Report: Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward's 5th Year Contract Options Exercised by Browns

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 23, 2021

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 17: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns drops back to pass during the fourth quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 17, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have reportedly exercised the fifth-year options in the contracts of quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The move will keep both players under contract through the 2022 season. The Browns selected Mayfield first overall and Ward fourth overall in 2018.

The 26-year-old Mayfield came out of the gates strong as a rookie, throwing for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He went on to finish second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.

He took a big step back the following year, however, going just 6-10 as a starter and completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 picks.

Things seemed to click again for Mayfield in 2020 under the direction of new head coach Kevin Stefanski. The former Oklahoma standout improved significantly in protecting the football and ended up completing 62.8 percent of his attempts for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Most importantly, the Browns went 11-5 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They also beat the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Round before falling just short against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.

While Mayfield's young career has been a roller-coaster ride, Ward has been considered one of the top corners in the league ever since making his debut.

He was named a Pro Bowler as a rookie after recording 53 tackles, three interceptions and 11 passes defended in 13 games, and he followed that up with two picks each in 2019 and 2020. He also had a career-best 18 passes defended last season.

The one major issue with Ward is his durability, as he has never appeared in more than 13 games in a season. He has missed four games in each of the past two seasons and 11 overall in three seasons.

By exercising his fifth-year option, the Browns are betting on Ward's elite skill set and the notion that his health won't be a significant issue moving forward.