Ringer podcast host Ryen Russillo and producer Steve Ceruti predicted the trajectories of seven young NFL quarterbacks by comparing them to veterans.
During Wednesday’s episode of “The Ryen Russillo Podcast,” the duo decided to compare Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield’s trajectory with the career of three-time Pro Bowler Alex Smith.
“I would say if Baker ends up being Alex Smith, that’s actually a success. I’m serious,” Russillo said. “And, I know most people would be like, ‘That’d be a huge disappointment.’ I think it’s a success.”
Ceruti said he does not consider Mayfield among the NFL’s 16 best quarterbacks.
“I think people in Cleveland are going to tell you that’s too low,” Ceruti said of the Mayfield-Smith comparison.
Russillo said Mayfield hasn’t played well through the first four weeks of the 2021 season.
“For Cleveland to have an Alex Smith and if that’s Baker…now see, I know exactly what everybody is going to say, ‘Well Baker, (the) No. 1 pick, like, no way.’
“Baker has been bad this year. Last year, it felt like he was starting to turn things around a little bit. It’s only a month in. I’m not now going to say that he’s bad.”
In the 2021 season, Mayfield has completed 74 of 113 pass attempts for 935 yards (22nd in the NFL), two touchdowns (tied for 29th in the NFL) and two interceptions (tied for seventh).
In Week 2, Mayfield suffered a torn labrum injury in his left shoulder.
Mayfield has played through the injury, and it appears to have impacted his accuracy.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 8, 2021
Russillo mentioned the dilemma the Browns front office faces in determining whether to offer Mayfield a contract extension, and more specifically, how much to offer.
“I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with that contract because really it’s just a matter of timing and not even who you are,” Russillo said.
Mayfield is under contract through the 2022 season after the Browns picked up his fifth-year rookie option.
“They’re probably going to pay him and then they’re not going to take a guy in the first round immediately, and that’s what happened to Alex Smith,” Russillo said.
The Browns might value Mayfield higher than the other 31 NFL teams given the franchise’s lack of stability at the quarterback position.
In 2019, Mayfield became the first Browns quarterback to start all 16 games since Tim Couch did in 2001.
Last season, Mayfield also led the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, and led the team to its first playoff win since Jan. 1, 1995.
“If you’re Cleveland, it’s not about ‘we need a top-five guy,’” Russillo said. “If Baker is good enough to be the starter for 10 years, that might be the best you can do with him.”
Russillo said starting quarterbacks who are going to play for at least the next five years tend to get massive contract extensions as the NFL’s year-to-year salary cap generally increases.
In the offseason, the Buffalo Bills signed Josh Allen to an extension worth up to $258 million with $150 million guaranteed.
Allen is due to make an average of $43 million per year through the 2028 season.
Mayfield will likely to seek a similar yearly salary.
“We all know that I’m not the biggest Alex Smith guy, but Alex Smith is still good enough to be a starter in this league for a long time,” Russillo said.
During Smith’s 16-year career, he took three teams to the playoffs: the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Washington Football Team.
“I think the (comparison) is like, if you’ve got players around him, he can be good,” Ceruti said. “But, if you don’t, he can’t be. He can’t carry you.”
Mayfield’s QBR of 39.8 ranks 26th in the league.
“I know that’s not what Browns fans want because I would argue that, ‘Yes, Alex Smith got teams to the playoffs.’” Russillo said. “He also got benched twice.”
“If Cleveland could upgrade, they would upgrade,” Ceruti said. “It’s the same way for Alex Smith.
“Alex Smith got upgraded because they had Patrick Mahomes and Colin Kaepernick, and they were clearly better quarterback options available. If Cleveland had that in the building, they would upgrade, but they’re kind of stuck with (Mayfield) right now. He’s the best they can do.”
The other comparisons Russillo and Ceruti made, included: