The 2022 season will see Baker Mayfield playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract and earning the highest single-season salary of his career. With his future now uncertain with the Cleveland Browns, let’s look at where Mayfield’s contract currently sits and his salary cap implications if he were to be traded.
Baker Mayfield’s contract details and bonuses
After being selected first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mayfield signed a four-year contract with the Browns. The Collective Bargaining Agreement preset the overall value of Mayfield’s four-year contract at $32.7 million. The entire contract is fully guaranteed, including a signing bonus of $21.8 million. As part of the contract, Mayfield is paid roster bonuses for 2019, 2020, and 2021.
The four-year rookie contract signed by Mayfield and the Browns contains a team option for a fifth season. The Browns picked up the fifth-year option in April of 2021. The value of the option will see Mayfield paid a fully guaranteed salary of $18.9 million. This is based on Mayfield having played more than 75% of the Browns’ offensive snaps in two of his first three seasons. However, it is lower than that of Lamar Jackson, on account of Mayfield having not made the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons.
Mayfield has one year remaining on his contract
As Mayfield plays on his fifth-year option, this is the final year of his rookie contract. Therefore, if he plays out this season, Mayfield will enter the next offseason set to become a free agent.
What impact does Mayfield’s deal have on the Browns’ salary cap?
Mayfield will carry his highest number against the Browns’ salary cap since he was drafted. Mayfield’s cap number is set to be $18.858 million this year. All of that comes in the form of a base salary that became fully guaranteed when Cleveland picked up the option.
Given that the money is fully guaranteed, the Browns would not save any salary cap space if they were to release Mayfield. They would still have to pay him the $18.858 million regardless of whether he is on the roster or not. However, things change drastically if the Browns can find a trade partner.
How does a trade for Mayfield work for the Browns’ salary cap?
As it stands right now, a trade would be almost perfect for Cleveland. There would be no dead money, and they would not owe Mayfield another penny on his contract. The problem is that shifting over $18 million in salary could affect the price teams are willing to pay. However, if they can find a team looking for a QB, the equation shifts back to the Browns. As a salary dump, $18 million is a lot. However, that is an incredible value for a starting QB, even if just for one year.
The Browns could potentially sweeten the deal. They could pay Mayfield a lump sum as a signing bonus prior to the trade. That would reduce the cap number being taken on by the team trading for Mayfield, potentially increasing the price they are willing to pay. However, the acquiring team could plan to sign Mayfield to an immediate extension or restructure the deal to add void years, essentially doing the same thing.