CLEVELAND, Ohio — Baker Mayfield’s revelation on a Zoom call with Browns media this week that he’s “moving in silence” this offseason is a sign that he’s buying into Kevin Stefanski’s program and has faith in the coaching staff.
Mayfield has always spoken his mind without concern to what anybody thought. But Stefanski has asked his starting quarterback and the rest of the Browns to tone down the rhetoric, and Mayfield has taken it to heart. That bodes well for the season, because it means Mayfield respects Stefanski and his approach.
That wasn’t the case last season, when it quickly became apparent that Freddie Kitchens was in over his head and didn’t play to Mayfield’s strengths. By the end of the season, Mayfield was frustrated with the dysfunction, and it showed in his crumbling statistics and 6-10 record.
With Stefanski, Mayfield can point to the success of Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum and others under his tutelage in Minnesota, and can visualize himself flourishing in this play-action scheme. He’s also working on the new footwork implemented by offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, which is another sign of trust.
On one hand, Mayfield’s quiet offseason signals some maturity. On the other hand, it’s an encouraging sign that he’s sold on the new regime.
Here are other takeaways from the events of the week:
Mayfield provided a little lesson in economics this week on his Zoom call. He admitted about Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry “that we only have so many more opportunities together.’’
That’s because Mayfield is up for a potential big payday after this pivotal third season, and Beckham and Landry won’t count much or at all against the cap after this season, and the Browns can part ways with them if they choose to go younger and cheaper at the position.
Beckham, due to make $14 million in base salary this season, would count nothing against the cap after this season. Landry, due $13 million, would account for only $3 million in dead cap space in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022. The end of their guaranteed money coincides with looming paydays for Mayfield, defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward.
If Mayfield, Landry and Beckham hope to win multiple championships together, they must prove it this season.
“They’re ready to take over, and it’s their time now,’’ Mayfield said. “They know that. We only have so many more opportunities together. They’re going to do it and everything for each other. I’m looking forward to seeing the productivity they have.”
While many of the defensive positions are set, Woods told Browns media this week that his three linebacker spots are fluid and that starters will become apparent when they take the new defense to the field.
Most of the candidates aren’t limited to one position, so it will be a matter of getting the best three (when they use three) on the field. In the meantime, they’re cross-training the linebackers at the Sam (strongside), Mike (middle) and Will (weakside) spots.
“This is going to be a situation where once we get on the field and we start running our defense, it is going to be how well they fit in a specific position,” Woods said. “Are they capable of making plays, based on the scheme? It’s going to be something we’re going to have to feel out once we get back for training camp. All of those guys in the meetings really have been doing a good job, so I know mentally they can handle it. It’s just physically, what are they capable of doing?”
If the season started tomorrow, Mack Wilson, B.J. Goodson and Sione Takitaki would be top contenders for starting positions. But the Browns also drafted Jacob Phillips in the third round out of LSU, and Tigers often come in ready to play.
Woods didn’t hesitate to compliment Clowney, which means he’d love to have him on the roster.
“Obviously, he’s been a really good player in this league, a great pass rusher when he was in Houston and Seattle,’’ Woods said this week. “Just really affects the game.’’
The negotiations remain up to GM Andrew Berry, but if Woods wasn’t on board, Berry wouldn’t be working hard to make it happen. At this point, it’s probably more about the money than anything.
But Woods has also come to appreciate edge rusher Olivier Vernon, and in a perfect world, would have both this season.
“All of my conversations have been good with [Vernon],’’ said Woods. “I get on the phone and talk to him personally. We just had an honest conversation, and he’s been great. He’s 100 percent attendance [at the virtual offseason program]. In all the meetings, he’s been there and he’s speaking up. He scored 100 percent on a lot of [his tests]. I think he really wants to just come back this year, play healthy and just show everybody what he’s capable of doing.”
Berry put the finishing touches on his personnel staff, which features a nice blend of analytics and traditional scouting methods.
His new VP of Football Operations, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, has a strong data background, while his new senior advisor Ryan Grigson, a sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 1995 who was the Colts’ GM from from 2012-16, comes from the old-school scouting side.
His new Vice President of Player Personnel, Glenn Cook, played linebacker in college for the Miami Hurricanes, and embraces analytics. Berry, one of two African-American GMs in the NFL, appointed two minorities to high-level positions in Adofo-Mensah and Cook. With Adofo-Mensah the de facto assistant GM, he’s in the pipeline to follow in Berry’s footsteps as an NFL GM. He also promoted Megan Rock to player personnel coordinator.
Completing the staff frees up Berry to focus on other matters, such as extending the contracts of Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi and continuing to add talent.