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Browns exercise fifth-year options of QB Baker Mayfield, CB Denzel Ward

Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal
·3 min read
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Quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward are now under contract with the Browns for another year.

The Browns exercised the fifth-year options on the rookie deals of both players Friday morning, General Manager Andrew Berry confirmed.

The decisions were viewed as formalities.

"Both of those players have really just done a really nice job for us over the first three years," Berry said via Zoom during his pre-draft news conference. "Both had very strong seasons for us in 2020, and we view both of those guys as young players that are continually ascending and are going to be a big part of what we do as we move forward."

Mayfield is locked in for the 2022 season at $18.858 million guaranteed. A Nordonia High School graduate, Ward has been secured for the same season at $13.294 million guaranteed.

The Browns will likely engage in contract extension talks with Mayfield's camp later this offseason, but it hasn't happened yet, a person familiar with the situation said. Berry could also broach the same subject with Ward's representatives in the coming months.

However, Berry's personal policy is to avoid discussing looming contract decisions through the media. He wouldn't even comment earlier this offseason on the fifth-year options of Mayfield and Ward, even though all signs pointed to Friday's outcome. So it should come as no surprise that Berry declined to answer whether he'll talk extensions with Mayfield and Ward this offseason.

"I’m not going to really talk on that in this setting," Berry said. "I just don’t think it’s appropriate. But obviously we know both of those players are extension eligible."

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.

The deadline for teams to exercise the fifth-year options on the contracts of 2018 first-round draft picks isn't until May 3, but Berry didn't need to wait any longer to make it official for Mayfield and Ward. The Browns drafted Mayfield first overall three years ago. Then they drafted Ward fourth overall.

Mayfield and Ward were instrumental in the Browns going 11-5 last season to make the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. When it comes to extension talks, though, Mayfield will receive more media attention because he plays the game's most important position. Based on the quarterback market, a new contract for Mayfield could average between $35 million and $40 million annually.

The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens have extension-eligible quarterbacks, too, in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. In 2018, the Bills drafted Allen seventh overall, and the Ravens took Jackson 32nd overall, the final pick of the first round.

Berry was asked whether the Browns' decision about a Mayfield extension would be affected if Allen and Jackson were to sign long-term deals this offseason.

"Across all player markets, yeah, certainly external factors may impact to some degree what you do with the players on your roster, but by and large, we'll make those decisions independent of what other teams do," Berry said. "We won't feel any pressure either way in that regard."

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns exercise fifth-year options of Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward