Joel Bitonio

Contract Details: Beckham, Bitonio, Gano

Rounding up a few contract details from this past week:

  • Odell Beckham, WR (Rams): One year, $1.25MM, with up to $3MM in team-based incentives. Incentive package is as follows: $500K if Rams get wildcard win or first-round bye; $750K for divisional round win; $750K for NFC Championship Game win; $500K for Super Bowl appearance, or $1MM for Super Bowl win. OBJ would have to play at least one snap of those postseason contests to earn the incentive (Twitter links via Albert Breer of SI.com). None of the $4.25MM paid by Browns is offset, so Beckham earns that full amount in addition to his Rams payouts.
  • Joel Bitonio, G (Browns): Three years, originally reported as $48MM. Per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the total value actually checks in at over $49MM, as Cleveland agreed to pay Bitonio 17th-game checks on his 2020 and 2021 salaries. So Bitonio’s AAV is $16.37MM, which narrowly tops Joe Thuney‘s $16MM pact with the Chiefs and makes him the highest-paid guard on a multi-year contract.
  • Graham Gano, K (Giants): Agreed to convert ~$514K of base salary into signing bonus, thereby creating ~343K of 2021 cap space (Twitter link via ESPN’s Field Yates).

Browns, G Joel Bitonio Agree On Extension

The Browns have now agreed to extensions with two guards in two days. Shortly after their Wyatt Teller deal, the Browns have come to terms with Joel Bitonio, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

It’s a three-year extension for the 30-year-old left guard, the team announced, keeping tying him to the Browns through 2025. It checks in at three years and $48MM, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). This makes Bitonio the Browns’ highest-paid offensive lineman again and matches Joe Thuney‘s guard-record $16MM AAV.

A second Bitonio extension emerged as a strong possibility earlier today, and the Browns went from having Teller in a contract year and Bitonio on a through-2022 deal to both signed long-term. These moves lock down arguably the NFL’s premier guard tandem, keeping key principals of Cleveland’s dominant run game in the fold. Both Bitonio and Teller are signed through 2025.

[RELATED: Browns Lock Up Teller Long-Term]

Since signing a five-year, $50MM pact in 2017, Bitonio saw the guard market transform. Ten guards entered Wednesday out-earning him, including Teller, who agreed to a four-year deal worth $56.8MM. Bitonio made three Pro Bowls while playing on that $10MM-per-year contract, and over the past two seasons, the Browns have deployed a top-tier offensive line. Pro Football Focus has Teller and Bitonio slotted as its Nos. 2 and 3 overall guards this season.

Cleveland’s historically talented Nick ChubbKareem Hunt backfield duo has the Browns second in rushing yards this season, and Chubb has strung together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. In the game both Pro Bowlers missed, ex-Alliance of American Football back D’Ernest Johnson totaled nearly 200 scrimmage yards in a win over the Broncos.

The last link to Cleveland’s Joe Thomas-fronted offensive lines, Bitonio is the longest-tenured player on the team. The Browns selected him during the Ray Farmer GM regime, acquiring him in the second round of the 2014 draft. Bitonio has been a starter since Week 1 of his rookie season and has made 104 starts during his career.

Displaying a tremendous commitment to their front, Cleveland now has four O-linemen — Bitonio, Teller, center J.C. Tretter and right tackle Jack Conklin — signed to veteran deals that run through at least 2022. Tretter and Conklin’s contracts go through next season. Jedrick Wills‘ rookie deal goes through 2023, with a fifth-year option included that could take it through 2024.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Eyeing Joel Bitonio Extension

Shortly after locking down Wyatt Teller, the Browns are aiming to retain their other standout guard. Joel Bitonio‘s deal runs through 2022, and the Browns are interested in a third contract for their Pro Bowl guard, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.

There is some momentum toward a second Bitonio extension, with USA Today’s Mike Jones and ESPN.com’s Kimberley Martin (Twitter links) indicating a deal could be finalized as soon as Wednesday.

The Browns locked down Bitonio back in 2017 on a five-year deal worth $50MM. The guard market has changed since, and Bitonio has delivered a few Pro Bowl seasons while on his second contract as well. While eight-figure-per-year guards were rare when Bitonio signed that contract, that price has become commonplace. Bitonio’s AAV is now tied for 11th in the NFL.

