The Cleveland Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield are reportedly "open" to a long-term contract extension, but so far the sides haven't made any "substantial" progress toward an agreement ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported the update Thursday on Get Up and noted Mayfield, whose fifth-year option in his rookie contract for 2022 has already been exercised by the Browns, isn't planning to take a significant team-friendly discount:
"I've talked to execs who think that Baker Mayfield's deal is the easiest to do because Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen are considered more in that top five-to-seven range of quarterbacks in the league, a little bit of a higher tier, proved a little more. And then Mayfield's money might be a little more manageable as a result, if the Browns can get it to the finish line. But Mayfield is hardly going to take a discount here. I know the Browns are going to look very hard at this.
"Both sides are open to a deal, but nothing substantial has happened yet. Should be coming maybe in the next weeks or months; closer to training camp that will heat up. And Mayfield's situation is one where the Browns value him and believe he has a higher ceiling than he's hit. They're not going to hold his 2019 rough season against him because the Freddie Kitchens era was a bit of a mess. They believe he's got another gear he can reach."
Mayfield's first three NFL seasons have been a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
The first overall pick in the 2018 draft struggled during the first half of his rookie campaign, throwing eight touchdowns and six interceptions, but he showcased his potential by connecting on 19 TDs over the final eight games.
While he couldn't parlay that into consistent success in 2019, finishing with 22 touchdowns and 21 picks, he bounced back in a major way last year. He completed 62.8 percent of his throws for 3,563 yards with 26 scores and a career-low eight INTs.
Mayfield explained during June's minicamp he wasn't overly concerned about his contract situation coming off the breakout season.
"I'm in no rush because I'm just trying to win games. Like I said, it will handle itself," he told reporters. "I don't try to feed too much into that because that's like wasting my time and energy and thought process on stuff that I'm not in control of right now so I'm going to handle what I can control."
Jack Mills, the 26-year-old Texas native's agent, told Tony Grossi of TheLandOnDemand.com last week he expects a deal "will be done this summer."
"We're not going to be dragging it out," Mills said. "I think there's been enough contracts done for quarterbacks lately that give us a pretty good idea of what the market is. And, of course, we know that the [salary] cap isn't going up this year but it's going up next year and next."
The Browns reached the divisional round of the playoffs last season, the furthest they've advanced since 1994, and they're expected to remain a chief contender for a Super Bowl berth out of the AFC this season.
So an extension comes down to a risk-reward analysis for Cleveland's front office.
If Mayfield further improves on his 2020 numbers and leads the team deep into the playoffs, his asking price will likely see a sizable jump in negotiations next offseason. If they sign him now and he takes a step back, the deal could become a hindrance to future roster upgrades.
The other factors are Allen and Jackson, who could reset the ever-rising value on the quarterback market when they sign their extensions with the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens, respectively.
With so many variables in play, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Browns bet on Mayfield's continued improvement to lock him into a new deal early because the contract numbers at the NFL's most important position will only continue to increase the longer they wait.