Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield Not Stressing Over Contract Extension
Much like Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield says his focus is on winning, not his next contract.
Leading the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs and having his best season in 2020 solidified Mayfield's status as the franchise quarterback. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft is eligible to sign a contract extension this offseason, joining Jackson and Josh Allen as top quarterbacks from the 2018 draft class who are positioned for big paydays..
"I am in no rush because I am just trying to win games, and like I said, it will handle itself," Mayfield said via Thomas Moore of dawgsbynature.com. "I think the chips will fall where they are supposed to. I am concerned about winning, and that is what everybody in this building needs to be concerned about.
"I have bet on myself my whole life. I have always taken it one day at a time and one play at a time. I am not going to handle it any differently now."
Reports from Browns mandatory minicamp last week indicate that Mayfield isn't distracted by his contract situation. According to Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt, Mayfield has better command of the offense than last season. Van Pelt expects Mayfield to play well in 2021, whether or not he has a new contract in place.
"He was impressive," Van Pelt said via ProFootballTalk. "There are a lot of areas and pass concepts that we wanted to work on in this minicamp that maybe he did not completely own last year and wanted improvement in these plays. He has shown that. We are very happy with where he is right now."
Cincinnati Bengals: Jessie Bates III Earns High Praise From Pro Football Focus
In just three NFL seasons, Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III has quickly earned respect as one of the NFL's top young players. Pro Football Focus ranked the league's top 25 players under 25 years old, and the 24-year-old Bates finished 11th on the list.
Despite winning the league's MVP award in 2019 and being one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, Jackson was ranked No. 2 behind San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner. However, the only other AFC North player ranked higher than Bates was Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was No. 6. Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (No. 12) was the last AFC North player to make the list.
Bates posted the highest PFF overall grade (90.1) among safeties last season, and has been remarkably consistent while never missing a game in three seasons. Along with nine career interceptions, Bates has made at least 99 tackles every year.
"Nobody could match the frequency of plays Bates made on the football, many of which came from a deep-lying, middle-of-the-field alignment," Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus wrote.
After drafting wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth-overall pick, the Bengals hope to have an explosive offense if quarterback Joe Burrow stays healthy. But their defense also needs to improve, and Bates as an ascending player expected to be the anchor of their secondary.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Diontae Johnson Uses Tennis Machine to Address His Drops
Diontae Johnson had 88 catches for 923 yards last season, but according to Sports Info Solutions, the Steelers' second-year wide receiver led the league with 16 drops. That led to Johnson buying his own tennis ball machine, which he has been using to improve his hand-eye coordination.
"It's a smaller target, so you have to really focus on the ball and the object coming at you," Johnson said via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "That's what I've been honing onto. Now when I catch the football it's easy."
Johnson was a third-round pick in the 2019 draft, and he has enhanced the Steelers' reputation for drafting talented wide receivers. He joins JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool as part of Pittsburgh's current wide receiver group, and Wide Receivers Coach Ike Hilliard believes Johnson is taking the right steps to become a more dependable target.
"Drops are part of the game, but obviously we had too many balls on the ground," Hilliard said. "It's been discussed, and our group understands and knows we have to do a better job."