Third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has not had the season that he or the Cleveland Browns expected, at least from a numbers perspective.
However, Mayfield and the Browns can at least celebrate a 6-3 record, one that has them in the AFC playoff race and on pace for their first winning season since 2007.
The good news may not be around for much longer. Although Mayfield has the Cleveland Browns primed for a postseason berth, he’s on pace to lose roughly $25 million in the process.
Baker Mayfield has had an inconsistent 2020 season
Year three is usually the make-or-break year for first-round quarterbacks who haven’t locked themselves into a long-term starting role.
Although the Cleveland Browns are 6-3, Baker Mayfield has been extremely inconsistent behind center. Mayfield completed 61.3% of his passes for 1,646 yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven touchdowns in the Browns’ first nine games.
Across a 16-game season, Mayfield is on pace to throw for 2,926 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The touchdown to interception ratio would be Mayfield’s best in the NFL, and an excellent improvement from the 22 touchdowns to 21 interceptions he threw last year.
Five of those 15 touchdowns came in a Week 7 victory over the Bengals, however. Mayfield has not had another game this year where he threw three or more touchdowns.
Mayfield could soon lose roughly $25 million
At the Cleveland Browns’ current pace, Baker Mayfield will play in an NFL postseason game for the first time.
At the same time, Mayfield is quickly losing money. The Browns will decide next spring if they want to pick up Mayfield’s fifth-year option or if they want to let him play out the 2021 season as a lame-duck quarterback.
Mayfield has cut down on his turnovers this year, and he has the Cleveland Browns in postseason contention. But are his numbers really worth guaranteeing him $25 million down the line?
What can Baker Mayfield do to salvage that money?
In fairness to Baker Mayfield, he is not fully to blame for his low numbers this season.
Mayfield has played without Odell Beckham Jr. in recent weeks — and Beckham flashed at times this season, even if he wasn’t playing at the level he did in New York.
Mayfield’s performance over the next few weeks will absolutely dictate if he is worthy of the fifth-year option. If Cleveland collapses down the stretch and Mayfield is to blame, he might as well officially kiss that $25 million goodbye.
Mayfield is also eligible to receive a contract extension next year. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Browns reward him before the 2021 season begins, or if they choose to wait.
In positive news, Mayfield should feel more confident about his fifth-year option than Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, two other quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL draft’s first round.
Rosen is currently on the Buccaneers’ practice squad, his third team in three years. Darnold regressed this year, and his New York Jets appear likely to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in April.