Cleveland gave Teller a four-year, $56.8MM extension Tuesday, moving the younger guard well above Bitonio in salary. It appears the Browns are not prioritizing the younger Teller, whose rookie contract was up after this season. Bitonio turned 30 last month but is coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons. Pro Football Focus currently ranks Teller and Bitonio as its Nos. 2 and 3 overall guards, respectively.

Bitonio, Teller, J.C. Tretter and Jack Conklin are all signed to veteran deals, with only Jedrick Wills on a rookie pact. But Cleveland’s offensive line is arguably the NFL’s best. It has both helped move Baker Mayfield‘s career back on track, after a rough 2019 season, and further unleashed Nick Chubb. Bitonio is by far the longest-tenured member of that group, having been with the Browns since 2014. Another agreement with the former second-round pick does not quite check in as the Browns’ highest-profile negotiation, with Mayfield and Denzel Ward still attached to rookie deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Activate Joel Bitonio

The Browns have activated left guard Joel Bitonio off of the COVID-19 list, per a club announcement. To make room, the Browns waived safety Tedric Thompson. The Browns will also have head coach Kevin Stefanski back on the sidelines against Kansas City, now that he’s been cleared.

Bitonio tested positive for the coronavirus just prior to the Browns’ first-round playoff game against the Steelers. It was a huge loss, but the Browns still managed to throttle the Steelers in the first quarter and hold on for the victory. Now, they’ll have the three-time Pro Bowler back in action as they face the Chiefs in the divisional round.

Bitonio has been a rock for the Browns throughout his seven-year career, despite constant instability in Cleveland. Up until the diagnosis, Bitonio hadn’t missed a snap since 2016. Still, the Browns aren’t 100% healthy on the offensive line. Tackle Jack Conklin was forced out of the Steelers game with a hamstring and his status might not be determined until we get closer to kickoff.

In addition to activating Bitonio, the Browns moved wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge off their reserve/COVID list. They will also have all their coaches back after coronavirus issues forced them to miss last week’s game. Secondary coach Jeff Howard, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters will all coach Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Joel Bitonio, Kevin Stefanski Test Positive For COVID-19

The Browns are going to the playoffs, but they’ll be without some of their key cast members. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and left guard Joel Bitonio have both tested positive for COVID-19 (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge has also tested positive with five cases in total from the latest round. 

The Browns-Steelers game is still scheduled to go ahead, with the belief that the Browns’ newest cases are the result of community spread, rather than a full-on facility outbreak. With Stefanski keeping his distance, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach. Meanwhile, Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt is expected to call the plays.

Bitonio, of course, is a big loss for the Browns. The three-time Pro Bowler has been a rock throughout his seven-year career, despite constant instability in Cleveland. This year, he’s continued his excellent work while mentoring promising rookie Jedrick Wills. In his place, the Browns will be forced to turn to Michael Dunn or rookie Nick Harris — neither backup can block like Bitonio.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Jalen Ramsey Trade

The Rams helped put an end to the Jalen Ramsey saga when they traded two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder to the Jaguars for the disgruntled star earlier this week. Ramsey is expected to suit up for his new club today — his back seems to have healed up quite nicely after the trade was announced — and we have a great deal of Ramsey-related notes to pass along:

  • The Eagles were considered a front-runner in the Ramsey sweepstakes, and as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports, Philadelphia did make a legitimate effort to land the soon-to-be 25-year-old All-Pro. Schefter says the Eagles offered a first- and second-round choice to the Jaguars for Ramsey, and they thought they would be able to complete a deal. But when they were outbid by the Rams, the Eagles did not increase their offer, largely because they expect to have four defensive backs returning from injury in the next two weeks.
  • The back injury that reportedly kept Ramsey out of the Jaguars‘ lineup for the past several games was widely thought to be an injury of convenience, and Jags owner Shad Khan steadfastly refused to give in to Ramsey’s trade demands (for a while). But as Schefter writes in a separate piece, three doctors cleared Ramsey to return from his injury, and Khan believed the “heart-to-heart” he had with Ramsey had helped to turn the tide. Khan thought Ramsey would play in last week’s game against the Saints, but when he didn’t, that was the final straw. Khan then gave his front office the green light to strike a trade.
  • Ramsey, in an interview with ESPN’s Ryan Clark on Sunday morning, said his negative feelings towards the Jaguars this year started when head coach Doug Marrone did not trust him enough to challenge a completed pass during the team’s loss to the Texans that Ramsey insisted was incomplete. Ramsey said a meeting with unnamed Jacksonville execs after that game also prompted him to call his agent and request a trade (Twitter links via veteran NFL reporter Ed Werder).
  • In yet another Ramsey piece, Schefter details the series of events that led to the trade to LA. It started with the Rams offering Marcus Peters to the Browns for guard Joel Bitonio. Cleveland countered with an Austin Corbett-for-draft pick offer that the Rams accepted. Los Angeles then offered Peters to the Ravens — another player in the Ramsey sweepstakes — and Baltimore was not only interested, but it wanted the deal to happen right away so it could have Peters for its key matchup with the Seahawks on Sunday. The 2020 fifth-rounder the Rams got back from the Ravens allowed them to add a 2021 fourth-rounder in their package to the Jaguars for Ramsey, which is what allowed the deal to get done.
  • Rams‘ COO Kevin Demoff is one of those execs who is more willing to part with draft capital to acquire proven talent, a philosophical shift that has made for more exciting trade seasons in the NFL in recent years. Demoff said, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, “[w]e don’t value late first-rounders as much as we do proven players. It is a further crapshoot when you get to that point in the round.”
  • Demoff refuted the notion that the Rams, losers of three straight, made the Ramsey trade out of desperation, pointing out that the team would have kept Peters if it was truly desperate. Instead, the Rams, who knew they were not going to re-sign Peters in the offseason, elected to get something for him while sending him to a club that will be able to get the most out of his talents. Of course, as noted above, it was the Peters trade that helped to facilitate the Ramsey deal.
  • Rapoport says that the Rams are expected to work out a long-term deal with Ramsey in the offseason. The trade was obviously not contingent on having such a contract in place, though the topic was discussed. Schefter says Ramsey has promised he will not hold out if the two sides do not come to terms on an extension in 2020, though all bets are off if the Rams attempt to use the franchise tag on him in 2021. Interestingly, Schefter says the Rams could turn around and trade Ramsey this offseason if they feel they won’t ultimately be able to sign him to a long-term pact.

AFC Notes: Browns, Landry, Peterman

On the eve of roster cutdown day, here’s the latest out of the AFC:

  • The Browns have turned to multiple players this offseason in search of Joe Thomas‘ replacement, but after moving well-regarded left guard Joel Bitonio to left tackle, it doesn’t appear the team is ready to slot him there in Week 1. Hue Jackson said Bitonio might be moving back to guard and has declined to say who will be his left tackle starter against the Steelers, per Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland (on Twitter). Austin Corbett‘s left guard job is also not certain, per Jackson (via Jeff Schudel of the Lorain Morning Journal, on Twitter). Rookie UDFA Desmond Harrison may be the latest name to get a crack at left tackle, which would be an interesting move for a team with Shon Coleman and Greg Robinson still on the roster.
  • It appears the Titans may be without two of their top edge rushers when they suit up for Week 1. With Derrick Morgan already expected to be out because of meniscus surgery, Harold Landry suffered a sprained ankle — a second opinion revealing that this could be a high ankle sprain, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter) — is uncertain for Tennessee’s opener. No joint damage occurred, but the Titans may opt to play it safe with their second-rounder.
  • Working as both a camp kicker and punter with the Ravens, rookie UDFA Kaare Vedvik has drawn attention around the league this month. Teams are monitoring this situation, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link), since Vedvik will not be beating out Justin Tucker or Sam Koch.
  • Nathan Peterman has a real shot to be the Bills‘ Week 1 starter, despite having made one of the worst starts in modern NFL history last season. Signs are pointing to Peterman to begin the year as the Bills’ starter, Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic writes. The 2017 fifth-round pick completed 80 percent of his preseason passes and watched the Bills deploy A.J. McCarron instead of him in Thursday night’s preseason finale, a game usually reserved for backups or players set to be cut. McCarron signed for two years and $8MM this offseason. Josh Allen is obviously the long-term option, but while he learns, Peterman may be the Bills’ guy.

Browns Rumors: Gordon, Corbett, Robinson

Josh Gordon remains away from the Browns as they enter the second week of training camp, but the team remains confident its oft-unavailable wideout will show up in Berea, Ohio, at some point during camp. John Dorsey reaffirmed during a radio interview Friday that the 27-year-old pass-catcher will be at camp. But no timetable has been announced. Browns camp runs until August 15, though it’s unclear if Dorsey meant Gordon will return by camp’s conclusion or merely before the regular season begins.

