The Cleveland Browns Need to Extend These Three Players
A return to relevance has given the Browns a good problem to have. Instead of having a roster devoid of talent, and few players worthy of long-term contracts, the Browns now have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and a number of extensions worth signing.
In 2021 the NFL starts and stops with a good quarterback. And really, if you don’t have a top-10 quarterback, you’re just spinning your wheels in quarterback purgatory. Fortunately, the long wait for a top quarterback in Cleveland ended when Baker Mayfield was drafted No. 1 overall in 2018.
The Browns could wait to get this extension done. Mayfield is still on his rookie contract that runs through 2022. But the market will be reset every year, and there is no reason to wait until the likes of Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen get their new contracts before the Browns sign Mayfield. It will only cost more money in the end.
Lock up Mayfield this summer, before the season begins, and it gives you a solid financial baseline for working through the rest of your contract extensions. It’s good for the team, both for this season and for the length of the extension, and it’s good for Mayfield in that it gives him the financial security that he seeks.
With Myles Garrett under contract through 2026, the priority on defense is in the backfield and with one of the best cover corners in the game in Denzel Ward. He is another member of the 2018 draft class and another player still on his rookie contract. But his cap hit jumps to $13.2 million in 2022, and then you risk having to place the franchise tag on him.
Ward’s injury history and PFF grade will make him cheaper than having to go to the free-agent market and signing a top cornerback. But his talent makes him worth an extension and player the Browns want to have on their opponent’s top wide receiver for years to come.
With the Browns improved pass rush, playing man on the backside becomes a better option, and Ward is the best option to handle man coverage.
Some might say Nick Chubb is the next most important extension to get done, but without the breakthrough play of guard Wyatt Teller, the two-headed attack of Chubb and Kareem Hunt wouldn’t be nearly as good.
Teller ended the 2020 season as Cincinnati-based Pro Football Focus’s top-ranked guard. He’s a free agent after this season, and continuity along the line is critical for the Browns to remain the league’s best rushing team and for Mayfield to continue his growth as a franchise quarterback. And solid play in the middle of the line is especially important for a quarterback of Mayfield’s height.
Teller is only 26, and the market for top-tier guards is growing (see Brandon Brooks with the Eagles and Joe Thuney with the Chiefs). He’s a key piece to this offense and should be locked up before the summer is over.
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