Baker Mayfield may not get Josh Allen dollars

Nov 10, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) shakes hands with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) after the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 10, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) shakes hands with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) after the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Baker Mayfield willing to take a smaller deal than Josh Allen received?

Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns is absolutely, positively due for a contract extension, though not necessarily similar to Josh Allen’s six-year contract extension, which is supposedly worth $258 million dollars ($43 million per year, on the average), but only $150 million of which is guaranteed.

However, pundits around the league are suggesting that Mayfield may be worth a lot less than Allen. Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report suggests 5 years, $185 million ($120 million guaranteed), or about $37 million per year, substantially lower than Allen.

Spotrac is suggesting $141 million for four years, or about $35.5 million per year.

Cody Benjamin of projects even lower numbers. He believes that Mayfield may average $33-35M on a new deal, and may be only in the top eight. That would be $132-$140 million on a four-year deal.

These estimates are similar to the numbers that this author suggested in a previous article. Josh Allen’s contract may result in a trend to longer deals, and the pay scale may have edged northward a tad.

Does Mayfield deserve the same contract as Allen? The answer is no, because Allen accomplished more with less talent around him last season. However, there should be no confusion that Mayfield is the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.

There are some confusing elements within the press and even within the fan base that believe the Browns must either have a historically great “franchise quarterback” (whatever that is), or they must fire the quarterback every year and live in chaos until this supposed franchise quarterback is found. Well, there is no such animal as a franchise quarterback.

It’s very normal for a minority of fans to try to run the quarterback out of town, just as a minority of New England fans have been trying to run Tom Brady out of New England ever since Matt Cassell subbed for an injured Brady and went 10-5 as the starter in 2008 and appeared to be the wave of the future. After 12 years, they finally got their way last season. For now, however, the majority of Cleveland fans should pay the malcontents no mind.

There is a middle ground between making him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and running him out of town. Namely, pay him what he is worth. What a concept.

Mayfield is good enough to win with the team he has, but that does not equate to the top quarterback in the NFL. Last season, Allen had 45 total touchdowns, Mayfield had 27. Allen threw for 4,544 yards, Mayfield threw for 3,563. That’s almost 1,000 yards difference. Allen rushed for 421 yards, Mayfield 165. Allen made the Pro Bowl. Mayfield did not. They are not the same.

As for the team, the Browns offense had no fewer than seven present or former Pro Bowlers and only scored a few more points than league average. They are Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham, Jr. Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Joel Bitonio, and Jack Conklin.

The other three guys (J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, and Jedrick Wills) are also pretty good. So, while Baker Mayfield is the starting quarterback for this unit, he is not the only quarterback who can score points with seven Pro Bowlers on the field with him. If Mayfield absolutely cannot live without matching Allen’s contract, well, there are other alternatives. But Mayfield is the undisputed first choice of the Browns.

Related Story. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen extension will prove costly. light

The salary cap allowance appears to be rebounding after its drop, due to Covid, from a high of $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 in 2021, a 7.9% drop. However, rather than staying in the doldrums, as many had feared, the NFL agreed last May 26 that 2022 would reverse the trend and the cap allowance will go rise to $208.2 million. That is a whopping 14% increase, which is one of the largest ever.

If the salary cap allowance resumes its annual 5% growth, then projecting salaries two to six years out means that the numbers will be higher than today’s salaries. Compounded annually, the inflation factor for 2028 would be about 40%. If the salary cap swells to $280 million by then, there will be plenty of money to pay huge salaries for quarterbacks.

Here is one way to look at Josh Allen’s contract. Suppose for comparison purposes, that there is a quarterback who is worth $34.5 million/year in 2021 dollars, and his salary goes up by 5% per year for six years, and we consider a contract that starts in 2023 and ends in 2028. The numbers would look like this:

Year                                              {     2023    2024    2025    2026    2027    2028   } = 6 years
Salary + inflation                      {   $38.0    $39.9    $41.9   $44.0   $46.2   $48.5  }  = $258 million

Okay, real contracts are not structured this way, but we could say that Josh Allen’s contract extension is appropriate for a player worth $34.5 million per year in today’s NFL. Currently, according to OverTheCap, Russell Wilson’s cap number is the highest in the NFL at $32 million per year. So, Allen’s contract is a modest advance over that. If you are wondering why Patrick Mahomes is not the highest, he is still on his rookie contract, and his truly big bucks do not kick in until 2023.

The value of the contract depends significantly on what is assumed for the inflation factor. That could be the growth in revenues or the weakening of the currency buying power due to the US economy. So, while the team looks like it will be okay if the salary cap allowance keeps growing at 5% per year, that is just an assumption. It would really suck for the team if the salary cap allowance shrinks instead.

Dak Prescott also received a giant deal: four years, $160 million, with a $66 million bonus and $95 million guaranteed at signing. The Cowboys were able to back-load most of the cap charges to years three and four, and guessing here is that they will restructure every year until he retires.

Prescott is a two-time Pro Bowler who has thrown for 4,900 yards and taken two teams to the playoffs. Prescott had great leverage at the time his deal was signed because owner Jerry Jones foolishly franchise tagged him in 2020. Thus the options for 2021 were to use a second franchise tag at $37.7 million, payable in full in 2021, with none of the deferred payments that come with the multiyear deal or let Prescott walk. His megadeal is active in 2021, rather than 2023 as is the case for Allen.

For comparison, four years, $160 million would be appropriate for a hypothetical player who is worth $37.1 million in today’s NFL:

Year                                              {     2021    2022   2023    2024     } = 4 years
Salary + inflation                      {   $37.1    $39.0   $40.9   $43.0    }  = $160 million

Thus, the Prescott deal is very Prescott-friendly, compared to the Josh Allen deal, which is much more team-friendly, especially in the later years of the deal. However, the Bills are assuming the risk of injury for two years, and Prescott had leverage due to the Franchise Tag.

If the Browns lock up Mayfield two years early, they will likewise receive a discount for taking care of his future. Fans who think that the Browns can get a better deal by letting Mayfield twist in the wind by tagging him for a year should compare the Cowboys process and the Bills process and realize that the Bills are paying less for superior talent. So why copy the Jerry Jones method?

On the other hand, Mayfield may decide that he wants Josh Allen money as a point of pride. He may elect to turn down some $100 million dollars of guaranteed money in order to prove that he can throw 40 touchdown passes, win a Super Bowl and become league MVP.

His agent would probably discourage that attitude, advising him to take the deal that is on the table, and there is always an opportunity to restructure later on.

Next. Top 5 Browns players to watch in the preseason. dark

But part of what makes Mayfield tick is a hyper-aggressive mindset. He does not think like a normal person all the time. Here’s hoping that a deal gets done, but you never know until the ink is dry.