The Cleveland Browns are making Denzel Ward the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.
Ward agreed Monday to a five-year, $100.5 million extension with $71.25 million guaranteed, per multiple reports.
Agent Tory Dandy of CAA Sports confirmed the deal with ESPN.
Ward, who turns 25 on April 28, was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and earned his second Pro Bowl selection in 2021.
He registered three interceptions in 15 starts last season, including a 99-yard pick-six at Cincinnati in Week 9.
Ward has 10 interceptions, 50 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and 186 tackles in 52 games (51 starts).
The average annual value (AAV) of the extension is $20.1 million, edging Jalen Ramsey of the Rams ($20 million), Marshon Lattimore of the Saints ($19.52 million) and Marlon Humphrey of the Ravens ($19.5 million) for the highest among NFL cornerbacks, according to Spotrac.
Ward was due to earn a base salary of $13.3 million in 2022 on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.
–Field Level Media
Baker Mayfield ended his social-media silence Tuesday night to write an open letter to Cleveland Browns fans with language that sounded much like a goodbye note.
The letter came on the same day that Browns executives flew to Houston to meet with quarterback Deshaun Watson in hopes of luring him to Cleveland.
Mayfield, 26, has spent four seasons with the Browns since being selected No. 1 overall in 2018 out of Oklahoma. He prefaced his note by saying, “With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is.”
He attached the following letter:
“The past 4 years have been nothing short of truly life changing since I heard my name called in the draft to go to Cleveland. This is not a message with hidden meaning. This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me. We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs. I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process. I can only control what I can, which is trusting in God’s plan throughout this process.
“I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I’ve always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap. Whatever happens… I just want to say thank you to the fans who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city’s hard working people. Cleveland will always be a part of Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives.
“Baker Reagan Mayfield.”
If Mayfield is traded, he reportedly would prefer to go to the Indianapolis Colts. He has posted a 29-30 record in four seasons with the Browns, during which he has passed for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions. He also has rushed for 571 yards and five touchdowns.
Watson is not guaranteed to land with the Browns. Other teams such as the New Orleans Saints are considered to have a strong chance to acquire him.
However, according to Cleveland.com, the Browns could look to trade Mayfield either way “because of the awkward nature of returning to a team that tried to replace him.”
–Field Level Media
Two-time All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin and the Cleveland Browns have agreed to restructure his contract for the 2022 season, multiple outlets reported Saturday.
Conklin was slated to make $12 in base salary in 2022, but the money was non-guaranteed. Instead, Conklin will receive $8 million fully guaranteed with $4 million in incentives based on playing time.
The incentives could come into play as Conklin is recovering from a ruptured right patella tendon sustained in a Nov. 28 game against the Baltimore Ravens. He hopes to be ready for the start of the 2022 season.
The restructuring saves the Browns $4 million in salary-cap space, but it also assures that they won’t cut Conklin after June 1 and owe him nothing.
Conklin played in just seven of 17 games last season due to three injuries. He missed two games with a knee injury and three more due to a dislocated elbow prior to the patella tendon injury.
The 27-year-old has started all 79 games he’s played during six NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans (2016-19) and Browns (2020-21). He agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract with Cleveland on March 16, 2020.
–Field Level Media
After a quiet and injury-plagued season, Browns receiver Jarvis Landry says he’d “like to stay” in Cleveland.
Landry, 29, expressed his sentiments in a series of Twitter posts Tuesday.
“I have put the ball in CLE court by telling them I would like to stay but if not then I’m confident enough in myself to be a better healthy me this year and moving forward to helping do my part in winning a championship elsewhere,” he wrote.
Landry said he suffered a “high-grade MCL Sprain” in Week 2 as well as a partial quad tear and bone bruise. He started 12 games and finished with career lows in receptions (52), receiving yards (570) and touchdown catches (two) in 2021, his fourth season with the Browns following four seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection has 688 catches for 7,598 yards and 37 TDs in 123 games (113 starts) since Miami drafted him in the second round in 2014 out of LSU.
Landry said he didn’t talk to the media during Cleveland’s 8-9 campaign because he was “focused on getting on the field as healthy as possible during the week and after games.”
Landry is entering the final season of a five-year, $75.5 million contract extension signed in April 2018. Per Spotrac, he is due a base salary of $14.3 million and carries a cap hit of $16.4 million in 2022.
