CLEVELAND — The Browns won’t be chasing a quarterback in free agency. They aren’t stressing over which one to take in the NFL draft or looking to make a trade.
For once, they appear to be set at QB.
Baker Mayfield has brought wins, change and calm to Cleveland.
Coming off a solid third season and playoff appearance, Mayfield has brought much-needed comfort to the Browns, who entered 2020 still unsure if the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018 was the answer but now feel confident they’ve got their guy.
“Baker is the first quarterback that has led this organization, led this team to the playoffs, a playoff victory,” said Andrew Berry, the team’s executive vice president and general manager said Wednesday on a Zoom call.
“He has endured an enormous amount of adversity in his young career. Just quite honestly, with the changes he has gone through with coaching staffs, front offices and offensive systems.
“He has risen above it all.”
And, the Browns don’t think Mayfield’s done climbing.
The team is expected to exercise his fifth-year contract option this offseason, and it’s possible the Browns will discuss a long-term extension with the 25-year-old Mayfield, who threw 30 touchdown passes and nine interceptions in 18 games last season.
Berry wouldn’t comment on the team’s upcoming plans with Mayfield, but made it clear the team is more than pleased with his progress.
“We think he had a really strong season for us,” Berry said. “We like the maturation and the growth. both on and off the field, and we are looking forward to him continuing to take strides in his second year in the offense.”
At a time where franchise quarterbacks are demanding trades (Deshaun Watson), at odds with their team (Russell Wilson) or on the go (Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff), Mayfield has brought the Browns long-awaited peace.
Spinning uncontrollably for years, the quarterback carousel in Cleveland has stalled.
Berry doesn’t take that lightly.
“The quarterback position is, in my mind, the most important position in professional sports,” he said. “Until you have a baseline of any level of quarterback play, I think it is really difficult to win and make progress in the NFL. Often times if that position is not productive or it is not solidified, it can feel a lot like operating in neutral.
“That is something that is certainly not lost on us and it is definitely not lost on us as an organization.”
As the Browns decide whether to offer Mayfield a long-term deal, Berry said the team won’t be influenced by situations elsewhere. There’s always a risk in investing in any player for multiple years, and just because other teams have had things backfire, it isn’t going to dissuade Cleveland’s front office from what it thinks is right.
“I don’t know that anything that has happened to any of the other 31 teams has a major bearing, in terms of how we are going to address the quarterback situation here,’” Berry said. “To me, we’ll evaluate that internally and make a decision we think is best for our team and our organization.
“I think it would maybe be a stretch to say that’s going to serve as a cautionary tale or any type of blueprint for us. We’ll make the best decision for us with the information we have.”
NOTES: Berry said the team would like to re-sign WR Rashard Higgins, a favorite option of Mayfield’s. Higgins is scheduled to become a free agent on March 17. “It’s obvious he played a key role for us this past year and we have a really positive history with him,” Berry said of Higgins, who signed a one-year deal with Cleveland as a free agent last year. “But free agency can be difficult and obviously he’s earned the right to make the decision that’s most appropriate for him.” ... Berry said WR Odell Beckham Jr. “is right on track” as he recovers from knee surgery.