The Browns say they’re sold on quarterback Baker Mayfield. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to pay his price.
Of the three best quarterbacks from the five-man first-round class of 2018 (Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Mayfield), one has not yet played at the same level as the other two. Jackson won the league MVP award in 2019. Last year, Allen made a jump to MVP-caliber play.
Mayfield showed steady growth in 2020 after a disappointing 2019 season, but he has yet to put together a wire-to-wire MVP-style season. The question (one that people in the league are openly asking) becomes whether that’s enough to give Mayfield a massive, market-value-or-close-to-it contract now.
In May, Browns G.M. Andrew Berry declined to characterize the contracts given by the Rams and Eagles to Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, respectively, after three seasons in the NFL as cautionary tales. While Wentz’s regression in the second year after signing his second contract potentially falls into the “sh-t happens” folder, the Rams clearly shouldn’t have paid Goff what they paid him when they paid him — and the extra first-round pick they tucked into the Matthew Stafford trade to get the Lions to assume the Goff deal confirms it.
Our position on quarterback second contracts remains simple. If the team knows he’s the long-term answer at the position, pay him as soon as he becomes eligible for that deal or, if that realization comes after the final game of the player’s third regular season (that’s when he becomes eligible for a second deal), the moment the light bulb flickers on.