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Mailbag: What’s the Browns’ financial commitment to Baker Mayfield beyond this season?

Q: If the powers that be decide Baker Mayfield isn’t the answer and want to move on, what are the Browns on the hook for??

— Randy Clar

A: The Browns picked up the fifth-year option for 2022 on Mayfield’s rookie contract in April, and it’s worth $18.9 million. Changes in the collective bargaining guarantee the entire salary.

So that’s the extent of the team’s financial commitment to Mayfield. While it’s a lot of money and a reason to give Mayfield another chance next season, I don’t think it prohibits the Browns from making moves at quarterback — whether that’s adding competition for Mayfield or chasing Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson to replace him

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I don’t believe the Browns have made their decision, and do think how Mayfield plays in the final five games will influence their plan.

Commentary: Browns GM Andrew Berry and his team have been underachievers

Q: I haven’t been impressed with general manager Andrew Berry. Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah have been wonderful, but consider how let down we’ve been by Anthony Schwartz, James Hudson III, Tony Fields II, Tommy Togiai, Richard LeCounte III, Demetric Felton, et al. Also Berry has done nothing whatsoever to replace Chris Hubbard, who went out in the opener at a time when both Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin were already injured.

— Mark Leonard

A: I think Berry’s talent acquisition as a whole has been solid, but you’re not wrong about the lack of impact from the draft class beyond the first two selections. I’m sure Berry would say most rookies take awhile to develop and it’s too early to make judgments. He’s not wrong, but when you keep all those picks on the roster, more is expected.

Felton has fallen off since a few good moments early in the season, Hudson isn’t ready or else he’d be playing ahead of guard Blake Hance at right tackle and Fields, Togiai and LeCounte have been complete non-factors. Schwartz’s speed was missed the last two games when he was in the concussion protocol, and I’m sure the coaches hope he returns after the bye to add an explosive element to the offense.

As far as adding a replacement tackle, that’s difficult to do during the season. Hance has struggled, especially in pass protection, but I’m not convinced there’s a better option to be had on the free agent market. You mentioned former Browns and Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz as a possibility, and I’m all for that but have gotten no indication through his social media that he’s ready or willing to come back following a back injury.

GM Andrew Berry defends decision to play Baker Mayfield through injuries, expects “his best football” after bye

Q: I’m bummed about this season and don’t understand what’s happened, but my question is how does Austin Corbett crash and burn in Cleveland and ends up a regular starter for the Rams?

— Jim Hobbs

A: He needed more time to develop and wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Browns. His time in Cleveland was also such a disaster, and the expectations so high after being the No. 33 pick, that he benefited from a change of scenery.

Corbett obviously had athletic ability if then-general manager John Dorsey felt he was worth the No. 33 pick, two spots ahead of running back Nick Chubb. But Corbett proved unable to play left tackle in the NFL as hoped, then struggled in the move to guard. He didn’t have an NFL body when drafted and his confidence seemed damaged by the early struggles. Dorsey gave up on him quickly, trading him to the Rams for a 2021 fifth-round pick in October 2019, only a year and a half after drafting him.

Corbett has settled in with the Rams and realized his potential, ranking 18th at guard by Pro Football Focus this season, allowing one sack and not being penalized.

Q: The Browns offense leads the entire NFL in illegal formation penalties. We had yet another illegal formation call against the Ravens on Sunday night. It’s an exceedingly simple rule. So simple that as of Monday morning, exactly eight NFL teams had ZERO illegal formation penalties this season.

Is anybody accountable for this? It’s 30 yards over 11 games, but the team’s inability to solve this simple problem demonstrates an ongoing, season-long problem, therefore an apparent lack of accountability and smarts on a team that supposedly is built on those traits.

— John Palazzo

A: Coach Kevin Stefanski’s hair is too nice to tear out, but I’m sure he’s come close as the penalties haven’t stopped this season. And you’re right, the illegal formation is among the most infuriating. (The defensive equivalent is lining up in the neutral zone.)

This is by no means offered as an excuse, but the Browns use a lot of presnap motion that requires the players to adjust their alignment. We’ve all seen a tight end or receiver switch sides, take a spot on the line and motion to the outside receiver to take a step off the line, because the tackle must be covered on the line by only one eligible receiver. It seems such a fundamental rule that I don’t understand how the players don’t automatically make the adjustments. Yet it’s continued to be a problem. I thought it was interesting when Stefanski said after the Thursday night game against the Broncos that the illegal formation penalties were because of the lack of practice time that week. So it’s clearly something the players must be reminded of on a weekly basis.

As Stefanski would say, they need to be better. And it’s emblematic of the bigger penalty issue. The Browns entered the bye week fourth in the NFL with 85 penalties and third with 771 penalty yards. None of that qualifies as smart or accountable, so it’s a huge disappointment.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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