Free agency officially just began, and the Browns are killing it. Armed with more than $100 million in cap space and needs all across the roster, it was imperative for them to be busy. Here is what they have done so far:
Browns give guard Joel Bitonio a five-year, $51 million extension, $23 million guaranteed.
Bitonio is one of the few bright spots on this team and was entering his contract year. He missed most of last season with an injury, but was very good when he was on the field, and he excels in both the run and pass.
Browns sign center J.C. Tretter to a three-year, $16.75 million deal with $10 million guaranteed.
Despite never being a full-time player, Tretter always excelled when he was on the field. Last year, he replaced an injured Corey Linsley and finished the year as the ninth-ranked center on Pro Football Focus. Tretter was one of the top centers available in free agency.
Browns sign guard Kevin Zeitler to a five-year, $60 million deal with $31.5 million guaranteed.
Zeitler isn’t just the top guard available, he is the best player available. He was the No. 7 guard last year, according to Pro Football Focus, just turned 27 yesterday and is a player the Browns are very familiar with since he has spent his entire career up to this point with the division-rival Bengals.
What makes these moves along the offensive line even better is that is removes Cameron Erving from the starting unit. A first round pick in 2016, Erving has struggled tremendously in his pro career and he finished dead last among centers last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Erving was a draft selection by the former regime, so General Manager Sashi Brown and company have no loyalty towards him. Now that the line has been fortified, this opens the door for them to trade him, use him as a reserve lineman or even release him. The Browns have allowed more sacks (119!) than any other team over the past two seasons, so upgrading their pass protection was easily one of their top priorities.
Browns sign wide receiver Kenny Britt to a four year, $32.5 million contract with $17 million guaranteed.
This is the one deal that I am not a fan of. Britt has never been a consistent NFL player, often finding himself injured, suspended or in legal trouble. He ended last season with more than 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, but he has never been an end zone threat despite his 6’3″ frame and has been consistently seen as a lazy player. I also question what this means for Terrelle Pryor’s future in Cleveland.
Despite this, the Browns were thin at wideout and Britt would be an immediate starter.
Browns acquire quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Texans 2018 second round pick and the Texans 2017 sixth round pick from Houston for the Browns 2017 fourth round compensatory pick.
On the face, this looks like a bad deal because Osweiler is a terrible quarterback, but this isn’t a typical NFL trade. Cleveland was never going to spend the $100 million in cap space they have and they needed a way to ensure that they will reach the salary floor. Osweiler’s bloated $16 million salary brings Cleveland closer to the floor and they were able to acquire a second round pick in the process. This trade gives the Browns eight picks in the first two rounds in the next two upcoming drafts, which is a lot of ammunition for them to move around. Houston basically paid Cleveland to get Osweiler off of their books.
Cleveland is now employing four quarterbacks, but that won’t last. They have reportedly already received calls regarding Osweiler’s availability, and other reports say the team is considering just cutting him. Osweiler’s contract is only guaranteed for this season and there is a good chance that the Browns don’t intend on using him as their starting signal caller. A third report from Ian Rapoport claims that Robert Griffin III could be released.
Ultimately, this will likely come down to whether or not the Browns acquire Jimmy Garoppolo, the player they have coveted all offseason. They have the resources to meet New England’s asking price without sacrificing too much on their end. If Garoppolo is acquired, both Griffin and Osweiler could be jettisoned.
Before free agency began, the Browns were also able to re-sign Jamie Collins to a four-year $50 million deal. A player the Browns acquired midseason for a third-round pick, it was imperative for them to re-sign a player one year removed from an All-Pro season. While his performance took a dip last year, he was still a good player and should only get better with a full offseason in Cleveland.
The Browns still have plenty of holes, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Today, they were able to fortify their offensive line and set up the framework to get their future signal caller and opening up their options on draft day.