Just before the start of the 2019 season, the Browns acquired guard Wyatt Teller from Buffalo. The Bills had selected Teller in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, but they deemed him expendable just a year later. Cleveland was in need of offensive line depth, so for the fairly modest price of a fifth- and sixth-round draft pick, the John Dorsey-led Browns acquired the Virginia Tech product, who in 2020 emerged from relative obscurity to become the best guard in the league per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. Dorsey might be gone, but he did leave the Browns with a few lovely parting gifts.
With three years of service time under his belt, Teller is now extension-eligible, and we recently heard that current GM Andrew Berry has a new contract for the 26-year-old on the agenda. Of course, long-term deals for quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, and cornerback Denzel Ward are also on the docket, so it’s uncertain when (or even if) a Teller deal might get done.
As with virtually all big-money contracts, as Teller’s promises to be, there are a couple of issues that need to be resolved. For one, Teller was not particularly impressive in 2019, his first year in Cleveland. To be fair, the offense as a whole underperformed under the stewardship of since-deposed head coach Freddie Kitchens, so Teller’s excellence in new HC Kevin Stefanski’s wide-zone scheme is probably a better indicator of how he will fare moving forward.
Another potential sticking point is the fact that, as good as he was in 2020, Teller missed five full contests and most of a sixth due to injury. Berry & Co. might want to see Teller sustain a certain level of performance for at least a full season’s worth of games before authorizing a massive extension (which is also rumored to be the front office’s mindset with respect to Mayfield). It is also fair to wonder whether the presence of center J.C. Tretter (PFF’s second-best pivot in 2020) to Teller’s left and right tackle Jack Conklin (PFF’s 10th-best tackle) to his right makes Teller look better than he actually is.
As of today, Spotrac estimates Teller’s market value to be roughly $12MM per year. That would position him as the fifth-highest-paid guard in football, behind Joe Thuney, Brandon Brooks, Zack Martin, and Andrew Norwell. For purposes of this exercise, we’re excluding Washington’s Brandon Scherff, who is presently attached to his second franchise tender and whose $18MM+ salary for 2021 might be a bit of an outlier. However, if Scherff and the WFT were to agree to an extension, it would almost certainly come with an AAV at least as high as Thuney’s $16MM, thereby making Teller’s estimated market value of $12MM/year the sixth-highest mark in the league.
In light of the above-referenced concerns, Berry could, with a straight face, offer a four-year deal to Teller worth around $48MM and including about $30MM in practical guarantees. But if Teller is anything like his quarterback, he will be willing to bet on himself and will demand something that puts him closer to the top of the guard market.
And it would not be surprising to see the Browns go there. After all, though Mayfield may be good enough to bring a championship to Cleveland with the right pieces around him, he does not appear to be the type of passer that can overcome the deficiencies of a weak O-line. Right now, the Browns have arguably the best offensive front in the league, and Berry would surely be loathe to let one of that unit’s best assets walk away. That is especially true when considering how a good line can make the two-headed rushing tandem of Chubb and Kareem Hunt even more imposing than it already is, and given that Teller is especially adept at run-blocking.
Just yesterday, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com confirmed that the Browns will try to extend Teller, although she did not offer any indication that contract talks had advanced particularly far. With so many other high-profile talents in line for lucrative extensions, it’s hard to determine exactly how Berry is triaging the situation, but Teller is certainly a player that other clubs are hoping makes it to free agency in 2022.
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