The Cleveland Browns finalized their rookie contract with the first-overall draft pick yesterday just as training camp opens. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is now signed for the next four years, and there is no threat of him skipping any practice time over a contract issue.
When he does take the field, however, there are not expected to be many reps available for him with the first-team offense. Head Coach Hue Jackson yesterday reiterated his intention to keep Tyrod Taylor in the QB1 position for the Browns this year, and he doesn’t expect that to change.
“I don’t envision any situation where all of a sudden [Mayfield will be] getting a bunch of first-team reps unless, God forbid, something happens”, he told reporters yesterday. “But at the same time, there might be a day — please nobody hold me to it — where Tyrod all of a sudden maybe doesn’t go and Baker’s out there and people go, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ It wouldn’t be that. You know what I’m saying?”.
The Browns are hoping to have finally solved their quarterback crisis that has existed since they returned as a franchise in 1999, completely rebuilding the position group this offseason, adding three new players and trading the three that were on roster a year ago.
Jackson also intends to put in practice the lessons that he learned over the last two years about the toll it takes on rookie quarterbacks from playing them too early, whether by necessity or otherwise. Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, both rookies at the time, were his primary starters in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
I’m committed to making this work the way that we have it because I think it’s what’s best for the organization”, Jackson said about moving forward with Taylor, acquired via trade before the draft, at the top of the depth chart. “I think it’s what’s best for [Mayfield]. If the player supersedes that, it will show itself”.
He leaves himself just a hint of wiggle room in case Mayfield legitimately shows himself to be ready and Taylor is not performing at the level that they anticipated when he was brought in. But Jackson knows that the rookie is not ready to take the field right now.
“He needs time”, the head coach said. “I mean, he’s not ready to walk out there right now and play, and that’s OK. We didn’t bring him here for that. We brought him here because he’s talented. We think he’s the future of this organization. We’re going to do everything we can to continue to develop him”.
It’s imperative for the future of the franchise, and for his job, that he gets it right with Mayfield, and that includes not forcing the issue. “When he does need to play and when he’s ready to play, he’ll walk out there and play well”, he said. That is the goal.