Now that Browns Defensive End Myles Garrett has inked a long term deal that will keep him in Cleveland through the 2026 season, the attention of General Manager Andrew Berry likely turns towards the next young players he’d like to extend. A big part of Paul DePodesta’s financial strategy is to very quickly identify which players are cornerstone assets and extend them long term, to prevent them from becoming too expensive. What’s more? For the first time in a while, the Browns have actual talent worthy of locking up for the future. Here’s a look at who may be next on Berry’s list:
- Cornerback Denzel Ward: The hope of any team is that their fourth overall pick eventually earns a big second contract, and it seems Ward fits the mold rather well. When he’s been on the field, he’s been the definition of a “lockdown corner.” The soon-to-be third year defensive back has recorded five interceptions in two seasons, and has shown the ability to make game changing plays, including blocked field goals against the Patriots and Ravens, and a pick six versus Cincinnati in week fourteen of last season. Ward has held his own against some of the league’s best receivers and playing one of the premier positions in the NFL, he is likely next in line for a payday if everything goes right.
- Runningback Nick Chubb: This one is difficult to project, because workhorse running backs are not valued like they used to be. However, when a team has one of the league’s best, it’s wise to hold onto him as long as possible. In two seasons, Chubb has swiftly ascended to the top of the league statistically. Posting consecutive eight touchdown seasons and racking up nearly 1500 yards in 2019 at just 24 years old, Berry would be smart to keep number 24 in Cleveland through the prime of his career.
- Quarterback Baker Mayfield: Browns fans will continue to debate this until Mayfield proves he can win consistently in this league. On one hand, he’s shown to the most capable quarterback to come through Cleveland since 1999. On the other hand, his 2019 season was unquestionably a massive letdown-ranking in the bottom half of the league in touchdowns and interceptions. However, Mayfield excelled in 2018 with admittedly stronger leadership and structure within the organization. Many signs are pointing towards a bounce back 2020 with new Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and QB coach Alex Van Pelt, who possesses a promising track record with mechanically sound signal callers like Aaron Rodgers. Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports, so Berry will have to act decisively when choosing to keep Mayfield around long term or not. The 2020 season will point the Browns and Baker in a clearer direction.
Considering the 2020 off season, Berry is much better equipped to handle these intractable financial problems than former GM John Dorsey ever was. He looks to have a firm handle on the salary cap situation (with the most space in the NFL), and has an eye towards a sustainable future for the organization. Browns fans have many reasons to be optimistic.