The Browns and quarterback Baker Mayfield have yet to strike a long-term deal, more than a year after the window for doing so opened. With Mayfield having a down year in 2021, both sides are preparing for Mayfield playing the 2022 season with no contract beyond it.
Browns G.M. Andrew Berry told reporters on Tuesday that the Browns have no qualm about proceeding with Mayfield without a commitment beyond next season.
“We have a lot of guys who will have gone into their final [contract] year or something along those lines,” Berry said. “That is not something that really goes into the calculus for us. Every year, you will have guys on expiring deals.”
Right, but every year you don’t have a starting quarterback on an expiring deal. That should change the calculus, especially with Mayfield potentially willing to take less than he would have expected if, for example, the Browns had qualified for the playoffs and/or Mayfield had played better in 2021.
Berry resisted the characterization of Mayfield being a “lame duck” in 2022.
“I do not know that I would categorize it that way,” Berry said. “Again, you have a number of players across positions that are entering the final years of their deals. That is not something that is really top of mind for me.”
He can say that. He doesn’t have to believe it. With the Browns expecting Mayfield to bounce back in 2022, there’s value in getting a deal done before he does. Otherwise, the Browns would have to use the franchise tag to keep him around for 2023, absent a long-term contract.
Berry also was asked whether it’s fair to regard Mayfield as being on a “prove it” contract.
“I think the reality of it is any of us who work in the NFL, every year is a prove-it year,” Berry said. “To the contract question in general, I think you guys probably know me well enough that I kind of march to the beat of my own drum in terms of whatever contract precedents are out there so we will deal with each situation on an individual basis.”
Still, the Browns have a chance to get Mayfield signed before he bounces back and his value increases. If they don’t, they risk having to pay him more. If he doesn’t, they avoid a financial commitment beyond the current season.
Although Berry can’t and won’t say it, here’s the truth. They’ve decided to risk Mayfield playing well and his price going up and not to risk paying Mayfield now and potentially regretting it later.