Tagged in: baker mayfield

Lions, Browns both desperate for wins entering Sunday’s game

The starting quarterback is injured and won’t be close to 100% — if he even plays. The passing game isn’t producing nearly enough big plays or points and the season has grown desperate.

The Cleveland Browns have similar complications.

Shaken by an embarrassing, humbling 38-point loss at New England last week, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick seemed to enjoy toying with his former team, the Browns (5-5) head into Sunday’s matchup versus the Lions (0-8-1) without any more wiggle room in a season going sideways.

Their hopes of winning the AFC North, making the playoffs and perhaps a Super Bowl title run seem a bit far-fetched at the moment. But in a nonsensical season in which elite teams are few and far between, anything seems possible.

“We’re within striking distance,” said Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, who has been on more than a few roller-coaster rides in Cleveland since 2014. “We’re not where we want to be, but we have everything left. There’s a lot less room for error now, but we’re good.”

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Actually, it’s hard to figure out the Browns — one of the NFL’s most talented yet unpredictable teams.

Two weeks ago, they overpowered Cincinnati 41-16 while playing their most complete match this season.

A week later, it was just the opposite as the Browns couldn’t do anything right.

The past few days have been filled with corrections and reflection.

“It’s a humbling process,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield, who expects to face the Lions despite shoulder, foot and knee injuries. “It’s very easy to look around and try to find excuses, but when it comes down to it we have seven more games right now to be able to figure out how to make it work.

“And we have a lot of division games in front of us, and that’s the most important part.”

The Browns aren’t good enough to take anyone lightly, especially the Lions, who managed a 16-16 tie last week at Pittsburgh and were within a missed field goal in overtime of shocking the Steelers.

Detroit returned from its bye week emphasizing the run on offense and playing with the same intensity on defense that has kept the Lions in most games.

Bitonio played on Cleveland’s 0-16 team in 2017, when the Browns lost twice in OT and lost four other games by four points or less.

He said the Lions will not be overlooked.

“They play as hard as anybody,” said Bitonio, who has warned his younger teammates about the pitfalls of overconfidence. “It’s not like you’re at Alabama, just walk in and beat a team. Records don’t mean anything. You come out, you have to perform. “You just have these games where it’s like, ‘Oh, this team should win.’ But it’s the NFL, so anything can happen.”

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Odell Beckham Jr. is free agent after clearing waivers for Cleveland Browns

Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has cleared waivers Tuesday and is eligible to sign with any team as a free agent.

Beckham wants to spend the rest of this season with a playoff contender and in a winning environment, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter earlier in the week.

Multiple teams with winning records and established offenses are expected to be interested in Beckham, sources told ESPN.

Certain players already have reached out to Beckham, pitching the merits of their organization, according to sources.

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The Browns excused Beckham from practice last week while the sides negotiated his exit, which was finalized Friday.

After he was officially released Monday, Beckham was suitable to be grabbed by the other 31 teams, but none wanted to put in a waiver claim and pick up his renegotiated contract of $7.25 million by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

Cleveland must pay Beckham $4.25 million but will save $3 million.

Beckham, 29, had 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six matches this season. He had only two 100-yard games in 29 games after joining Cleveland in the 2019 blockbuster trade with the New York Giants.

He asked to be traded and never developed an on-field connection with Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Beckham essentially forced his release last week when his father shared an 11-minute video on social media — hours before the trade deadline — of plays in which Mayfield didn’t pass him the ball.

The three-time Pro Bowler had 1,035 receiving yards in his first season with Cleveland but suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020 and was out when the Browns ended a long playoff drought and won their first playoff game in 26 years.

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Cleveland Browns exercise Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option

The Cleveland Browns have exercised the fifth-year option on the contract of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team stated Friday.

The move extends Mayfield’s contract in Cleveland through 2022, when he’ll make $18.86 million.

The team also exercised the fifth-year option on cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 overall pick three years ago.

“Both of those players have really done a nice job for us over the first three years,” general manager Andrew Berry said Friday. “We view both of those guys as young players who continue to ascend.”

Last campaign, Mayfield — the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft — quarterbacked the Browns to their first playoff triumph in 26 years. In that 48-37 victory over the Steelers, Mayfield passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh during their first playoff appearance since 2002.

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Mayfield concluded last season ranked 10th in the league in QBR, with 26 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

From Week 7 to Week 15, he was actually third in QBR, trailing only last season’s MVP (Aaron Rodgers) and the 2019 MVP (Patrick Mahomes).

Coming off a season in which he broke an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes, Mayfield struggled at times in 2019, as the Browns finished a disappointing 6-10. But playing for a fourth head coach in his third season, Mayfield thrived under first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski last year.

“I hope it is significantly better,” Stefanski said this week, when asked about Mayfield improving with another season in his scheme. “He has heard these plays over and over again.

We have streamlined concepts, and we have tried to adjust what we do based on his strengths and our players’ strengths. I would hope he is much more comfortable from that perspective. That is what time allows you to do — time together.”

When he took over, Mayfield became Cleveland’s 30th starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the league in 1999. Mayfield is also eligible for an extension, which the team could engage him on later this offseason.

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