Owner Jimmy Haslam said he’ll let general manager Andrew Berry handle the timing but did nothing to diminish the expectation quarterback Baker Mayfield will receive a long-term contract extension.
“I think we were all pleased to see the growth in Baker last year as a player and as a leader,” Haslam said Tuesday on a Zoom call with wife and co-owner Dee. “I think we all understand how important quarterback is in the NFL, so we were delighted to see that.
“Baker deserves the fifth-year option, and I think he and Andrew have both addressed the possibility of things after that, and we’ll leave that up to Andrew to decide when that happens. But we’re well pleased with where Baker is.”
The Browns exercised the $18.858 million option for 2022 on Friday. Mayfield said Monday he was “truly thankful and grateful” to have the option picked up, was more focused on winning than an extension and excited for continuity with coach Kevin Stefanski, the coaching staff and the rest of the starters on offense returning.
“So to have that type of continuity, which we strove to get here, on offense going into the second year with Kevin and Baker, we’re just really excited to see,” Jimmy Haslam said.
Mayfield excelled in the second half of last season, leading the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 18 years and the first postseason win in 26. He completed 63.9 percent over the last eight regular-season games for 2,049 yards, 11 touchdowns, an interception and a 100.1 passer rating.
A BLAST OF A DRAFT
The Haslams spent years trying to win the bid for the draft and are excited for Cleveland to host its first. The event Thursday through Saturday coincides with the team’s 75th-anniversary season.
“Just a great week. We could not be more fired up about the draft here at the Browns but also just hosting the draft here in Cleveland,” Dee Haslam said. “The national exposure has just been tremendous.
“We feel very confident that we can pull off the event safely. I do think it’s going to give people some excitement to get out. There’s a lot of people I know that are planning on tailgating and coming downtown and experiencing the draft like they would normally experience a game. I think it’s going to be a tremendous time in Cleveland and lots of fun.”
The draft won’t be as big an event as it normally would given the COVID-19 restrictions and protocols still in place. Dee Haslam said their hope is the NFL will bring back the draft sooner rather than later.
“I think we are going to have a great crowd down there — obviously, not near what we would’ve had if it had been completely open — but I do think we are being smart about it,” she said. “We are being careful and smart and starting out with the size that we think we can handle.”
OPEN IT UP
Warehouses north of the stadium were torn down as part of the draft plan, and the goal is to use the change to allow greater activity around, and public access to, Lake Erie.
“What we hope over a period of time — and there are preliminary plans underway — is to connect downtown to the lakefront in a much better, more convenient way, particularly for pedestrians but also for cars, and we hope this will further the opening up of the lakefront,” Jimmy Haslam said. “We’ll leave what should be developed down there to others but I think we would all agree that better ingress, egress to that area will help FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns and all of the events we have, but will help develop that area.”
“Just opening that whole area to the entire community and to the city, it’s beautiful,” Dee Haslam said. “Showcasing Lake Erie and having events there is going to provide some opportunity for other people and we’re excited about that.”
A ROUND OF SHOTS
The Haslams made a powerful push for vaccinations. Jimmy Haslam said he, Dee, the senior business team and the coaching staff are vaccinated.
“We are strong believers in the vaccine and feel really strongly, and we tell everybody, whether it is family members, players, coaches or people we work with in business, we encourage them strongly to get the vaccine,” he said.
The league and the NFL Players Association have traded memos and injury data in the media regarding the offseason program. The Browns players, led by center and union president JC Tretter, announced they won’t attend in-person voluntary workouts.
It’s up to the organization if it’ll require the players to attend a mandatory minicamp.
“We are hopeful,” Jimmy Haslam said. “First of all, we are pleased to have one of our leaders be the leader of the Players Association. The second thing I think we would say is that — I do not want to speak for all of the owners or all of the players — we are partners in this, and I think it is a partnership that has worked really well. I feel confident we will work through whatever we need to work through this spring in a way to set us up to have another great NFL season, which I think is what everybody in America wants to see.”