This is turning into quite the morning for high-profile offensive line moves. Barely an hour after the Packers locked down Elgton Jenkins, the Browns agreed to a deal that will keep Jack Conklin off the market.
The Browns and Conklin agreed on a four-year, $60MM extension Friday, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Conklin’s deal includes $31MM fully guaranteed. Conklin, who arrived in Cleveland as a free agent in 2020, was set for free agency again in March. The Browns, as they have done at other O-line positions in the recent past, will prevent that from happening.
Like Jenkins, Conklin spent this offseason recovering from a major knee injury. The patella tendon tear Conklin suffered in November 2021 sidelined the former first-round pick until Week 3 of this season, but Cleveland’s right tackle has played in every game since that debut. After locking in guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, the Browns will keep another upper-echelon blocker.
Conklin only made his way to Cleveland after the Titans passed on his fifth-year option and a free agency accord. Tennessee drafted Conklin in the 2016 first round; he was the first player recently fired GM Jon Robinson chose. While Conklin earned All-Pro honors as a rookie, he suffered a torn ACL in 2018. The following May, the Titans did not pick up his option. After he played a major role in the first of Derrick Henry‘s two rushing titles (during the 2019 season), the Titans — who had both Henry and Ryan Tannehill as free agents in 2020 — let him hit the market. That ended up being the Browns’ gain, and Friday’s extension will set up Conklin for a long-term Ohio stay.
Armed with extensive cap space in 2020, the Browns used a chunk of it to land Conklin on a three-year, $42MM pact. The short-term deal allowed the Michigan State product a chance to hit the market again before turning 30. Finishing up his age-28 season, Conklin ended up using that three-year accord to his advantage and will become the rare player to sign three lucrative deals in his 20s.
Although this $15MM-per-year extension does not place Conklin among the top five wage-earners at his position, the $31MM fully guaranteed sits fourth among right-siders. For AAV, Conklin’s deal checks in sixth at the position. The 2023 O-line free agent market is now considerably worse, with Jenkins and Conklin off the board. Conklin had said recently he wanted to finish his career in Cleveland.
Coming off the severe injury, Conklin sits just inside Pro Football Focus’ top 40 at tackle. PFF gave him top-20 assessments from 2019-21, and it stands to reason Conklin will be in better form as more time passes from the patella tendon setback. PFF rates the Browns’ O-line eighth overall, though the team’s center issues have dinged the unit a bit. The team will not have to worry about right tackle for the foreseeable future.
The Browns were unable to stay in the thick of the playoff race during Deshaun Watson‘s suspension, and the highly paid quarterback has not shown much of his Texans form since returning from the 11-game ban (and 17-game paid absence last year). But Nick Chubb booked a fourth consecutive Pro Bowl this week. The star running back has rushed for 1,252 yards and matched his career high in touchdowns (12) already. The Browns cut center J.C. Tretter this year, leading to his retirement, but have prioritized extensions for their O-line finds. Bitonio and Teller are signed through 2025, and left tackle Jedrick Wills‘ rookie deal — based on how the Browns handle his fifth-year option — can run through 2024. Conklin is now signed through 2026.