Wed Jan 20 1:35pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) dives for extra yardage ahead of Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, right, during the first half of an NFL divisional round football game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
CLEVELAND (AP) Baker Mayfield checked every box for the Browns this season: he matured as a player, took them back to the playoffs, solidified himself as a leader.
Cleveland's long search for a franchise quarterback appears to be over.
''We're very, very pleased with him,'' general manager Andrew Berry said Wednesday.
However, while praising Mayfield's improvement and growth in his third season, Berry wouldn't publicly comment on the team's future plans with the 25-year-old. The Browns can pick up Mayfield's fifth-year option this offseason and possibly sign him to a long-term extension.
''I don't think that this is really the appropriate forum to really talk about those decisions,'' Berry said during a Zoom call wrapping up the Browns' season, which ended Sunday with a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round. ''That's something that's a little more personal to me, the player and the agent.
''What I can tell you is really I'd echo the comments I had last week with Baker. He did an excellent job this year, right? He led us to the first playoff appearance in eons. He got 12 wins, played winning football all year, developed a really strong relationship with (coach) Kevin (Stefanski) and the offensive staff and really grew before our eyes on a week-to-week basis both on and off the field.
''Look, we wouldn't be where we were at the end of the season without his performance. He had a really strong season.''
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, Mayfield made better decisions on the field this season and showed more maturity off it. After an inconsistent start, Mayfield threw 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions in his last 12 games.
The Browns have until May to pick up Mayfield's fifth-year option, which is expected to be around $20 million and will be guaranteed under the collective bargaining agreement reached last year.
Assuming the Browns believe in Mayfield, and there's no evidence they don't, it would make sense for the team to lock him up with a multi-year contract.
Mayfield may not be an elite quarterback, but he's resolved the biggest stumbling block over the past two decades for the Browns, who went through 29 starting QBs before they picked the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner.
He's far from a finished product, but Mayfield showed this season that he's determined to get better.
''You saw growth from him as a player from the first game to the last,'' Stefanski said. ''Really pleased with his progress, and I think he recognizes that he has room to grow like we all do. It is just having that mindset that he is going to constantly improve.''
NOTES: Berry said WR Odell Beckham Jr.'s rehab from knee surgery is going well. He rejected the notion the Browns' offense thrived after Beckham was lost in October. ''Our offense evolved,'' he said. ... Berry said star DE Myles Garrett doesn't need surgery after suffering an oblique injury against the Chiefs. ... Berry expects S Grant Delpit (ruptured Achilles tendon) and CB Greedy Williams (shoulder nerve) to be back and healthy next season. ''I'm very optimistic and bullish on their physical recovery and their ability to play at a high level for us,,'' he said.
Interview with a Champ
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (knee) and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) are both recovering from torn ACLs and plan to get together to rehab and train in the offseason. Barkley had surgery on his right knee on Oct. 30, while Beckham needed left knee surgery on Nov. 10. The 23-year-old Barkley will eventually take his rehab/training to the West Coast, where OBJ is stationed. The two have been close friends since Barkley was drafted by the Giants in 2018, and they remained close after Beckham was traded the following year. While Barkley and Beckham will fall in fantasy drafts in 2021 because of their injuries, they could become value picks in the early rounds if they fall far enough.
Newly acquired Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack said the team's No. 1 priority going into 2021 is to keep quarterback Joe Burrow upright and off the Injured Reserve. Burrow had been sacked 32 times at the time of his season-ending left knee injury in Week 11, which was the third-most in the league. He had taken 72 hits entering his final game, which was tied for the most by a rookie QB in his first nine games since 2000. Burrow saw pressure on 146 of his 453 dropbacks in 10 games. The Bengals allowed an AFC North-high 215 pressures in 2020. Under Pollack's direction in 2018, Cincy ranked 11th in the league in fewest sacks allowed per game at 2.3. Burrow remains on track to be ready for the 2021 season after a promising rookie campaign, but his Year 2 upside could be capped if the Bengals don't fix their offensive-line issues.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion) will have a very light practice Wednesday, Jan. 20. Mahomes has no symptoms and will ramp up his work through the week.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is probably the best QB left in playoff pools if he's able to return for the AFC Championship game.
Long-time San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers announced his retirement from football on Wednesday. Rivers went to the Chargers in a draft-day trade in 2004 and played for the Bolts for 16 seasons before spending his 17th and final NFL season with the Colts. He played in 244 games, starting the final 240 without missing a game, the second-longest streak by an NFL QB behind Brett Favre's 297. The 39-year-old finishes his career ranked fifth all-time with 63,440 passing yards and 421 touchdown passes. "I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play,'" Rivers said. "But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football." The future Hall of Famer topped 4,000 passing yards for the eighth straight season in 2020 and 12th time in his career.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) remains in the NFL's concussion protocol after leaving the Divisional Round contest against the Browns early, but there is optimism that he'll be able to play in the AFC Championship on Sunday against the Bills. Mahomes will have a very light practice on Wednesday and could be listed as a limited or non-participant, according to a source. His work is expected to ramp up throughout the week as he tries to clear each step in the league's protocols. Mahomes cleared some steps on Monday, and the fact that he'll attempt to practice on Wednesday is a good sign, but he's not out of the woods by a long shot. If he cannot go this weekend, veteran Chad Henne is expected to get the start, which would downgrade all of KC's offensive skill players in fantasy. The former MVP is still worth starting if he suits up, but he'll be a tad bit riskier than usual.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Kevin Minter was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Indianapolis Colts QB Philip Rivers announced his retirement Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Is it fair to say a No. 4 overall pick that didn't win a Super Bowl overachieved? It certainly feels that way after all the criticism his unorthodox arm angle received. He made 240 consecutive starts in his 17-year career. He ranks fifth all-time with 63,440 passing yards and 421 touchdown passes. Jacoby Brissett is also an unrestricted free agent so we'll see what the Colts can do in the offseason to shore up the position.
