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Cleveland Browns will reportedly pick up the fifth-year option on Baker Mayfield

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) celebrates after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-22 at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have a decision to make regarding Baker Mayfield. Coming off their first playoff victory since 1994, Cleveland must decide if it’s ready to make a long-term commitment to the No. 1 overall pick. With the NFL offseason underway, the Browns might be prepared to take that first step.

Mayfield, the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has taken fans on a rollercoaster ride through his first three seasons. The former Heisman Trophy winner impressed as a rookie, but everything came apart in 2019. For the most part, he delivered in a make-or-break 2020 season and has left the Browns with a lot to think about this spring.

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Cleveland Browns rumors: Franchise expected to exercise fifth-year option on Baker Mayfield

As the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens discuss contract extensions with Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, Cleveland prepares to make its own call at quarterback. With Mayfield entering his fourth NFL season, the Browns must either make a long-term commitment to Mayfield or have him prove himself once again in 2021.

According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns will definitely exercise Mayfield’s fifth-year option for the 2022 season. It’s expected to cost the team around $20 million, depending on where the 2022 NFL salary cap lands after the TV deals are signed.

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There was plenty of pressure on Mayfield last season. Cleveland invested heavily in its offensive line, providing the franchise quarterback with the level of pass protection needed to be successful. While he wasn’t always sharp, showing some tendencies for baffling interceptions, he largely played well this past season.

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Mayfield really started to hit his stride as the year unfolded. In his final 10 regular-season games, he posted a 102.1 passer rating with a 16/2 TD/INT ratio, 2,468 passing yards and completed 63.9% of his passes. The Browns looked even better after their Week 9 bye, posting a 6-2 record the rest of the way and making it back to the NFL Playoffs.

Of course, recent trade rumors involving Deshaun Watson have led to some speculation that Cleveland could upgrade over Mayfield. While there is room for improvement, the Browns likely recognize they are only a few pieces away from becoming a Super Bowl contender. Rather than using their remaining assets to land Watson, those draft picks can improve the defense before the 2021 season.

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It might also be wise for the Browns to hold off on a contract extension. Baker Mayfield might push for more than $30 million annually, seeking to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid quarterbacks. Given how poorly early extensions worked out with Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, the Browns might be better off letting Mayfield play out the 2021 season. If he builds upon his success, then he’ll have earned the lucrative contract.