This year’s free agent safety market only included one eight-figure-per-year agreement, with Jessie Bates lapping the field on a $16MM-AAV accord. Grant Delpit and the Browns found a happy medium Sunday.
Delpit will not make it to the 2024 market. The Browns have a deal in place to extend the 2020 second-round pick, 247Sports’ Brad Stainbrook tweets. The LSU alum will be tied to a three-year contract worth $36MM, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, who adds the fourth-year safety secured $23MM guaranteed on this deal.
Chosen in Andrew Berry‘s first draft as GM, Delpit has come a long way since missing his entire rookie season. The former No. 44 overall pick suffered an Achilles tear during training camp in 2020. Upon returning, he was not a full-time starter. But the 25-year-old defender has turned the corner in the years since. With the Browns making a substantial improvement in Jim Schwartz‘s first year as defensive coordinator, they have identified Delpit as a keeper alongside the likes of Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and Dalvin Tomlinson.
Delpit’s deal checks in more than $4MM north of any contract handed to a non-Bates free agent safety this offseason. While Bates scored a four-year, $64MM pact, the rest of the lot did not eclipse $8MM per annum. This profiles as an upper-middle-class safety contract, as it will check in tied for 12th overall, AAV-wise, at the position. It is not yet known if the $23MM guarantee is fully locked in at signing or if that total represents the injury-guarantee number. Were Delpit to receive $23MM fully guaranteed, that would place him fifth overall among safeties.
Cleveland participated in this offseason’s midlevel safety market as well, signing Juan Thornhill to a three-year, $21MM deal. The team will complete 2023 having devoted notable capital to two back-line defenders. Ward, Thornhill and Delpit are all signed through at least 2025. Ward sidekick Greg Newsome‘s rookie deal can run through 2025, should the Browns pick up the cornerback’s fifth-year option by May.
Pro Football Focus slots Delpit 30th overall among safeties, while Pro-Football-Reference’s coverage metrics place Delpit’s numbers as slightly worse than last season. But it is undeniable the Browns have made significant strides in pass deterrence compared to where they were under Joe Woods. The three-year DC’s tenure ended with the team ranking 20th in points allowed and 14th in total defense, though Cleveland did finish fifth against the pass last season. The team has built on that this year, leading the NFL in total defense. A No. 1-ranked pass defense fuels that effort, one that has become even more important since the team lost Deshaun Watson for the season.
The Browns have, however, been without Ward for the past three weeks (the high-end corner is out again Sunday). With recent free agent pickup Joe Flacco once again in place as the Browns’ starting quarterback — the team’s fourth QB1 this season — the team’s vaunted pass defense will be tasked with attempting to keep this car on the road en route to the playoffs. Delpit will be a key part of that effort and the Browns’ long-term future on defense.