The Lamar Jackson era has reignited optimism around the Ravens regarding their ability to contend for a third Super Bowl title. Coming off of their third straight postseason appearance — and first playoff victory — during Jackson’s tenure as the starting quarterback, expectations were high for the 2021 season in Baltimore. A myriad of injuries (including to the 25-year-old himself) sparked a six-game losing streak to end the campaign, knocking the team out of the postseason.
This coming season is therefore seen as something of a mulligan in Charm City. A return to health for a number of key players, along with a retooled defense, could once again land the team among the AFC’s elite. The conference has added a number of stars on both sides of the ball, though, including moves which figure to see both Ohio teams remain divisional contenders for the foreseeable future. With Jackson’s Baltimore tenure remaining a point of contention, have the Ravens done enough this spring to make a championship run?
General manager Eric DeCosta has shown a propensity to pull off significant trades during his relatively brief time at the helm of the Ravens. Moving Brown represents another sizable deal he executed, a process which involved keeping the likelihood of a swap under wraps for months. Only after the Day 1 draft deal was it revealed that Brown had requested to be traded at the end of the regular season. By honoring that wish, the team ended the up-and-down tenure of only its second-ever homegrown 1,000-yard receiver.
Putting aside the close personal relationship between Brown and Jackson, the deal leaves the team with a significant void in the passing game. Brown eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2021 and ranked 10th in the NFL in targets. While 2021 first-rounder Rashod Batemanis poised to take over as the Ravens’ top wideout, the depth chart seriously lacks experience and pedigree. With neither the extra first-rounder they acquired via the pair of swaps made during that night, nor any other selection, did the team add to its WR corps. Baltimore has been labeled a candidate to bring in a veteran, though a move of anywhere near as much significance as the Brown deal is highly unlikely.
The Ravens haven’t been afraid to spend significant free agency dollars on the safety position in recent years, handing out deals to the likes of Eric Weddleand Earl Thomas. Williams is the latest in that line of acquisitions, though his age (25) should allow for a longer tenure with the team compared to the team’s previous big-ticket safety signings. The former second-rounder established his playmaking ability in New Orleans, where he racked up 15 interceptions across five seasons. The 2021 campaign, in which he played on the franchise tag, also saw him make strides in pass coverage.
Williams will provide the Ravens with a ball-hawking ability which has been lacking recently. The team ranked 26th in the league with just nine interceptions last year, a statistic which was exacerbated by the defense’s overall struggles against the pass (surrendering a league-worst 279 yards per game through the air). At an annual average of $14MM per season, Williams’ contract ranks eighth among safeties, as the position continues to enjoy an upward trend. The degree to which he lives up to the lucrative pact will go a long way in determining the defense’s success for the short- and long-term future.
The defensive line was identified as an area in need of a youth movement at the end of the 2021 season. While the starting unit will look different this fall, Campbell and Pierce will be familiar faces. The former had contemplated retirement before ultimately committing to play at least one more season, making a reunion with Baltimore a logical choice. The 2010s All-Decade Team member will be 36 this campaign, but he also represents the lone returnee from the 2021 starters along the D-line. Campbell’s level of play against the run in particular has shown little sign of decline in recent years, and his leadership within a relatively young front seven will carry value.
In the middle of the line, Pierce will step back into the starting role he held at the end of his first Ravens tenure in 2019. The deal he signed to return is significantly smaller in value than the one he inked with the Vikings that offseason, but it gives him notable security considering the limited time he has spent on the field in the last two years. A 2020 opt-out, the 29-year-old was limited to eight contests last season, ultimately leading to his Vikings release. Rediscovering the form which earned him that Minnesota deal would add a boost to the defensive front. Urban represents another reunion; the veteran Canadian has started for the Ravens in the past but figures to play a rotational role in 2022.
