FRIDAY, 9:09am: Barnidge’s three-year deal is worth $12.3MM, with just over $5.5MM in guaranteed money, tweets Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports.
1:31pm: The Browns’ extension with Barnidge is now official. The tight end himself took to Twitter to announce the deal, posting a photo of himself putting pen to paper.
12:04pm: The Browns are moving toward locking up one of their top pass catchers to an extension, keeping him off the free agent market, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). According to La Canfora, a new deal for tight end Gary Barnidge and the Browns is “imminent.” Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter link) confirms that the two sides are nearing a deal, adding that it could get done today.
Barnidge, 30, caught just 44 balls in 92 games with the Panthers and Browns between 2008 and 2014, after being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by Carolina. However, he has blown away all his previous career highs this year, catching 60 balls for 817 yards and seven touchdowns in an increased role for the Browns.
Had he played out his contract, Barnidge would’ve been eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason. Instead, it looks like he’ll continue to catch passes for the Browns in 2016 and beyond. Coming off a $1.2MM salary in 2015, the Louisville product will be in line for a significant raise on his new contract.
It’s not yet known what sort of deal the Browns and Barnidge are discussing, but I imagine the four-year, $18.5MM ($6.75MM) pact signed by Lance Kendricks earlier this year will be a point of reference. That deal put Kendricks just inside the league’s top 15 highest-paid tight ends, despite the fact that he had never caught more than 42 passes or four touchdowns in a season.
Based on his 2015 numbers, Barnidge probably deserves to be valued higher than that — perhaps even within the top 10, which would mean an annual salary of $7MM+. I imagine his age and his lack of a track record will limit Cleveland’s willingness to invest too heavily in him, but the Browns certainly have no shortage of future cap room, so it’ll be interesting to see how much the club is willing to commit to its breakout tight end.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.