Free-agent wide receiver Corey Coleman has been suspended by the NFL for the first six games of the 2021 season due to a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Coleman was the 15th overall pick of the Cleveland Browns back in 2016. He played in just 19 games for Cleveland in his first two seasons before joining the Giants in 2018. Most recently, the 26-year-old from Baylor was released from the Giants practice squad in November of last season. Coleman hasn't played in an NFL game in the last two years, and this off-the-field setback won't help him as he tries to land a gig with a new team heading into the 2021 season.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (knees) said he had surgery on both of his knees on Tuesday. He also said he would have been out for the season after Week 2, but instead he battled through his injuries and made the Pro Bowl. The second-year wideout did miss two games, but he managed to finish as the 10th-ranked fantasy wideout in standard scoring after catching 70 passes on 106 targets for 1,073 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 23-year-old is expected to be ready for the 2021 season and is an easy top-10 fantasy wideout after going over 1,000 yards receiving in his first two NFL seasons while hauling in 19 total touchdowns. On top of it all, Brown is one of the best pass-catchers in the league at racking up yards after the catch.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Zack Moss (ankle) underwent a minor surgical "tight rope" procedure on his ankle on Tuesday. Moss is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for offseason workouts and training camp. The 23-year-old was injured in the wild-card win over the Colts and won't be available for the rest of Buffalo's postseason run. But Moss impressed as a rookie, carrying the ball 112 times for 481 yards and four touchdowns while also catching 14 passes on 18 targets for 95 yards and an additional score. He should continue to be featured alongside Devin Singletary in 2021, but Moss should be the more attractive RB3/flex if the Bills continue to use him more than Singletary in the red zone and near the goal line. With quarterback Josh Allen breaking out in 2020, Buffalo's offensive arrow is only pointing up, giving Moss plenty of room for improvement going into Year 2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) was designated to return from the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Buffalo Bills RB Devonta Freeman, C Jonotthan Harrison, WR Kenny Stills and RB Antonio Williams were designated as protected practice squad players for the AFC Championship Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Free-agent WR Corey Coleman (Giants) was suspended by the NFL for the first six games of the 2021 season for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy on Tuesday, Jan. 19, according to a source.
Updating a previous report, Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram was officially waived Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Fantasy Spin: Ingram was a healthy scratch in each of four of Baltimore's last five games, seeing his only action over that time in a Week 17 blowout win. The writing was on the wall for his eventual departure following the selection of J.K. Dobbins in the 2020 draft, but releasing a veteran like Ingram - especially at this point of the year - is highly unusual. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner is likely to catch on somewhere else this offseason and serve as a useful committee back, but his days of fantasy relevancy are probably over.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Deone Bucannon was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Jan. 19. The Buccaneers also placed LB Jack Cichy (elbow) on the Reserve/Injured list and designated RB Kenjon Barner (groin) for return from the Reserve/Injured list.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers designated running back Kenjon Barner (groin) for return from Injured Reserve on Tuesday, allowing him to resume practicing with the team. The team also placed linebacker Jack Cichy (arm) on Injured Reserve after he broke his arm in the Divisional Round against the Saints and signed linebacker Deone Bucannon from the practice squad to the active roster in a corresponding move. Barner will be allowed to practice with the team this week, but it doesn't mean he'll come off IR and join the active roster for the NFC Championship against the Packers on Sunday. Barner, a sixth-round pick of the Panthers in 2013, was active for six games this season but didn't receive a single carry and was targeted once in the passing game.
A misdemeanor battery charge against Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mackensie Alexander was dismissed on Tuesday. The charge stemmed from last August in relation to the disappearance of his father. Alexander entered deferred prosecution on Dec. 8, which led to the charges being dismissed. Part of the terms of the agreement included 24 hours of community service and participation in an anger-management course. Alexander allegedly went to a man's house to discuss the incident with his father, hit him and caused minor injuries. He pleaded not guilty and completed the pretrial diversion program on Jan. 13. The fifth-year player started in 10 of his 13 games in 2020 and recorded 47 tackles and one interception.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (concussion, toe) cleared 'some big steps' Tuesday, Jan. 19, but remains in the league's concussion protocol with what is considered a concussion. According to sources via ESPN's Adam Schefter, it is still 'too early to say that he definitely will play' against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship.
Fantasy Spin: Nothing new to see here other than Mahomes appears to be about halfway through the five-step protocol. Schefter added that the quarterback is expected to practice Wednesday, which would obviously be another step in the right direction. Chad Henne is a capable but unexciting option for the Chiefs if Mahomes has a setback or can't go Sunday, but it sure feels as though it won't come to that.