On the opposite side of the ball, fortifying the offensive line became plainly necessary as the 2021 campaign progressed. While a return to health from left tackle Ronnie Stanleywould solve much of the issue in pass protection in particular, finding a veteran bookend was among the team’s top priorities, and something made more financially viable by a reunion with Za’Darius Smithfalling through. Moses, 31, figures to provide a steady presence at that spot, having posted a PFF grade of 71 with the Jets last year, a figure roughly in line with his career average.
A recipient of the rarely used UFA tender, Houston remaining in Baltimore was always the likeliest outcome, despite the delay in his decision to re-sign. The Ravens had been connected to a number of veteran pass rushers, and the former NFL sack leader will again be leaned on in at least a rotational capacity within an otherwise young position group facing a number of health questions. Likewise, the one-year investment in Fuller could prove worthwhile. The Baltimore native is coming off of a disappointing season with the Broncos, but he could see significant playing time as part of the Ravens’ retooled CB room.
Williams and Wolfe headline the front-seven departures. The former had spent his entire nine-year career in Baltimore, while the latter was in line to start alongside him this season before being sidelined with hip issues. Their departures will leave the team short two starting-caliber leaders, and place even higher expectations upon 2019 third-rounder Justin Madubuiketo not only take on a permanent first-team role, but develop into an impact player.
Given the struggles on the offensive line, changes were inevitable. Villanueva’s retirement came after an underwhelming final chapter of his Pro Bowl career, but it was expected considering his inconsistent play. Bozeman departing was likewise unsurprising, though the fact that he was only able to land a one-year deal in Carolina was noteworthy. The Alabama product established himself as a dependable starter in the middle of the line, albeit at a position the team had options for regarding a replacement both before and after the draft.
The area of the roster which has seen the most changeover is the secondary. Elliott handled full-time starting duties for the second straight season, proving his worth when able to remain on the field (the infrequency of which throughout his career no doubt hurt his free agent value). Averett shouldered by far the largest workload of his career (with a snap share of 90%) stepping in for a CB room which lost Marcus Petersand, later, Marlon Humphreyas well. The production he managed in 2021 made the position’s remaining depth the source of many questions leading up to the draft.
Those two departures, like Young (who, before many of his lengthy injuries, was at one point the league’s highest-paid slot corner) could turn their respective one-year deals into more lucrative pacts with similar campaigns to 2021. Meanwhile, Smith’s career-long Baltimore tenure could be over after a third straight year of declining snap percentage. He, like McPhee, may have played his final NFL snap.
Special teams will also have a distinctly different look in 2022. Koch will transition to the sidelines more than one season removed from becoming the all-time franchise leader in games played (256). His retirement ends the hugely productive tandem formed between he and Justin Tuckerdating back to 2012.
In a similar vein, Levine’s absence will be noticed on the field, given his 10 years of (primarily) third phase contributions. Successors for both appear to be in place, and they are each slated for coaching roles with the team moving forward.
Just as the safety position was targeted in free agency, it has been in the spotlight when analyzing the Ravens’ draft haul. Seen by many throughout the buildup process as one of the top prospects in the class, Hamilton was tapped as a candidate to fall outside of the top 10 in the weeks leading up to the first round. His position, along with a season-ending knee injury and questions about his testing numbers all contributed to such a slide taking place. Having just witnessed the Eagles move ahead of them to secure Jordan Davis, the Ravens, then, allowed the highly productive Fighting Irishman to fall into their laps.
During his three seasons in college, Hamilton showcased rare size at the position (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), which he coupled with impressive versatility and athleticism. The 2021 consensus All-American’s skillset and leadership make him a candidate to start right away. If he does, attention will turn to veteran Chuck Clark. The defense’s top communicator has been included in trade speculation since Hamilton’s selection, despite the presence of his team-friendly contract. The way snaps are divvied up between the two will be a talking point in the buildup to the season.
The Ravens traded places with the Bills later on in the first round, dropping two places while still securing Linderbaum. Widely regarded as the top center in this year’s class, the former Hawkeye has drawn comparisons to Jason Kelcewith his level (and style) of play. The anchor of Iowa’s offensive line for the past two seasons, Linderbaum won the Rimington Trophy in 2021 en route to being named, like Hamilton, a consensus All-American.
