GATES MILLS — Baker Mayfield is letting everyone else stress over his contract situation and future with the Browns.
He’s got other priorities.
“I’m about winning,” Mayfield said Tuesday while hosting more than 300 youngsters at his football camp. “And I think everything will play itself out. I’m not worried about it at all because if we win, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Mayfield is eligible to receive an extension this summer from the Browns, who don’t seem in any rush to commit to the 26-year-old quarterback, who raised his game last season by helping Cleveland end a playoff drought stretching to 2003.
The team exercised Mayfield’s $18.8 million fifth-year option for 2022 in April, a strong signal the Browns view him as their franchise QB.
However, there have been no serious negotiations to this point, and the team may be waiting to see if Mayfield can duplicate his success from last season — or improve — before making a bigger commitment.
Also, the contract situations with Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Buffalo’s Josh Allen — both drafted in 2018 after Mayfield went No. 1 — could affect the timing of any deal. Mayfield’s agents, Tom and Jack Mills, may want to see where the bar is set before getting deeper into talks.
Until he signs a new deal, Mayfield’s future with the Browns will remain a hot topic of conversation and debate around Cleveland, where expectations for the upcoming season couldn’t be higher.
After so many miserable seasons and coaching changes since their expansion return in 1999, the Browns, who went 12-6 last season and won their first playoff game since 1994, are considered Super Bowl contenders.
With the opening of training camp less than a week away, Mayfield is already trying to rein in any assumptions.
“The thing I always try and harp on is last year doesn’t matter, good or bad,” he said. “You have to start fresh. It doesn’t matter if your team was in the Super Bowl or you didn’t win a game. You have to build the foundation to focus on the next season.”
Mayfield thrived in first-year Browns coach Kevin Stefanski’s offensive system last season. This year will be the QB’s first when he doesn’t have to learn new terminology and schemes, and that continuity would seem to give him a huge advantage.
Mayfield, though, reiterated nothing is certain.
“We have to start fresh. We have to keep that foundation and build on those blocks we’ve already laid down,” he said. “Nothing is going to be given. We have to go out and work for it. It’s not just going to happen just because we’re the same players, same system. We have to go out there and do our job.”
Doing their jobs took on new meaning for the Browns and other NFL teams in 2020 as the COVID-19 virus provided unprecedented challenges. Cleveland was among the most impacted teams with All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett missing games after falling ill, and Stefanski having to sit out the wild-card game at Pittsburgh after testing positive.
The Browns hope to get to the league-required 85% vaccination rate to lessen virus protocols. Mayfield, who was wearing a mask inside the team’s headquarters during minicamp in June, indicated he’s gotten the vaccine and hopes others follow him.
“It’s a competitive advantage but it’s also way more than that,” he said. “It’s about safety and just general health and well-being of human life. So I’d leave it at that.”
Notes: Mayfield was joined at camp by former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who took part in some fun competitions with the kids. … The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Mayfield is not a fan of the Big 12’s recent announcement to crack down on any players who flash the “horns down” symbol at Texas players. “So should it be a penalty if they do horns up at another player?” Mayfield said before sarcastically adding, “I’m just happy they’re protecting the Longhorns now.”