The Cleveland Browns are reportedly in a stronger position to get a long-term contract extension done with Baker Mayfield than the Baltimore Ravens (Lamar Jackson) or Buffalo Bills (Josh Allen) are with their young quarterbacks.
Mayfield being behind Jackson and Allen from a performance perspective will reportedly make negotiations "easier," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said Sunday on SportsCenter:
"So some people around the league believe this could get done the soonest because [Lamar Jackson] and [Josh Allen] are mostly top-five-to-seven quarterbacks. They're considered high-end guys, where Baker is still working his way into that. Maybe a bit of a different market could be easier to get done. The Browns have made it clear they want to keep their core intact the best they can. They got guard Wyatt Teller, cornerback Denzel Ward, running back Nick Chubb and Mayfield. In a perfect world, they'd love to try to keep all of those guys, so I suspect they will chip away at a potential deal with Mayfield in the coming months. And I'm told Mayfield feels he's in a much better place with Cleveland than he was, say, 18 months ago. They were coming off that rough year, it was hard to know what to expect with their offensive identity. Now, Mayfield is a big part of that identity for the future."
Despite being taken first overall in the 2018 NFL draft, Mayfield's performance has paled in comparison to Allen's (No. 7 overall) and Jackson's (No. 32 overall). Mayfield threw more interceptions in 2019 alone (21) than Jackson has in three NFL seasons (18). He's also yet to top 4,000 yards passing or 30 touchdowns, marks Allen easily surpassed in a breakout 2020.
That said, Mayfield has at least established himself as a solid NFL starting quarterback. He threw for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions last season while providing a steady hand in the Browns' run-first offensive attack.
No one would confuse Mayfield's arm strength with Allen's or his open-field speed with Jackson's, but he's a good passer and capable runner outside the pocket when needed.
How much to pay a quarterback who is simply "solid" is an interesting question. It's unlikely Mayfield will approach the $40-million-per-season mark reached by Dak Prescott this offseason, but something around the $32-million-per-season going rate for Carson Wentz could make some sense. The quarterback market dictates the Browns will have to pay Mayfield above his actual performance level, so the deal may even sneak higher than that.