Linderbaum figures to start right away as a replacement for Bozeman. His relatively small frame and lack of length will lead to questions about his fit within the Ravens’ scheme, but he has the opportunity to stabilize the position for the long-term. If can live up to his potential, Linderbaum will help improve the team’s pass protection along the interior — something which has plagued the Ravens even dating back to the end of Marshal Yanda’s career.
Ojabo represents the second significant draft investment at the outside linebacker position in as many years. 2021 first-rounder Odafe Owehshowed potential as a rookie against the run in particular, but adding a potential sack artist was long seen as a top priority. Ojabo stood out in that department last season and will have an opportunity at least on passing downs to make a sizable impact early in his career. When he makes his debut is a central question, of course. A torn Achilles suffered at his Pro Day (singularly leading, in the minds of many, to his slide out of the first round) leaves his availability for the first half of the season severely in doubt. Still, the Nigerian-born 22-year-old could emerge, along with Oweh, as a foundational piece along the team’s front seven.
Another new face on the interior of the defensive line is Jones, who could help achieve the goal of adding more pass-rush ability to Baltimore’s D-line, something which contributed greatly to the team’s overall struggles on defense last season. Jones won’t see the field as often as those drafted ahead of him right away, but he profiles as a potential long-term successor to Williams with a more well-rounded skillset. He was followed on Day 3 by a piece of draft history, as the Ravens became the first team to ever make six selections in one round. Their sizable haul within that stretch includes Stout, the first punter to hear his name called. The ex-Nittany Lion faces the tall order of replacing Koch in both the short- and long-term.
The matter of signing Jackson to a multiyear extension has long been perceived as an inevitability, but little (if any) significant progress has been made this offseason. In March, DeCosta outlined the notable disparity between the front office’s desire to hammer out a long-term deal and the 25-year-old’s. Jackson was absent from OTAs for the first time in his career, but another round of talks took place during minicamp. Speculation has swirled about the likelihood of a contract being finalized in time for the start of the season, and, consequently, the long-term future of this relationship.
Set to earn $23MM this season on the fifth-year option, Jackson (who has represented himself throughout the negotiating process) is coming off the worst season of his career, a campaign which ended with five missed games due to injury. Many around the league nevertheless expect an extension similar to the ones signed by Deshaun Watsonand Kyler Murray— averaging 46MM and $46.1MM per season, respectively — earlier this offseason to be the end result of this episode. Playing out one or two seasons on the franchise tag as Kirk Cousinsdid in Washington remains a possible alternative — a long-term route owner Steve Bisciottireferenced earlier this offseason.
The Louisville alum’s arrival at, and participation in, training camp has led to renewed optimism that fruitful talks will continue. Both parties have kept things close to the vest, meaning that few tangible updates could be provided until any new deal becomes imminent. In any case, Jackson will once again be expected to drive the team’s offense both in the air and on the ground amid the absence of Brown and a number of question marks surrounding the run game.
Just like Jackson, 2022 would have represented a contract year for Harbaugh if not for the extension. The signing came after only the second losing season the team has had during his tenure — both of which have been rather directly tied to injuries. Since Jackson’s ascension to the starting role, Baltimore has again become the site of playoff contests on a consistent basis, a departure from the relative dry spell following the Super Bowl winning campaign of one decade ago. Now the third-longest-tenured coach in the league, the 59-year-old has a realistic chance of moving into the top 25 in terms of all-time wins this season. Doing so will require a return to form on the field in 2022, but also a significant new face on the sidelines.
Macdonald represents an outside arrival since he spent 2021 with Michigan, but he spent the previous seven years on the Ravens’ sidelines. Long seen as the heir apparent to Martindale, he helped lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten title and a CFP semifinal berth. A large part of that success was the play of the Wolverines’ defense, which Macdonald led after wearing a number of different positional hats in Baltimore. At age 34, he is not only the youngest DC in franchise history, but one who faces the tall task of returning the unit to the success the franchise has largely been known for.
Martindale’s 2021 performance differed enormously from those of his previous three seasons in charge of the defense. Elite rankings both in terms of yardage and points allowed were replaced with uncharacteristic positions (25th in yards, 19th in scoring) in 2021. A lack of sacks or takeaways exacerbated the unit’s injuries, in particular in the passing game. With a successful stint in New York, though, he could remain on track for a head coaching role in the future.
Late June brought a tragedy for the Ravens, when Ferguson died suddenly. A lethal dose of cocaine and fentanyl was determined to be the cause of Ferguson’s passing. The 2022 season was expected to be a career year for the former third-round pick, who had played a rotational role in the first three seasons of his career. Instead, it will be a stark reminder of his absence.
Jackson has been arguably the league’s biggest bargain on his rookie contract, but his 2022 compensation still pales in comparison to what he will earn on a new deal (in Baltimore or elsewhere) after this season. Incremental increases in cap charges for almost every name on the list — with the notable exception of Peters, a free agent at the end of the year — put Baltimore in line for more flexibility than most other teams in the league next offseason, pending what happens with Jackson, of course.
In an ideal world, the Ravens would translate a return to full health across the board into another postseason run. More realistically, an adjustment period as injured players return to the field and a new defense takes shape should be expected. Improved offensive line play should allow Jackson and Co. to return to the efficiency of years past, though questions related to the passing game remain to a greater extent than many would have expected at this point. In what figures to be an immensely competitive conference, the Ravens should nevertheless be counted amongst the strongest contenders.
After seven years with the rival Dolphins, wide receiver DeVante Parkeris set to be a difference-maker in the Patriots offense this season, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. With the early days of camp in New England focusing on the red zone, Parker’s 6’3″, 219 lb. frame has been on full display.
Here are a few other notes from Patriots training camp, as reported by Reiss:
After spending last season with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle and Trent Brown at right tackle, spring ball saw the two swap sides. Head coach Bill Belichick downplayed it as a way to build versatility in his top offensive linemen, a worthwhile trait to shield from injury, but it may end up being a permanent change. As New England opened up training camp this week, Wynn and Brown remained switched at right and left tackle, respectively. Brown has even reportedly been “feeling (at) home” on the left side of the line.
According to Reiss, one of the biggest remaining question marks on the Patriots’ roster is at cornerback opposite Jalen Mills. The top-two options so far in camp have been veterans Terrance Mitchell and Malcolm Butler. Mitchell got the first opportunity of camp and received praise from Belichick in early practices. Butler returns to the team this summer after a three-year vacation in Nashville and a one-year retirement after signing to play for the Cardinals. He admits he’s still “getting in shape” after not playing at all in 2021. Reiss reports that rookie fourth-round pick Jack Jones is next in line, ahead of rookie third-round pick Marcus Jones, and returning backups Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, and Shaun Wade.
Contrary to what many assumed would occur after disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson delivers her decision, it appears the NFL Players Association will not appeal Robinson’s ruling and it is calling “on the NFL to do the same.” The NFLPA released its joint statement with Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Twitter today, leaving no question as to their message.
In the statement, they emphasize their cooperation and participation in the personal conduct policy investigation. They also underline the credentials of the ruling officer, Robinson, and announce their support for the validity and comprehensiveness of the hearing. They end the statement by asserting that they will choose not to question the legitimacy of their process by appealing Robinson’s ruling, and they ask the League to do the same.
This is an interesting decision by the NFLPA that seems to point out a glaring hole in the league’s appeal process. Many initially saw this as a reason to believe that the Players Association had some early indication of a favorable ruling and wanted to make sure the League won’t fight it by pressuring a statement of its own. But, upon further review of the appeal process, it makes perfect sense that the NFLPA wouldn’t want to appeal the ruling.
