The Cleveland Browns face a decision this offseason regarding the fifth-year option for quarterback Baker Mayfield — the team’s No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
With a strong second half of the season that helped break the Browns’ playoff drought and pick up their first postseason win in more than a quarter-century, it’s widely assumed that Cleveland will exercise Mayfield’s option.
That’s the opinion of Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer as well, although he acknowledges some new changes under the new collective bargaining agreement will make the decision just a bit more complicated. Breer sees the number for Mayfield being around $20 million but explained why it’s more of a commitment than in year’s past.
Cleveland has to make a decision on that 2022 option by early May and, this is the twist, this year will be the first in which those options are fully-guaranteed on the date they’re exercised. So really, the Browns would be making a two-year commitment of sorts to Mayfield by exercising the option. I do think they’ll pick the option up. It’s just a little more complicated than it used to be.
It should be noted that the fifth-year option only applies to first-round picks, which would be Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward. Running back Nick Chubb — who was a second-round pick — will be an unrestricted free agent after next season unless the team reaches a long-term agreement with him before then.
Baker Mayfield Excited About Upcoming Consistency
Mayfield has already been through the ringer, having to learn three offenses in three years with the Browns. But the Browns are expected to have consistency for the first time this offseason, with head coach Kevin Stefanski and his staff expected to stay intact.
“Baker and I spent some time together today, and I can tell you he is very excited not to learn a new offense,” Stefanski told reporters on Monday. “That is a huge part of this is we can start at that baseline and we can start that foundation and build on what we have done to date.”
A year after passing for almost as many interceptions (21) as touchdowns (22), Mayfield took some huge strides. He completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns. Most importantly, he had just eight interceptions and took on a major leadership role in the locker room.
“The next step for Baker, I would characterize it as the next step for all of us – continue to get better,” Stefanski said. “You saw growth from him as a player from the first game to the last. Really pleased with his progress, and I think he recognizes that he has room to grow like we all do. It is just having that mindset that he is going to constantly improve.”
Baker Mayfield: We Will be Back
The Browns pushed the Chiefs to the brink but came up just short in the Divisional Round. It feels like the start of something special in Cleveland and Mayfield expects to be back on that stage soon.
“It sucks because so many people have sacrificed so much during this process and this very strange season and overcome adversity,” Mayfield said. “But trying to find the positive out of it, we’re setting a new standard here. Everybody was saying it in the locker room. … That we will be back.”