Baker Mayfield is looking forward to working with Odell Beckham Jr. next season and continues to push back against the narrative that the Cleveland Browns‘ offense improved without the mercurial pass-catcher in the lineup.
Mayfield spoke to the media for the first time this offseason on Tuesday, sharing his thoughts on the situation surround Beckham, who is coming off a torn ACL he suffered in October.
“I told you guys during the season, when we had that bye week, we were able to truly sit down and kind of see what we were doing well, what we weren’t. And we were able to grow from there,” Mayfield told reporters. “So timing-wise, it was unfortunate when the injury happened. But that’s why you see the growth from the first half to the second half of the year.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s because we’re not throwing to him. You look at you take one person off, you still have 10 other guys who are on the field. So it’s not about that. The narrative can be what it is, but we’re looking forward to getting back to work together.”
Browns Expect Baker Mayfield to Keep Progressing
Before suffering the injury, Beckham had 23 catches on 43 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns, also adding a rushing score. With Beckham on the sideline, Mayfield surged down the stretch to help the Browns lock up a playoff spot. In the 12 games without Beckham, Mayfield passed for 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions, while averaging over 250 yards per game over that stretch.
For the first time in his career, Mayfield will enter the season running the same offensive system. He’ll also have all 11 starters back on offense, a rare feat in the NFL. Because of that, head coach Kevin Stefanski — who is also the offensive play-caller — is setting the bar high for Mayfield.
“I hope it is significantly better,” Stefanski said last week, referring to Mayfield’s understanding of the playbook. “I hope (it improves) as he starts to listen to the installs with [offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt] and you are hearing it for not the second time – he has heard these plays over and over again.”
Baker Mayfield on OBJ: ‘I’m Happy for Him’
Mayfield expects more out of himself — and Beckham — next season thanks to the jump that usually comes with Year 2 in an offensive system.
“Anytime you’re going from Year 1 to Year 2 in the same system, you’re going to make a tremendous jump,” Mayfield said. “But I also think where we were at before his injury happened on an under-thrown ball by me — we truly didn’t have a true identity on offense at that point. And I think that took our bye week right in the middle of the season last year to really sit down and do a self-scout and for us to grow.
“I’ve talked to Odell, he’s very happy with where he’s at in the rehab process. I’m happy for him. He looks good, he feels good, and looking forward to starting where we should.”
Beckham has been rehabbing relentlessly to get back for the start of the year. He’s been a constant figure in trade rumors, but there’s been no fire to go with the smoke. However, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com did say that the Browns would listen to offers for Beckham to at least gauge the market.
A trade would make sense with the right return, considering his $15.75 million cap hit is the largest on the team and the Browns are already paying Jarvis Landry a hefty sum of more than $14 million.