries soaring, Mayfield, even though he’s still not in the top 10 at his position, has a solid foundation for increasing his average annual salary. While Patrick Mahomes ($ 45 million), Dak Prescott ($ 40 million) and Deshaun Watson ($ 39 million) made big raises from their new deals over the past year, Mayfield is expecting a $ 35 million per season floor.

That may sound like a lot for the limited success Mayfield has had so far in the NFL, but that number will soon look more like a silly change.

From Mayfield’s first-round draft class in ’18, Lamar Jackson (No. 32 overall) has won the MVP and Josh Allen (No. 7 overall) has exploded at that level. On the other hand, Sam Darnold (No. 3 overall) hopes to revive his career in his second team and Josh Rosen (No. 10 overall) is trying to save what is left of him in a fourth team.

Mayfield is somewhere in the middle. He has more to show that he can give the Browns more value. Jackson and Allen have done it in different ways, but they have already reached an elite level with their passes, runs and wins.

There’s no question that Jackson and Allen will each exceed $ 40 million annually and will sit somewhere between Mahomes and Prescott. The Ravens and Bills already know they have a special quarterback who puts them in the Super Bowl conversation.

The Browns are on the verge of that sentiment with Mayfield. However, should they lock him up and get well compensated in the near future, they can cut back a few million, especially if both Jackson and Allen are waiting for their extensions.

Mayfield, should he elevate his overall game to where Jackson and Allen are in 2021, he can move up to second-highest-paid quarterback status, helped by his number-one draft status more than three years ago.

Stefanski helped get Mayfield back on track by incorporating many quarterback-friendly concepts from a top-tier running game. The action-play package and bootlegs that took advantage of Mayfield’s athleticism were great assets. The Browns are loaded down the backfield with a powerful offensive line. Expecting both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to be much healthier, they lead a deeply versatile receiving corps that includes top talent at tight end.

The Browns were a solid scoring offense in 2020, but to flirt with 30 points per game as the most explosive AFC units, it falls to Mayfield. He has the potential to exceed 4,000 yards and 35 TDs, becoming more prolific and more efficient at the same time. You need to balance plays within the system with more off-script magic and pocket confidence alike.

Mayfield shouldn’t accept that he’s reached his full potential with the Browns. Settling for what you will get paid now, before the season, is a costly mistake.

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