The Cleveland Browns clearly care a lot about keeping their franchise quarterback protected. In fact, it’s obvious the franchise believes in building through the trenches based on what transpired in less than 48 hours.
Ironically, though, after committing significant financial resources to ensure their star-studded offensive line remains intact for several more seasons, the Browns still have a major contractual decision to make in the coming months. And if their polarizing quarterback performs well the rest of the way, the price to keep Baker Mayfield in Cleveland for years to come may rise faster than his protection squad’s combined net worth.
Cleveland took care of business Tuesday to keep Wyatt Teller around for years to come
After cutting ties with Odell Beckham Jr. and throttling the Cincinnati Bengals by the lopsided score of 41-16, the Browns made headlines Tuesday by handing one of their starting guards a well-earned extension. Wyatt Teller, who arrived in Cleveland via trade in 2019, signed a four-year, $56.8 million contract that ties him to the team through the 2025 season.
A 2018 fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills, Teller has developed into one of the top players at his position since he joined the Browns. The 6-foot-4, 314-pound right guard provides a powerful punch in the run game, and he also excels at slowing down defensive tackles and blitzing linebackers in pass protection.
Locking up Teller for the average price of $14.2 million a year represented an expensive but wise investment. After all, the soon-to-be 27-year-old should remain an elite blocker for the duration of his contract given his age and skill set.
However, even after giving one guard a deal totaling almost $57 million, the Browns didn’t stop spending money to secure a decorated lineman’s services for years to come.
The Browns just spent more than $100 million in less than two days to set their most polarizing player up for success
In less than 48 hours, the Browns stunningly poured more than $100 million into a single position group. On the heels of extending Teller, the front office ensured the team’s longest-tenured player will remain with the franchise for the rest of his prime, too.
On Wednesday, Cleveland signed Joel Bitonio to a three-year, $48 million extension. The 30-year-old left guard has started 104 games since he joined the organization as a second-round pick in 2014. An adept puller who overpowers defenders with relative ease, Bitonio has earned three straight second-team All-Pro selections, which speaks volumes about his consistently high level of play and the respect he commands around the league.
Between Teller and his more experienced teammate, the Browns spent $104.8 million to keep two blue-chip guards in the starting lineup through 2025. Obviously, that bodes well for Baker Mayfield, who doesn’t exactly have great size or overwhelming physical traits. Having two elite interior linemen should help him stay out of harm’s way and give him time to scan the field and find open receivers.
The Browns definitely deserve credit for doing everything possible to surround their most polarizing player with a strong supporting cast. Too many franchises set young quarterbacks up for failure by failing to build an adequate offensive line, but Cleveland has taken the opposite approach and invested draft and financial resources to put Mayfield in a position to succeed.
Still, whether he takes advantage of playing behind arguably the best line in the league remains to be seen. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has mixed in flashes of greatness with spurts of poor play, which explains why he has yet to sign an extension of his own.
Baker Mayfield can’t afford to waste a prime opportunity to prove he also deserves a lucrative extension
The next few months will have a drastic impact on Mayfield’s financial future. After all, if he plays well, the Browns should feel much more comfortable about making him a permanent fixture in Cleveland.
On the other hand, if the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner falls short of expectations or shows bouts of inconsistency, it will be fascinating to see how general manager Andrew Berry approaches an extension. Unlike Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, Mayfield has yet to earn a Pro Bowl selection, let alone an MVP award or All-Pro berth. Should he fail to impress across the second half of the season, will Berry still want to pay a quarterback he didn’t draft?
This week, the Browns paid a premium price to keep two players around specifically to keep pressure off their most polarizing player. A few months from now, though, will they have the motivation to sign Baker Mayfield to an expensive extension of his own?
That all depends on how the 26-year-old quarterback with a career record of 27-26 heading into Week 10 responds to the pressure of expectations moving forward.