CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.
Dating back to the start of the offseason, Baker Mayfield's contract status with the Cleveland Browns has been one of the primary topics of conversation.
But with less than three weeks to go until the start of the 2021 season, it doesn't appear that Mayfield and the Browns are close to getting a deal done.
On Wednesday, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler provided an update on the league's extension-eligible players heading into the 2021 campaign. In doing so, Fowler revealed that there is believed to be a "strong chance" that Mayfield enters his fourth season in Cleveland without a new deal in place.
"As I'm hearing, there's a strong chance Mayfield enters this season without a deal, but the Browns do believe Mayfield -- whose fifth-year option for 2022 was picked up -- can be their long-term answer at quarterback, and Mayfield knows that," Fowler wrote. "So eventually, the team must decide whether that faith is strong enough to acknowledge a QB market that balloons by the month."
That the Browns and Mayfield may not agree to terms between now and Cleveland's season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs doesn't necessarily come as a surprise.
With Mayfield still under his rookie contract through the 2022 season, the Browns aren't in a rush to commit franchise quarterback money to the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Having just signed running back Nick Chubb to a three-year extension and negotiations reportedly ongoing with cornerback Denzel Ward, it could behoove Cleveland to wait to sign Mayfield until the quarterback market and the Browns' own cap situation becomes more clear.
Meanwhile, it could also benefit Mayfield to wait until next offseason to sign a new deal, as another strong season under head coach Kevin Stefanski and one less year remaining on his contract could increase his leverage. On multiple occasions throughout the offseason, the 26-year-old quarterback has downplayed his contract status, opting instead to focus on Cleveland's upcoming campaign.
"I am worried about winning right now," Mayfield said earlier this month. "I do not know the timeline on it. We have not talked about it because I am worried about winning this season.”