In the case of an appeal by either side, the decision leaves the hands of Robinson and falls into the lap of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell is the assigned party to make the determination over any appeals. This makes the words of the NFLPA’s statement a lot more meaningful when they said:
“Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the League office.”
Essentially, the Players Association has every reason in the world to avoid a precedent being set wherein the ruling of the independent hearing officer is easily overruled by the League and its commissioner. It would be most beneficial for the NFLPA to ensure that Goodell has no involvement in the final decision. The only way to do that is to honor the ruling made by Robinson.
Watson and the NFL continued their engagement in settlement talks in the days leading up to this ruling, but apparently the two sides were never able to get close, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN. Watson’s side was willing to accept a ban of six to eight games. The League’s initial punishment was “an indefinite suspension with (the) right to apply for reinstatement after a certain number of games.” At the end of settlement negotiations, the League’s final offer was a 12-game ban with heavy fines, nearing the range of $8MM, with the fines taking the place of the indefinite ban.
Since no settlement was reached, the ruling will hold precedence, unless either side appeals. The only way neither side can appeal is if Robinson rules that Watson did not violate the league’s personal conduct policy. It appears the NFLPA is, at least, under the impression that Robinson won’t reach that conclusion, and they’d rather an appeal doesn’t allow Goodell to side with the League.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if this wrinkle in the league’s disciplinary process becomes a focal point in the next CBA negotiations when the current active agreement expires at the end of the 2030 season. Until then, it appears the Players Association will have to hope they can set a precedent wherein the two parties choose to respect the decision of the independent arbiter, keeping the final say out of the hands of the League’s commissioner.
After months of precarious conversations and rumors, the 49ers and star wide receiver Deebo Samuel have finally agreed to a new deal. Samuel has landed a three-year extension worth $71.55MM, with a potential maximum value of $73.5MM, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Samuel’s “hold-in” can now come to an end. While he had reported to training camp earlier this week, Samuel refused to practice amid his then-ongoing contract dispute. He had reported to minicamp, as well, but didn’t participate in any on-field work then either. The “hold-in” was a new concept, a result of the CBA’s crackdown on holdouts that would fine Samuel $40,000 for each day he was absent from camp.
With contract discussions in the rearview, Samuel can return focus to continuing his meteoric NFL development. Samuel impressed as a rookie amassing 57 receptions for 802 yards and three touchdowns en route to his teams run to a Super Bowl loss against the Chiefs. Samuel also showed that his impressive athleticism could provide an extra tool as he rushed for three more touchdowns on 14 carries for 159 yards. Samuel’s sophomore season was derailed a bit by injury as a fracture in his left foot forced him to miss the first three games of the season. He would miss nine games total that year due to a mix of COVID-19 and a hamstring injury.
Finally healthy again, Samuel exploded for a breakout year last season. Samuel more than doubled his career total recording 1,405 receiving yards on 77 catches for six touchdowns. He continued his dual-threat nature by rushing 59 times for 365 yards and a team-leading eight rushing touchdowns. Some reports indicated that one of Samuel’s gripes was his overuse in the run game, but the team supposedly addressed it by adding some depth to the running backs room.
But, now, all the gripes and issues will hopefully be behind the two parties. Samuel got his payday and the 49ers aren’t forced to deal one of their most valuable offensive weapons. Between signing Bosa and Samuel to massive extensions, Lynch and the 49ers’ brass have had one heck of an offseason.
It was announced when the hearing concluded after its third day that the decision would likely be delayed as Robinson called for post-hearing briefs, which were set to be due by July 11. When these summaries were finally submitted, Robinson planned to deliberate for at least a week with some from USA Today predicting that a decision may still be weeks away from then.
Predictions for the length of Watson’s ban have been rampant for awhile now, ranging anywhere from as little as six weeks to as long as a full season. The most recent reports have disclosed that Cleveland is “privately bracing for an eight-game suspension.” While it’s nearly certain Watson will be missing some time, it’s still unclear just how much.
