Browns Rumors: Latest on Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward Contract Negotiations

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVAugust 8, 2021

BEREA, OH - AUGUST 03: Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) on the field at the Cleveland Browns Training Camp on August 3, 2021, at the at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have reportedly shifted their focus to getting a long-term contract done with cornerback Denzel Ward.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported talks between the Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield have not "heated up," meaning Ward's prospective deal is the likelier of the two to get done.

First of all, it's a significantly smaller financial commitment. The NFL's highest-paid cornerback (Jalen Ramsey) would be the 16th-highest-paid quarterback on an annual level. It's also almost certain that Ward will not touch Ramsey's $20 million average salary, and he's expressed a desire to stay in Cleveland his whole career.

"In a perfect world, I'd definitely want to be a Brown for my entire career," Ward told reporters in June.

Mayfield, meanwhile, may have seen his market skyrocket in his eyes after Josh Allen signed a six-year, $258 million deal. While Allen's 2020 performance dwarfs anything Mayfield has accomplished, it was also the Buffalo Bills star's first good NFL season. Mayfield, by contrast, can point to an excellent 2018 and solid 2020, all while writing off the 2019 campaign as a loss because of coaching.

Mayfield was asked Sunday if he'd like to hold contract talks with the Browns and told reporters, "I'm not doing the negotiation, so quite frankly, I don't give a damn."

At the very least, Mayfield likely considers himself a $40 million-per-year player. Dak Prescott's four-year, $160 million deal set the market earlier this offseason for non-Mahomesian quarterbacks. Every other young, good-but-not-MVP-caliber quarterback now probably envisions a payday somewhere below Mahomes' $45 million average but above $40 million.

The Browns may be smart to let the situation play out and see if Mayfield plays himself up to that level. They can feasibly hold team control over him for at least the next four seasons because of the franchise tag and his fifth-year option.