Browns Offensive Contract Extensions – Who? When? Why?

There have been several players who have outperformed expectations over the first four weeks of the season leaving fans to wonder when a contract extension will get done. Here we will breakdown all the starters/key players on offense and look at if and when any new deal might be forthcoming. We will breakdown the defense and special teams in another piece.

Quarterback

Mayfield is currently in year three of his rookie deal which means he can be extended after this season has been completed. So far we have seen him perform at an okay level (PFF’s 24th best QB in 2020) but nothing close to a top 10 quarterback worthy of an early contract extension. In the offseason, I took a look at all the rookie QBs who have been paid since 2011 and lessons we can learn from them. The conclusion is don’t pay Baker until his fourth year and we know what we have. Currently, Stefanski’s offense is what is winning games rather than quarterback play, so no reason to reward Baker for it. As a first-round pick, Baker has a fifth-year option which needs to be sorted this offseason, this is a lock to happen.

Running Back/Fullback

Nick Chubb is also in his third season meaning he can sign an extension once this season is completed. He has little to no leverage over the team now Hunt has signed. The Browns have an intelligent front office who understands the low-value individual running backs have on winning games. Add to that a scheme from Stefanksi who made D’Ernest Johnson look like a future Hall of Famer against the Cowboys, showing the position can be replaceable due to the system. If the Browns are going to offer Chubb then expect it to be done this offseason and similar to Henry’s deal. A two-year cash deal worth $25.5 million with an additional two years on the end where the player will get cut and never has a chance to see them. I would expect Chubb to turn this down and seek a new team in 2022.

Kareem Hunt signed an extension just before the season started for two years and $12m. It has little to no guarantee structure in it meaning the Browns can walk away at any time if the off the field problems return. It was a shrewd piece of business by Andrew Berry’s team, taking advantage of the situation. The Browns signed a top ten running back in the league to a deal that other similar players will earn in less than a year.

Andy Janovich is under contract for two more years after this season. Where not many fullbacks are rostered in the league he will be easy to resign either in his final season or after that season to a new deal. He will be 29 at that point and cost around $2m a year.

Wide Receiver

Odell Beckham Jr. has three years left on his deal after this year but no guarantees in it meaning he will likely be restless for new terms after this year. Landry has two years remaining this offseason with nothing guaranteed other than $3 million of signing bonus remaining against the salary cap.

The front office will need to decide what they want to do with this pair as they are the most expensive wide receiver tandem in the NFL over the last two years but failed to produce the goods to match their high cost. It is highly unlikely both will receive contract extensions to take them into their early to mid-30s. While fans will clamor for each of them to take a 25% discount to continue playing with each other, there is little to no chance that ever happens in the real world.

Whichever is the most productive this season could get a new deal, while the other plays one more year if they want together before getting traded or cut. They could accelerate the move and let the least productive of the pair seek a new team this offseason, due to the reduced cap in 2021 it would be a trade for OBJ or a cut for Landry. With next to nothing otherwise in the receiver room, it is unlikely we will see both leave this offseason.

Tight End

Austin Hooper is signed long term, effectively to a fully guaranteed deal so he is here for at least two more years but a 75% chance it will be for three more after this regardless of his level of play.

David Njoku put in a trade request this offseason not to get a move this offseason but to lay the foundations for a move next offseason. I would be shocked if he is on the roster week one of the 2021 season. No team is going to pay big money to two tight ends so this was always likely when the team signed Hooper and drafted Bryant.

Tackle

Jack Conklin signed a three-year deal this offseason meaning he is here for two more years at least due to it being effectively fully guaranteed. If the Browns are really impressed with his play through the first two years and he is able to stay healthy throughout then don’t be surprised if a new deal is on the table after year two. They could look to give him a slight pay rise and add two to three more years onto the back of the deal. A lot will depend on how the rookie opposite develops though.

This offseason I took a look back at the 39 offensive tackles drafted in the first round and how they did in their first season. Currently, Wills is performing exactly like the average the article predicted. That has no bearing on his future projection though. If Wills develops into an above-average starter in the league then they will extend him after year three to get an early discount. The deal will likely be backloaded as they have been keen to do with their deals so far. This means that Conklin will be capped at five to six years with the Browns as they likely won’t want to have two big offensive tackle contracts on the books at the same time.

Guard

Joel Bitonio has no guarantees left in his deal but continues to give his all for the team and perform at an incredibly high level. He has two years remaining after this season. Considering this deal will take him until he is 32 it is unlikely he sees anything else here. They might look to add some guarantees to his deal at some point just to keep him sweet and thank him for his service.

Wyatt Teller is in his third season meaning he can get extended long term after this season. He has performed at an incredibly high level this year and is PFF’s highest-graded offensive lineman in the NFL after four weeks. I would assume the Browns reach out to his agent during the bye week and let his camp know a contract extension will be on its way at the end of the season. It also means the team can wait for a 16+ game sample this season before deciding on any extension number. His deal will transition nicely with Bitonio’s meaning the Browns only have one big guard contract at a time.

Center

JC Tretter signed a contract extension little under a year ago which will run out of real guarantees after this season. He has two more years on the back of the deal which will mean they can have a smooth transition to whoever the next center will be for the Browns. Maybe they love Nick Harris, maybe they don’t. We will see JC return next year before the Browns decide what they want to do after that. It is highly unlikely he will see another long term deal here due to his age.

Conclusion

Overall the Browns have no major decision to be made this offseason when it comes to the offensive contract extensions only than how much they decide to pay Teller.

At the skill positions, they need to decide what the long term plan is for OBJ, Landry and Chubb but there is nothing stopping them pushing that question back another year.

Everything about the offence will come down to what they do with Baker. This isn’t the offseason to make that decision. Let’s give him two years with Stefanski to prove if he can be a top 10 quarterback. If not then we are better getting another rookie in the draft than paying Baker a top 5 contract due to a very congested positional market.

Bill Callahan is the most important contract regarding the offensive line. He has worked absolute magic in a short space of time with a limited offseason. Smart teams will tend to only have 2-3 long term vetran deals along the line at any one time especially with a veteran quarterback contract on the books. This means he will need to keep grooming young players behind the veterans and Berry dipping into the draft to add more talent.

I hope you enjoyed the piece, if you have any questions feel free to ask me on Twitter at @JackDuffin, my DM’s are always open.

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