–Field Level Media
The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North, but the host Cleveland Browns continued their recent dominance in this interstate series with a 21-16 victory in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
Cleveland (8-9) snapped a three-game skid and ended a disappointing season with their fourth straight win over the Bengals (10-7), who clinched the division title and a playoff spot a week ago.
Case Keenum improved to 2-0 this season as the Cleveland starting quarterback and completed 17 of 24 passes for 176 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as a replacement for the injured Baker Mayfield. D’Ernest Johnson powered the offense with 123 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
The Bengals played backups virtually across the board — including quarterback Brandon Allen in place of a resting Joe Burrow — thanks to a playoff spot in hand and more than a half-dozen additions to the reserve/COVID list during the week.
The one notable exception was wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who played the first five offensive snaps and then was subbed out. It was enough for Chase to catch two passes for 26 yards, which gave him the Cincinnati single-season receiving yardage record of 1,455 yards — topping Chad Johnson (2007, 1,440).
The Bengals finished with a season low of 182 total yards, had seven punts, and just 11 first downs. Allen was 15 of 29 for 136 yards and a touchdown; he was sacked four times. The Browns more than doubled the Bengals’ yardage (376).
The Bengals even used a backup kicker, as Elliott Fry hit a 36-yard field goal with 5:01 left in the third quarter to close to within 14-10.
The Browns put the game away with 7:14 left as Keenum flipped a 10-yard touchdown to rookie Demetric Felton for a 21-10 lead. Allen threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Evans with 2:26 left, but the Bengals failed on a two-point conversion, and Cleveland recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Keenum was sharp early, and piloted two early touchdown drives for a 14-0 lead for the Browns. He found Jarvis Landry for a 26-yard score late in the first quarter, and Johnson made it 14-0 with his 4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
But Keenum let Cincinnati hang around as well. Wyatt Ray’s strip-sack on Keenum led to Trayvon Henderson’s 29-yard fumble return touchdown to get the Bengals on the board. Keenum was then picked off by Mike Hilton in the end zone on the final play of the first half.
Cleveland outgained Cincinnati 233-65 in the first half as Allen hit 6 of 13 passes for just 58 yards. The Bengals had three first downs in the half compared to 15 for the Browns.
– Field Level Media
Aaron Rodgers set the Green Bay Packers’ franchise record for most career touchdown passes Saturday on the way to a 24-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Green Bay, Wis.
Rodgers completed 24 of 34 passes for 202 yards and three scores, including an 11-yard strike to Allen Lazard with 5:13 left in the first quarter. That was his 443rd touchdown pass, breaking a tie with Brett Favre atop the franchise’s list.
Green Bay (12-3) stayed atop the NFC with the win, sealing the outcome when Rasul Douglas intercepted Baker Mayfield with 43 seconds left at the Packers’ 40. It was Douglas’ second pick of the day.
Mayfield, who arrived in Green Bay just hours before the game, hit 21 of 36 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and a career-high four interceptions. His first three picks were converted into touchdowns.
Browns running back Nick Chubb rushed for 126 yards and a score on 17 carries. Cleveland (7-8) amassed 219 yards on 25 rushing attempts, but its playoff hopes were dealt a devastating blow.
The Browns pulled within two points on Mayfield’s 5-yard touchdown toss to Anthony Schwartz with 4:31 left in the game, then got the ball back with 2:05 remaining. They drove to midfield before Mayfield’s last interception sealed the outcome.
Cleveland got off to a fast start, taking the opening kickoff and marching 75 yards in just 2:39. Chubb keyed it with a 40-yard gain off a screen pass and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Green Bay took the lead for good after the first of Mayfield’s three interceptions on Rodgers’ record-setting scoring strike, then used another Mayfield interception to build a 14-6 second-quarter lead as Rodgers found Davante Adams for a 9-yard touchdown.
The Browns pulled within 14-12 at the 7:03 mark when Mayfield hit Harrison Bryant with a 1-yard scoring strike. But Mayfield’s third interception of the half led to Rodgers’ 1-yard touchdown flip to Adams 12 seconds before halftime for a 21-12 advantage.
Adams caught 10 passes for 114 yards.
–Field Level Media