BEREA, Ohio — This time last year, Baker Mayfield admitted that he was well aware of how important the third season in a quarterback's NFL career can be.
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"There's no doubt Year 3 is always a big year in these contracts timing-wise, everybody knows that," the Cleveland Browns quarterback said last May. "I'm not putting added pressure on myself. If we win, things will take care of themselves."
Mayfield's words would prove fortuitous with the Browns amassing an 11-5 regular-season record in 2020 before beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round to win the franchise's first playoff game since 1994.
Unsurprisingly, Cleveland proceeded to pick up the fifth-year option on Mayfield's rookie deal, which will keep him under contract with the Browns through 2022. But when it comes to signing a long-term contract extension this offseason, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft admitted it's not currently his top priority.
"I'm in no rush because I'm just trying to win games. Like I said, it will handle itself," Mayfield said. "I don't try to feed too much into that because that's like wasting my time and energy and thought process on stuff that I'm not in control of right now so I'm going to handle what I can control."
For multiple reasons, the apparent lack of urgency from both Mayfield and his team makes sense.
With Mayfield under contract for the next two seasons -- and the franchise tag available to Cleveland after that -- it would be understandable if the Browns wanted to continue to evaluate the Oklahoma product's performance before signing him to a deal that would likely make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the sport. Meanwhile, if Mayfield believes that he can make the leap in his second season under head coach Kevin Stefanski that many expect him to, why would he settle for an extension now when a bigger offer could be looming in a year?
"I've bet on myself my whole life," Mayfield said. "I've always taken it one day at a time, one play at a time. Like I said, I'm not going to handle it any differently now."
When it comes to Mayfield's contract status, there are other factors at play, including the reality that fellow class of 2018 quarterbacks Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson are also eligible for extensions and could set the market for the type of deal Mayfield could be in line for. Currently, Spotrac projects the 26-year-old Mayfield's market value to be a four-year, $141 million contract, which would make him the fourth-highest paid signal-caller in the sport before potential extensions for Allen and Jackson are signed.
It's also worth noting that Mayfield isn't the only Cleveland cornerstone currently up for an extension, with cornerback Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb -- the latter of which is entering the final season of his contract -- also up for new deals.
As Ward and Chubb did on Tuesday, Mayfield expressed a desire to keep the Browns' core together. But in keeping with his message, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner said that ultimately the situation will take care of itself.
"Obviously those guys are tremendous teammates. All coming in here together around the same time, it's just -- it'd be very special," Mayfield said. "That's one of those things where I think everything happens for a reason and it'll handle itself, so I'm just worried about winning."