This is a much harder article to write than the pieces I did on possible extensions for either Baker Mayfield or Nick Chubb. The reason for that is Baker Mayfield is in that QB2 tier behind the likes of Mahomes, Watson, and Wilson where most quarterbacks get paid around the same.
The Running Back market was set as a benchmark last season with all four of the most recent deals being approximately the same. Teller is an unknown with two years of average play followed by last season where PFF graded him the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL. For that reason, the final contract I will come up with will have a range to give fans an idea of what it might cost.
It Might Not Happen This Offseason
The Browns might decide they don’t want to extend him now because they want a bigger sample to gauge his regression in 2021. There will be some level of regression from the best offensive lineman in the NFL, it can only get worse in 2021, by how far is the question. He could easily stay elite and remain a top 8 guard in the NFL.
Also, Bill Callahan turned Chris Hubbard from a cut candidate in the 2020 offseason to the 11th best guard in the NFL according to PFF. Michael Dunn came in and played one game at a phenomenal level. As I have written about before, you will have fewer veterans on big deals in two years post-Baker getting extended. Maybe one tackle and one player on the interior, is Teller the one expensive interior offensive lineman you want to pay? Do you think Bitonio can play another 4-6 years and worth extending instead? Those are the questions this front office needs to think about.
I will keep saying this until I’m blue in the face, it pays to be first in the NFL offseason when doing contracts.
Each player that gets paid usually gets a little more than the one before. Jared Goff got $1.5 million per year more than Carson Wentz. Joey Bosa got $2 million more per year than Myles Garrett. Marlon Humphrey got $2.25m more than Tre’Davious White. There is little between those pairs in terms of talent but going later, even by a few days made the difference.
You have some big names who were on the franchise tag last year like Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney. These two are absolute beasts at the position, possibly each getting $60m over four years. If we look to players who could get early extensions this offseason the marquee name is Colts guard Quenton Nelson.
It is essential to get ahead of these guys as they will push the top of the guard market to new heights, which in turn will make Teller’s deal more expensive. He won’t get the same money as these three players but his deal will be benchmarked against them in negotiations. I would say the Browns save around $2m per year if they can get Teller to sign first.
What Is The Guard Market Like? $$$
There are four different tiers at the top of the guard contract market. We will break these down, there isn’t really any variation between left guard or right guard so we don’t need to worry about this.
Where we are looking at contracts signed over several different seasons we will use Over The Cap’s ‘average per years as a percentage of the salary cap at the time of signing’ metric for left guard and right guard. When the cap increases 6.1% a year on average, looking at dollar values from three years ago isn’t a good benchmark, this metric cleans that up for us.
* APY means Average Per Year
Zack Martin – 7.9% ($14m APY, 6 years, 2018)
Andrew Norwell – 7.5% ($13.3m APY, 5 years, 2018)
Brandon Brooks – 7.5% ($14m APY, 4 years, 2019)
Gabe Jackson – 6.6% ($11m APY, 5 years, 2017)
David DeCastro – 6.4% ($10m APY, 5 years, 2016)
Ali Marpet – 6.1% ($10.825m APY, 5 years, 2018)
Joel Bitonio – 6.0% ($10m APY, 5 years, 2017)
Rodger Saffold – 5.8% ($11m APY, 4 years, 2019)
Andrus Peat – 5.8% ($11.5m APY, 5 years, 2020)
Graham Glasgow – 5.5% ($11m APY, 4 years, 2020)
Shaquille Mason – 5.1% ($9m APY, 5 years, 2018)
Justin Pugh – 5.1% ($9m APY, 5 years, 2018)
Ereck Flowers – 5.0% ($10m APY, 3 years, 2020)
Richie Incognito – 3.2% ($6.35m APY, 2 years, 2020)
Nick Easton – 3.2% ($6m APY, 4 years, 2019)
Alex Lewis – 3.1% – ($6.2m APY, 3 years, 2020)
Isaac Seumalo – 3.1% ($5.85m APY, 3 years, 2019)
Laken Tomlinson – 3.1% ($5.5m APY, 3 years, 2018)
Mark Glowinski – 2.9% ($5.4m APY, 3 years, 2019)
James Carpenter – 2.8% ($5.25m APY, 4 years, 2019)
A.J. Cann – 2.7% ($5m APY, 3 years, 2019)
Which Tier Is Teller?
Now we know what the different tiers are in the market, we need to work out where Teller stands.
The players in Tier One are phenomenal. They have several years of being the elite guards in the NFL. If Teller had three seasons of play like he did in 2020 then he would easily be able to argue he should be paid like these three players and how Scherff, Thuney & Nelson will be paid his offseason.
