The Cleveland Browns front office deserves praise for what they’ve accomplished.
Obviously, the 2021 season didn’t go as planned, but the future remains bright in Cleveland.
The organization has locked up multiple key superstars to long-term extensions.
They’ve accomplished this without destroying their cap space, so the front office has room to bring in potential free agents.
That being said, the Browns need to continue being smart with their extensions.
There will be a few key players eligible for extensions after 2022 season, but it remains to be seen if the team plans to extend them.
1. Baker Mayfield
The Browns are going to be forced to make a decision on quarterback Baker Mayfield soon.
He’ll be heading into his fifth and final year on his rookie contract in 2022.
That means the Browns will need to extend Mayfield or let the former No. 1 overall pick walk into free agency.
Mayfield looked like a franchise quarterback in 2020 and even helped lead this team to a playoff victory.
However, he suffered a torn labrum early during the 2021 season and never quite looked right.
The 26-year-old played almost all of the 2021 season injured before opting to get surgery.
Thanks to Dr. Limpisvasti and his team for performing a successful surgery. This is only going to be a minor bump in the road.. excited to get healthy and back to my normal self. Thank y’all and God Bless. pic.twitter.com/cRVdkB6t9d
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) January 19, 2022
The talent is certainly there for Mayfield, but it’s uncertain if he can be consistent.
Cleveland would likely end up paying Mayfield upwards of $20 million a year, assuming they extend him.
That’s a significant amount of money for a player you aren’t sure can be the franchise quarterback.
The Browns are likely going to wait and see how Mayfield plays in 2022 before making a final decision.
2. Denzel Ward
The next likely candidate to get an extension is defensive back Denzel Ward.
The former first-round pick has been a stud since joining the Browns roster.
He has two Pro Bowl appearances in four seasons and has become a lockdown defensive back for this defense.
The biggest issue for Ward was staying on the field, but he managed to play 15 games in 2021.
Ward has done everything to prove he’s deserving of a new deal.
Now, it’s likely going to come down to how much the Browns are willing to pay Ward.
Possibly, an extension gets done this offseason, but fans shouldn’t get too excited.
The Browns might wait until after the offseason to see how much cap space they still have to get a deal done.
The 24-year-old needs a new deal soon or he’ll be gone after the 2022 season.
3. Kareem Hunt
The Browns took a chance on running back Kareem Hunt in 2019.
He was dealing with some off-the-field issues and was looking for a change of scenery.
The Browns gave Hunt a chance and the two sides have formed a great relationship together.
— Tyler Johnson (@T_johnson_TJ) September 28, 2021
The combination of Nick Chubb and Hunt has been nearly unstoppable for this offense.
However, the dangerous duo could breakup after the 2022 season.
Hunt is set to be a free agent after next season and it’s uncertain if the Browns plan to keep him around.
The emergence of D’Ernest Johnson might’ve made Hunt expendable at this point.
It’s unlikely the Browns want to offer two running backs long-term extensions.
Possibly, Hunt and the Browns part ways after next season and Johnson takes over his role next to Chubb.
Nothing is decided yet, so maybe Hunt can earn himself an extension before he hits free agency.