Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield made his opinions on contract negotiations known on Sunday: “quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.” According to Baker, he’s not worried about his impending extension.
“I’m worried about winning right now. I do not know the timeline on it. We have not talked about it because I am worried about winning this season.”
Mayfield, who was drafted into an utterly dysfunctional situation in 2018, hasn’t played ‘lights-out’ in his first three seasons, but he’s certainly helped stabilize the flailing franchise. With a capable franchise quarterback installed, the team has been able to go out and acquire weapons like WR Odell Beckham Jr. and OL Jedrick Wills Jr., as well as beef up the defense. Heading into the 2021 season, the Browns, just four years removed from a historic 0-16 season, are among the favorites to win the entire AFC (+750).
Their trajectory has been improbable, and Mayfield, a passionate leader, is largely responsible for it. Now the team’s next move will likely be to extend him to one of the soaring contracts that other elite QBs have seen recently, like Josh Allen’s six-year $43 million per year extension, which makes him the second-highest paid player in the league behind Patrick Mahomes ($45M per year). But nothing substantive has been reported yet, so the belief is that the negotiations will bleed into the season, which could cause distractions. Mayfield doesn’t seem to mind waiting for a deal, though.
“I’m not doing the negotiations so quite frankly I don’t give a damn,’’ Mayfield said. “I’m worried about winning Week 1, then going on to 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.”
Quite frankly, though, some more success may be good for Mayfield’s leverage, seeing as his stats don’t really reflect the intangible success he’s had in the locker room and around the city. Baker currently has no Pro Bowls, no All-Pro selections, no top 10 QB ratings, and just one postseason appearance to his name. But the fact that Cleveland even has a quarterback who has made it this long as a continuous starter and is worthy of a rich extension speaks volumes to the type of player Mayfield has become. In other words, there’s no reason to believe the Browns will play hardball, but it’s always nice to bring some strong statistics to a contract negotiation.
The Browns could go ahead and get the extension — which could include a bunch of incentives like Allen got for title games, Super Bowls, and MVPs — done sooner rather than later. Mayfield loves to bet on himself, so those types of incentives may help bridge the perception gap between top quarterback numbers and Mayfield’s production.
If a deal doesn’t get done and Mayfield has the kind of season he expects of himself, his price is going to skyrocket, especially if another young quarterback (Lamar Jackson?) gets another league-topping extension. It’s an interesting cat-and-mouse game, and it seems neither side is too interested in hammering out a long-term commitment at this exact moment. Regardless of what the future holds, this final season of Mayfield’s rookie deal will be the team’s best chance to stretch the salary cap across multiple high-value positions.