Welcome back to the fourth installment of the series. I am taking a deep dive into the Browns roster and how they can best fill the holes in their roster. Every few days I will be releasing a different position room.
For every position room, I have outlined how the NFL structures that position on the roster as well as how the Browns 2020 scheme varied. The players we have in four categories: starter, rotation (play some snaps), depth (injury backup/special teams), and other (likely cut). Then I will lay out the options currently on the roster, available in free agency as well as via the draft for all 53 spots.
The average NFL team has 3.4 TEs on their roster. Every NFL team wants a tight end who can both block and receive. For his two/three TE sets, Stefanski will want two other players that can come in and fill different roles. Then a fourth option in the TE room with some upside.
Starting TE: Austin Hooper
Roster – Hooper regressed back to where he was during his first three seasons last year compared to his breakout season in 2019 during his contract year. Due to the contract, he signed with the Browns he is here for next season at least. As PFF’s 21st rated tight end he is certainly a solid player but not the game-changer he was signed to be. Hopefully, if the Browns can get field-stretching wide receiver play then his production will improve in with a less congested field.
If you breakdown his deal it is effectively:
$23m/2 years (that is including his salary, signing bonus, option bonus & dead cap)
Year 3 option – $9.5m
Year 4 option – $9.5m
It might look messy on the books if Hooper ends up as $11.25m of dead cap in 2022 if he is traded/cut. But if they want to go with Njoku & move on from Hooper after this season it’s certainly possible.
Rotational TE: ?
Roster – David Njoku had a very strong end to the season after struggling in the middle of the year, outperforming Hooper slightly overall. He has one year left on his contract due to his fifth-year option at $6m, this can be traded away with no dead cap remaining. The Browns could look to flip him for an early day 3 pick or a player swap. I believe they will look to keep him for one last year to keep the room strong while Bryant hopefully develops into the tight end two on the roster. They will then likely pick up a late compensation pick for him next offseason when he signs somewhere else. It is very unlikely Njoku gets a long term deal alongside Hooper as they only keep one veteran tight end most likely. But the Browns can sit with a large dead cap in 2022 from Hooper and extend Njoku.
FA – If the Browns get an offer they like for Njoku they will likely look to add another veteran tight end, likely on a cheap one-year deal. Some names that could appeal are MyCole Pruitt, Jordan Reed, Richard Rodgers, Darrell Daniels, and Jeremy Sprinkle. This gives stability to the room while they draft a long term replacement and give him a year to develop like nearly all tight ends need entering the league.
Draft – If they are enamored with Bryant then there is the outside chance they draft someone again with an early Day Three pick who can be a third tight end on the roster in 2021 but I feel this is unlikely and an excessive risk for a team built to compete.
Rotational TE: Harrison Bryant
Roster – Bryant had an okay rookie season, grading out as average for PFF and finishing 40th out of 48 tight ends. He was one of only two rookies to play enough to finish in that top 48 which is an achievement in itself. Hopefully, he can keep improving and become a tight end two alongside Hooper for the coming three seasons.
Depth TE: ?
Roster – Carlson isn’t a particularly great tight end but is a very talented special teamer. I would expect them to bring him back purely for that. They could do with a fourth tight end who can offer more to the offense in the event of injuries but it isn’t essential.
FA – If they draft another tight end to fill the rotational tight end role alongside Bryant then don’t be surprised to see a veteran added as the depth piece. There is likely to be a few names listed above who struggle to get a deal and sign for a minimum deal. The Browns could easily be on hand to pounce.
Draft – If they have a prospect fall to them on day three then they could easily grab them and have a readymade replacement for Njoku in a year’s time. While Carlson’s special teams play is a helpful addition to the team, grooming a young prospect to fill a rotational role is more beneficial to the team.
Other: Jordan Franks, Kyle Markway
Check back Monday for the Offensive Tackle deep dive.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.