The longer the Browns have been clueless to how long they’ll be without their new starting quarterback the longer the Browns have had to wait to address the situation. For now, they feel confident in letting newly signed backup Jacoby Brissett fill in during a short Watson-absence, but they reportedly would plan to sign another quarterback to back up Brissett if Watson receives a lengthy suspension. After months of waiting, the Browns should finally be able to act on a plan moving forward tomorrow.
Following Robinson’s ruling, the appeal process is likely to begin. Unless Robinson rules Watson did not violate the NFL’s personal conduct policy, both sides can appeal. The final result will almost certainly not be known until the Browns begin camp, and it could come well into the team’s preseason workouts.
Surratt went undrafted last year after opting out of the 2020 college football season, an option given to all football players that year due to COVID-19. He considered entering the 2020 NFL Draft after an impressive redshirt sophomore season at Wake Forest, but ultimately decided to return before eventually opting out. Despite only playing in 9 games with the Demon Deacons in 2019, Surratt totaled 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, averaging 111.22 receiving yards per game in 2019 didn’t build his draft stock enough for the 2021 Draft. Surratt has spent time on the practice squads for the Lions and the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL but hasn’t seen the field for either. The Chargers will hope to tap into that explosive play from three years ago.
In an offseason filled with headlines at the receiver position in particular, one newsworthy item of a different nature was the six-game suspension handed down to DeAndre Hopkins. The cause of the ban – a prohibited substance being found in his bloodstream – remains a talking point for multiple reasons.
Hopkins was suspended for having Ostarine in his system. It was originally reported, however, he had also tested positive for a diuretic or masking agent. A statement from the NFLPA refutes that allegation, though. It reads in part: “Hopkins never tested positive for any diuretic or masking agent and there was absolutely no evidence of any attempt to substitute, dilute or adulterate any specimen or any attempt to manipulate a test” (Twitter link via Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson).
Hopkins – who at one point considered appealing his suspension in large part due to the fact that a fraction over 0.1% of the substance was found, and maintains that he is unsure how it entered his body – is using his situation as a means to speak out against the NFL’s PED policy writ large. “I’ve never taken any of that kind of stuff,” he said, via ArizonaSports’ Alex Weiner. “If you know about what it is, it can be in shampoo, it can be in a lot of different things. Obviously the NFL is very black and white, so of course, I wish the rule wasn’t so black and white. It is what it is.
“It’s hard to know what you can eat, what you can do when you’re not in control of manufacturing anything or what goes through a conveyor belt… So, obviously, I do think that rules should change. But like I said, that stuff, it’ll work itself out, and I’ve never taken anything. I barely take vitamins.”
The 30-year-old is also rehabbing from an MCL injury which cut his 2021 campaign short. He is expected to recover in time to take the field after his ban ends, but at least until then, his absence and the circumstances surrounding it are likely to remain contentious.
Owner Jerry Jonesdoubled down on Dallas’ reliance on Elliott yesterday, saying that he “has to be the focus” of the Cowboys’ run game (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). The 27-year-old has been a full-time starter since his rookie season, though he logged the lowest snap share of his career (66%) last season. Slowed for the latter stages of the campaign in particular by a knee injury, the former top-five pick still recorded 1,000 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns.
His efficiency (4.2 yards per carry) compared to Pollard (5.5), however, led to questions about which back deserved more opportunities – which continues in the build-up to this season, one in which Elliott is expected to be healthier. Jones insists that he “has to be the focal point” of the offense, as he has been in years past, including the three-year stretch to begin his career in which he led the league in rushing yards per game.
In the absence of Amari Cooperand, at least early on in the season, Michael Gallup, Dallas’ passing game figures to look much different in 2022 and faces the possibility of being less productive than last season. Especially in that event, a return to form from Elliott would be sorely needed. From a financial perspective, it would also ease concerns about his future; Elliott has five years remaining on his current deal, but no guaranteed money is included after this season.
