Baker Mayfield’s struggles lead to franchise-altering decision for the Cleveland Browns

Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns find themselves at a disappointing 5-5 on the season following an ugly 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 10.

Sure Cleveland has been dealing with a plethora of injuries. In fact, Mayfield departed in the second half with a knee injury of his own. While said injury is not deemed serious, there’s growing concern over the former No. 1 pick’s ability to be a franchise quarterback.

Prior to exiting with the aforementioned injury, Mayfield completed 11-of-21 passes for a career low 73 yards. He was downright disastrous with ball placement — continuing to show himself to be inaccurate throughout the game.

It’s the continuation of inconsistent performances on the part of Mayfield as he looks to collect on a big-time contract next off-season. It also leads to renewed questions about the young signal caller and his ability to be a true franchise guy.

Related: Find out where the Cleveland Browns stand in our NFL power rankings

Baker Mayfield stats: Quarterback has regressed in 2021

baker mayfield struggles, cleveland browns
Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy (93) and defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) sack Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Last season saw the former Oklahoma standout complete 63% of his passes for 3,563 yards with 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

It was a rebound performance from the 26-year-old quarterback after a disastrous 2019 campaign that saw him throw 22 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions.

Unfortunately, things have taken a turn for Mayfield in 2021. He heads into Week 11’s outing against the Detroit Lions having tallied just nine touchdown passes in nine starts. This has him on pace for a mere 17 scores in as many games.

We’re no longer talking about a signal caller with an upward trajectory. At this point, Baker Mayfield is what he is. An average quarterback who relies on a solid defense to acquire wins. With the Browns injured on that side of the ball, this has become pretty glaring. Just look at what Mayfield has done in Cleveland’s five losses this season.

Related: Where does Baker Mayfield stand among NFL QBs?

  • Week 1: @ Kansas City Chiefs (21-of-28, 321 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception
  • Week 5: @ Los Angeles Chargers (23-of-32-305 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions
  • Week 6: Arizona Cardinals (19-of-28, 234 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
  • Week 8: Pittsburgh Steelers (20-of-31, 225 yards, zero touchdowns, zero interceptions
  • Week 10: @ New England Patriots (11-of-21, 71 yards, one touchdown, one interception
Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time or a cheater?

Paying Baker Mayfield franchise quarterback money

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Oct 31, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field after the Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland already picked up the 2022 option on Mayfield’s rookie deal valued at $18.86 million. That’s bottom-end starting quarterback money.

Even then, the two sides had been involved in contract extension negotiations this past off-season. More recently, reports indicated that the Browns were willing to offer Mayfield north of $30 million annually. Right now, he simply doesn’t seem to be worth that type of cash. That’s especially true when we’re talking about the amount of guarantees said deal would involve.

What does this mean? Depending on how the remainder of the 2021 season plays out, Cleveland is going to face a franchise-altering off-season decision. Does it extend an inconsistent quarterback that seems to be tapped out in terms of upside?

If not, do the Browns let Baker Mayfield play out the final year of his contract and see what type of market he receives in free agency? The other option is to move off Mayfield altogether and find a superior option either via free agency or a trade. There’s a chance that the likes of Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers could be available.

In reality, the 2021 season started with Super Bowl expectations in Cleveland. Months later, and the franchise might very well be facing one of the most difficult decisions of the Andrew Berry era.