After Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday that they were ready to discuss contract status with 2018 first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson whenever he is ready—the former NFL MVP being his own representation—the Cleveland Browns have different plans for their own 2018 first-round quarterback.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the organization has formulated a plan this offseason for Baker Mayfield to be their starter in 2022—but that they intend to have him see through his fifth-year option, rather than give him a new contract, which would put him on track to be a free agent in 2023.
The former first overall draft pick struggled significantly during the 2021 season while playing through substantial injury, and had surgery at the end of the season following the team’s official elimination from postseason contention. His performance was certainly affected by that, but he has not established himself as the nucleus of an offense yet.
Still, the fact that they intend for him to be an uncontested starter is of somewhat minor significance, because there were reports earlier in the week indicating that they actually intended to bring in competition for him.
That was largely based on a generic response from head coach Kevin Stefanski, however, about how every player should take every day as a challenge and that everybody has to earn their jobs. He did add, referring to the rest of the offseason, that “We’ll see” how they address the quarterback room.
With the recent changes to how fifth-year option values are determined, Mayfield will actually earn less as the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft than will Jackson, the 32nd overall pick, despite playing the same position. Mayfield’s fifth-year option will be valued at $18,860,000 million. Jackson, because of his post-season awards, is on the books for $23,106,000.
The difference being, of course, that the Browns expect Mayfield to play through his fifth-year option, while the Ravens are just waiting on Jackson before they can throw money at him. I imagine it would be unlikely for Jackson to opt not to sign an extension this offseason, even though he is coming off of a down year driven by the health of not only himself but his team as a whole.
The Browns went 8-9 in 2021, and 6-8 in the 14 games started by Mayfield, completing 253 of 418 pass attempts for 3,010 yards with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has a career 29-30 record as a starter with 14,125 passing yards, 92 touchdowns, 56 interceptions, and a career completion percentage of 61.6.
Mayfield’s best season was in 2020, going 11-5 and taking the Browns to the postseason for the first time since 2002. He threw for 3,563 yards, which was less than in either of his first two seasons, but had his best touchdown-to-interception ratio of 26-8