Browns: Picking up 5th-year options on Baker Mayfield & Denzel Ward was smart

The Cleveland Browns have picked up the fifth-year options for Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward.

The Cleveland Browns have made it clear where there future is going to be on both sides of the ball, with quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward. Mayfield, 26, will see his pay go from a base salary of $920k (with a $4 million roster bonus) in 2021 to a base salary of $18.858 million in 2022. Ward, 23, will see his base salary go from $920k ($3.707 million roster bonus) in 2021 to $13.294 million in 2022.

The increases in salary won’t have any effect on the 2021 roster but the combined increase of $32 million on the cap will cause the Browns to shave some talent for sure in 2022. This could mean veteran names like Jarvis Landry ($1.5 million owed after June 1st, 2021), J.C. Tretter ($1.625 million), and Joel Bitonio could be cap casualties due to their age, salary, and relatively easy contracts to get out of.

It also means that guys like Kareem Hunt, Jadeveon Clowney, and others who are looking at the free agency after the 2021 season could be on their way out or at least have to take pay cuts to return.

While a lot of re-working will need to be done in 2022 to keep most of the roster, the thing that needs to be stressed is that this is a good problem to have. No team can keep every great player anymore, and hard decisions are going to be made. While Ward has mostly been plagued with minor injuries, giving him a fourth and fifth year to prove he’s capable of staying healthy is smart.

It’s hard to find talent of his caliber for less than what he’ll be making.

For Mayfield, he’ll also have two years to prove he’s worth a big contract. While I don’t want to pay him more than $30 million, assuming he has two consistently good years to follow his 2020 campaign, Mayfield may make it hard to not pay him that much if the Browns are a success over the next two seasons.