In Tier Two I almost ignore the Jackson, De Castro & Bitonio deals as these are quite old now compared to now. The NFL seems to value interior lineman more than it did in the past and this has seen the market increase over time. Marpet & Saffold are both great players who have year on year great play but not elite like Tier One. Peat seems to have got paid more on his draft position rather than his production. Teller was taken in the 5th round and doesn’t get boosted into Tier Two based on having previously been a first-round pick. Even four years after being drafted, where you were taken still impacts how much you were paid (another hidden benefit of trading out of first-round picks).
The third tier is a bit messy, we have Glasgow and Pugh who are in that range between above average and great consistently. Mason’s deal is bizarre, it seems like he took a big discount and should have been getting $1.5m-$2m a year more based on his play. Finally, Flowers just mugged Miami off in free agency, another great example of why using free agency to fill needs is a very bad idea.
Tier 4 is your everything else and includes players with a red flag of some sort. We have Incognito who is 37 so gets less, plus off-field issues. Players like Easton, Lewis, Glowinski, Carpenter & Cann are league average at best. Seumalo & Tomlinson are just above average. Without his breakout 2020 season, Teller could be a player in Tier Four had he started every season.
I believe Teller sits in Tier Three today based on looking at the above deals. We don’t really have a compatible player who had one breakout year at guard before getting paid. Here is the decision they come across. If they wait a year and he produces another elite season then he could move into a Tier One discussion, this would likely mean the Browns let him hit free agency rather than pay him all that money. If they wait and he produces like a top 8 guard in the NFL, then Tier Two is a realistic option next season.
Andrew Berry needs to meet with Kevin Stefanski and Bill Callahan to try and work out where Teller’s career arc is and if the investment is worth the risk on a one year wonder. The other side of the equation is, does Teller want to sign a deal this offseason? He might sit down with his agent and say let’s play like a Tier One guard again next season then cash in. We are talking about the difference of $20m extra over four years if he is willing to risk it. Obviously, he might be desperate to sign this offseason as injury or regression could lose him around $20m over the next four years.
What Is Teller’s Current Deal?
Teller got a nice pay rise for his fourth season due to hitting the proven performance escalators set out in the 2020 collective bargaining agreement. He needed to play 35% of snaps in either two of his three-season or across his first three as an average.
So How Much Money?
I am going to include a range in this deal for the whole of Tier 3 as it is tough to know the exact deal based on his unique circumstances.
Between 5% and 5.5% of the NFL salary cap as an average per year, based on the 2020 salary cap of $198.2m this would be $9.9m to $10.9m. Let’s go bang in the middle with $10.4m.
The length of the contract seems to range between four and five years for these players. This will come down to which side is more desperate to get the deal done. If Teller is really keen to sign I think Berry would ask for the extra year if he plays how we hope he does then it will be a bargain. If the Browns are keener to do a deal then he will ask for four years so he can get back to free agency quicker and cashback in again.
The Browns haven’t included many bonus clauses in deals they have done so far (Hooper, Conklin & Garrett) but there is no reason to say they won’t go forward. In a few of the other guard deals, we have seen a workout bonus of $100,000 in each of the new years. With injury concerns around Teller from 2020, they could add $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses to protect themselves. Also, most of the deal seems to include a $1m roster bonus for the second day of camp in the fourth or fifth new league year. This forces the team to make a decision early on keeping the player and maximizing his opportunity to get on another roster if they aren’t keeping him due to his high cap hit.
How Could It Look?
Lots of other guards above have guaranteed salaries in their first two new years. The Browns likely use an option bonus instead to keep the cap hits as low as possible the next two seasons by backloading deals.
This creates a contract that is:
– 5-year deal
– $52 million in new money ($10.4m)
– $12 million signing bonus ($2.4m)
– $10 million option bonus in 2022 ($2m)
– $500,000 total of per-game roster bonuses from 2022
– $100,000 workout bonuses from 2022
– $1 million roster bonus in 2025 and 2026 on the second day of training camp
– Base salary guaranteed for 2021, 2022 & 2023
Below shows what it could look like on paper:
With this proposed contract you are committing to two new years of Wyatt Teller to tie him down for the next three seasons. After that, you can decide if you want to keep him around long term.
First 2 New Years (2022 & 2023) – $24.2m total
Year 3 – $8.1m option
Year 4 – $9.1m option
Year 5 – $10.6m option
It means they can walk away if he regresses massively but if he becomes a top guard then we have him on a fantastic deal with three very reasonable option years.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.