Browns GM Takes ‘Bigger Approach’ with Baker Mayfield, Expects QB to Improve in Stride

The most important question regarding Cleveland’s future with Mayfield is simple: is he the guy the Browns think could be their franchise quarterback?

Timing matters, of course, when it comes to Mayfield, who is in his fourth season and is in the squad’s control via a fifth-year option in 2022. If Mayfield was playing well, the conversation would be about the type of annual salary he would command. of the Browns. But because he’s not that player at the moment, Cleveland occupies an interesting position under center that could predict a change beyond 2022.

“I think with Baker, especially from a long-term perspective, you’re really trying to take a holistic approach,” Berry said. … “We’ve seen Baker play a lot of good football here. We’ve seen Baker play good football this season. I know he’s excited and we’re thrilled with the opportunity that lies ahead. We expect that. that he’s playing his best football in the next five weeks. “

At 6-6, the next five weeks are crucial for these Browns, who are still in the playoff race but can’t afford more trouble with their offense if they are to reach the playoffs for a second straight season. This streak of play includes encounters with Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, and Green Bay. There is no easy game left on the slate.

It’s an opportunity for Cleveland to overcome the adversity he has faced, and for Mayfield to prove that he can still be the team’s franchise quarterback, despite his own health issues. But things have to go right for that to come true, which is important, even though Berry has played down the role of Mayfield’s performance in his overall rating.

“I don’t know if it’s so much to show me anything,” he said. “Really our goal is to win games and play at a level high enough that we can be in a strong position in December. That’s really where we focus. I think Baker has shown a lot during the course. the last four, or I guess more than three seasons. So I don’t necessarily subscribe to that idea that there is something about these next five games that is particularly interesting. “

Cleveland has nothing to do contractually with Mayfield in 2022. They can play the role of his current contract and see what comes out of it, with the franchise tag available in their back pocket to buy one, or even two more years. . to assess it from a long-term perspective.

Mayfield can change that by playing well in the 2021 period, or throughout 2022, which would prompt the Browns to strike a sure deal with him. Or, he could flop, producing the worst-case scenario for the Browns in which they would again be tasked with finding a new quarterback.

Cleveland is hoping the latter will be nothing more than a guess, but determining their future begins within the next five weeks, though Berry isn’t ready to admit it.