ESPN is taking a giant swing with this prediction, claiming the Browns will extend Baker Mayfield this offseason and making him rich.
The good folks at ESPN are making bold predictions for all 32 NFL teams in their newest column. The bold prediction for the Browns is a bad idea, but not for the immediate reason you may think. That prediction, made by Jake Trotter of ESPN, claims that the Browns will make Baker Mayfield one of the highest-paid players in the league this offseason. Trotter goes on to defend his reasoning for the big contract;
"…after guiding the Browns to their first playoff win in 26 years, while throwing 20 TDs with only 3 INTs after Week 6, Mayfield showed he’s the franchise QB whom Cleveland has longed for these past two decades. As a result, the Browns will make sure he remains in Cleveland for the foreseeable future."
Listen, he’s not wrong. Mayfield is the Browns quarterback of the future. There’s no doubt about that. The problem lies in “…making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid players” as Trotter’s headline states. Mayfield needs help around him on both sides of the ball. No quarterback can win on their own. Not Tom Brady, not Patrick Mahomes, not anyone.
Mayfield needs a good defense and making him one of the highest-paid players now, while the team is carrying some really bad contracts, will only help ensure that some good players have to go or that they won’t be able to bring in the talent needed to win.
The Browns need defensive players, that’s a fact. They need more quality impact players than the draft can produce. They have to spend on these guys, while also spending to keep their offensive line intact.
Mayfield has five total years of control, he’s only entering his fourth year. The Browns, technically, have two seasons to extend him, while keeping his costs low. It also allows the Browns to best gauge what his ceiling is. After all, look at how many quarterbacks signed new deals in the last three years, and who’s all getting traded – or might be traded – in 2021.
Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Jarred Goff, Matthew Stafford, and Jimmy Garoppolo are just some of the names being moved, will be moved, or could be on the move this year alone. Mayfield is the guy, sure.
No one is going to argue wanting Mayfield to play out his current deal, however, to make sure he only improves with more time in the system that Kevin Stefanski brought over this past season. If he improves, he’ll get his money. If he stays where he is, you can sign him for less and have cause. If he regresses, you won’t have to eat $40 million in dead cap to move on from him.
Mayfield played wonderfully in 2021 and shouldn’t be doubted, but when throwing around hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s ok to want to make sure you’re buying a proven commodity. Let Mayfield do his thing for one more year before you throw $30 million+ a year at him.