The Cleveland Browns plan to run it back next season with Baker Mayfield as their quarterback, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
After an injury-riddled season and a drama-filled week, the news from Rapoport came just before the final week of the regular season kicked off, putting to bed many of the rampant rumors that had surfaced during the week on the Browns QB. Here’s what the veteran insider had to say:
Mayfield and Browns coach Kevin Stefanski spoke Friday as part of normal exit meetings, and sources say the two are on the same page. The No. 1 overall pick in 2018, Mayfield is entering the final year of his rookie contract — a fully guaranteed $18.858 million fifth-year option — and the expectation as of now is he’ll play it out in Cleveland.
He also noted that the difference between Mayfield — who has a very strong personality — and Stefanski “aren’t too great to overcome.”
Baker Mayfield Still Needs to Prove Himself
So does that mean Mayfield is the quarterback of the future for the Browns? Not necessarily, but Mayfield will get a chance to prove himself while healthy.
It was hard to evaluate Mayfield after his first three seasons in the league with the organizational chaos that surrounded him in Cleveland and his fourth season wasn’t any easier. Mayfield was injured while trying to make a tackle on an interception in Week 2, tearing the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. It only got worse, leading to a fracture after taking a hit against the Cardinals.
Mayfield wore a brace on the shoulder, which he maintained wasn’t an issue, despite his accuracy falling off a cliff. He finished the season with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions — seven of those coming in the final three games.
That was a follow-up to a strong 2020, where Mayfield passed for 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He showed major improvement down the stretch, helping lead the Browns to their first postseason victory in over a quarter-century.
The issue for the Browns is that committing to Mayfield means a hefty sum of money. But on the other end of that spectrum, franchise quarterbacks don’t grow on trees and the Browns should use all the time they have available to make the most informed decision.
Mayfield Hinted at Internal Issues During Season
It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies and the Browns stumbled to a 7-9 record. Some drama surrounding the release of Odell Beckham Jr. had an effect on the locker room and tensions grew as the offense sputtered and the losses piled up.
Mayfield hinted that this year was different, with some “internal” issues.
“It comes down to trying to find an even balance of listening to those opinions around you that truly matter, friends, family, teammates, and that’s been the tricky part about this year, has been a lot of internal things. It hasn’t just been the outside noise,” Mayfield told Kurt Warner. “I have to be myself and try and do my job 100%. The guys that truly know me understand that. We need to take care of business in the building, and I need to be myself for these guys.”
Mayfield also appeared to take a shot at the coaching staff after the Browns’ loss to the Steelers in Week 17.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs. Do I believe I could play better? Absolutely,” he said. “Do I believe there are positions that we as an offense could’ve been put in that would’ve been better? Absolutely. There are so many critiques throughout the year. If not, we wouldn’t be sitting here at 7-9.”
But the sides appear to have mended their issues and Mayfield will have one more season to prove his worth.