Mayfield remains without a new deal from the Browns after the team picked up his $18.8 million fifth-year option.
The 26-year-old is playing the 2021 campaign with his future in Cleveland on the line, hoping to secure a lucrative contract extension. The Browns are coming off their first playoff berth in nearly two decades and first postseason win since 1994.
It’s set the bar much higher for Cleveland with eyes on securing its first back-to-back playoff berths in three-plus decades. That has placed tremendous pressure on Mayfield to build off his encouraging 2020 campaign, where he threw for 26 touchdowns with a career-best 95.9 passer rating.
In the second year in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, the Oklahoma product will have an opportunity to take his performance up another notch. The Browns game plan is anchored by the two-headed running game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, but it’s Mayfield passing that will need to be the game-changing factor.
Cleveland will have star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back healthy after his 2020 campaign was cut short after seven games due to a torn ACL. Mayfield can lean on his dynamic duo of Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry along with tight end Austin Hooper.
The Browns will have an improved defense after spending much of the offseason adding talent to that side of the ball. The front office added much-needed secondary help with safety John Johnson III, cornerbacks Troy Hill and Terrance Mitchell. The team also beefed up the pass rush with Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley, Sheldon Richardson, and Malik Jackson.
Cleveland will experience some notable improvement defensively, but it will need to see Mayfield become a more dependable passer. He has all the tools he needs around him to lead the Browns to more than a playoff berth.
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs are the toast of the AFC, but the gap shouldn’t be as large as many believe heading into the 2021 season. Mayfield must take another step forward in his maturation as a quarterback to showcase he can lead the offense with his arm when needed, especially in big games.
If he wants to secure his future with the Browns, he will need to prove he can step up when the team needs him most. The table is set for Mayfield to control not only his NFL but Cleveland’s Super Bowl chances.
Photo: Getty Images