On the other hand, Pollard is entering the final year of his rookie contract and could play his way into a sizeable free agent deal with another career-year. As Jones added, “there is room for Pollard while Zeke is in there,” but if he has his way, the much-maligned veteran will still shoulder a heavy load as the Cowboys look to make another postseason run.
Among the many moves made this offseason by the Rams was a re-working of Aaron Donald‘s contract. No new years were added to his existing pact, but the future Hall of Famer received a record-setting raise in the process.
That provided more clarity on Donald’s immediate playing future – something which was in question especially after the Rams won the Super Bowl, and has been speculated on in conjunction with that of head coach Sean McVay. Recent comments from the d-lineman confirm that their football fates are in fact intertwined.
When asked if he still would have played in 2022 had McVay stepped aside in favor of a broadcasting role, Donald said (via NFL.com’s Bobby Kownack), “not at all. I told Sean when he first got here. We came up with some things early and I first told him as long as he’s the head coach here, I want to continue to build my legacy with him. As long as he’s here and I got the ability to still play at a high level, I’m going to be here.”
McVay will coach for at least the upcoming season, though progress is being made on an extension which will keep him in the fold for several years beyond that. The end of his Rams tenure could very easily be the end of Donald’s as well, though, as he also said, “when [McVay’s] gone and it’s all said and done, that probably will be when I’m hanging it up, too.”
Donald, 31, is under contract for another two years, but he has hardly slowed down with age. Now the league’s highest-paid non-QB under his new deal, he is set to earn $95MM over that term. McVay is likewise in line for a raise when his extension is finalized, setting the pair up to continue the success they have enjoyed together. How long they will remain in their current positions will be a consistent storyline in the short- and medium-term future.
The Browns released center J.C. Tretter in March, and he has lingered on the free agent market ever since, with no concrete reports of interest in his services. However, even if Cleveland was able to re-sign its five-year starter to a team-friendly pact, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com does not envision such a reunion.
Per Cabot, the Browns would only consider re-signing Tretter if presumptive starter Nick Harris suffers a serious injury. Harris has started only two games in his two-year professional career, but the team is high on his ability and expects the transition from Tretter to Harris to be a smooth one. Indeed, while Tretter’s release saved Cleveland $8.2MM against the cap, the Browns — who currently boast a whopping $48MM+ of cap space — would not have made that move if they were not completely comfortable with Harris at the pivot.
Cabot speculates that teams that might otherwise be interested in Tretter, the NFLPA president, may have soured on him because of the hardline stance he has taken in negotiations with the league over the offseason program (among other things). Still, it is somewhat surprising that a player who has missed only one game since 2017 — a COVID-related absence in 2021 — and who has consistently rated as a high-end starter in the eyes of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics has not gotten any bites.
One wonders if Tretter, who is 31 and who has dealt with ankle and knee ailments over the past three seasons, is simply waiting for the right opportunity, or if he is contemplating walking away from the game. His $44MM+ of career earnings would certainly allow him to do that, although Cabot does believe he will eventually sign somewhere.
Echoing her earlier reports on the matter, Cabot says that the Browns are unlikely to add a veteran wideout unless David Bell‘s foot injury lingers. Bell, a third-round rookie, had an impressive spring and is currently penciled in alongside Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones at the top of Cleveland’s WR depth chart. But he was recently put on the PUP list and is not expected back for another couple of weeks. If players like 2021 third-rounder Anthony Schwartzor sixth-round rookie Michael Woods II should fail to impress while Bell is sidelined, the Browns could look to the FA and/or trade markets.
One member of the team’s receiver mix, rookie Isaiah Weston, was carted off the practice field yesterday, as Tony Grossi of 850 ESPN Cleveland tweets. As a UDFA, Weston was a longshot to make the team anyway, and even if his injury is serious, it’s unlikely to alter the Browns’ decision-making too much.