I told you he’d be here, and he will be here,” the Cleveland GM said during an interview with 92.3 The Fan (via the Lorain Morning Journal). “… I haven’t talked to Josh Gordon; I’m going to respect his privacy. I admire what he’s doing here because he’s taking care of the long-term interest of his person.”

Gordon is believed to be at a rehab center in Gainesville, Fla., and his return status may not be entirely up to him. Roger Goodell could well have a say, complicating matters for a player who’s endured one of the more complicated careers in modern NFL history.

Here’s the latest out of Cleveland:

  • The Browns moving to their “Plan Z” so fast — sliding Joel Bitonio to left tackle — will prompt them to move second-round pick Austin Corbett into Bitonio’s old spot. Corbett is now working as the team’s starting left guard, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. The left side of the Browns’ line is now comprised of former Nevada starting tackles, with Corbett taking over as the Wolf Pack’s left tackle for Bitonio in 2014 after he was a Cleveland draft choice. Corbett did not see time at guard in college but was considered a prospect who could make the transition inside in the pros.
  • Given the first chance to succeed Joe Thomas, Shon Coleman was not progressing like the Browns hoped, per Cabot. Cleveland’s right tackle starter last season, Coleman seems likely to now become a swing backup. But Hue Jackson suggested Greg Robinson, who’s been out for most of camp due to a concussion, may get a chance to potentially move Bitonio back to guard. Though, this move doesn’t look to be an experiment. “It’s full speed ahead with Joel,” Jackson said. “But Greg will factor into that. He hasn’t practiced enough. I don’t know enough about him yet to say if he can or he can’t.”
  • Duke Johnson would prefer to be a full-time slot receiver, rather than serving as a running back/receiver, per Dan Labbe of cleveland.com. With Jarvis Landry around, it doesn’t seem like the recently extended passing-down running back’s role will be changing anytime soon. Johnson took 82 handoffs last season but caught a career-high 74 passes.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Manziel, LaFell

Johnny Manziel is back. Sort of. On Friday night, the former Browns quarterback will make his first CFL start with his new club, the Montreal Alouettes.

I feel fortunate enough this week to be going against a team, a defense that I’ve seen more than any other defense since I’ve been in the CFL,” Manziel told reporters as he prepares to face his former team, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (via TSN). “I feel like I really know this personnel very well, I feel like I know this team in and out because I was a part of it.”

Manziel, of course, is hoping to impress on the elongated CFL field and return to the NFL. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get another chance south of the border, but NFL evaluators will certainly be keeping a watchful eye on his performance.

Here’s a look at the AFC North:

  • Brandon LaFell‘s agent says that his client asked to be released from the Bengals, but a team source says that the decision was not made based on LaFell’s desire to play elsewhere, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. It sounds like the source had not heard of any such request by LaFell, but even if the wide receiver asked to be let go, it’s doubtful such a request would have been granted anyway. The source told Terrell that the move was made to give the club’s young receivers more reps.
  • The Browns are trying All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio at left tackle, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Recently, Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie said playing Bitonio at left tackle was the club’s “Plan Z.” Apparently, it only took a matter of days for the team to work its way through the alphabet. If the Browns opt to use Bitonio on the outside in September, it will probably result in Shon Coleman going to the bench with No. 33 overall pick Austin Corbett starting at left guard. Alternatively, one has to wonder if the Browns will explore external tackle options in order to keep Bitonio at his natural position.
  • No one will confuse Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson for a Mr. Universe contestant, but the Louisville product says that he is not planning on gaining a significant amount of weight.
  • The Steelers recently learned that guard Ramon Foster will not require surgery to fix his knee.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Okorafor, Bengals

Rumored to be a potential option to succeed Joe Thomas at left tackle, Joel Bitonio‘s heard an important voice that doesn’t believe this is a good idea. As a result, the Browns‘ post-Thomas battle is likely to come down to third-year player Shon Coleman, last season’s full-time right tackle, second-round pick Austin Corbett and possibly former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson.

He is an elite guard, one of the top 4-5 in the league,” Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie said of Bitonio, via Terry Pluto of cleveland.com. “You put him at tackle and he becomes … what … just a tackle.”

Although Corbett succeeded Bitonio as Nevada’s left tackle and started for four years, he’s a bit behind Coleman for the job at present, Wylie said. The Browns, though, also signed Robinson this week and view him as a reclamation project. Not unlike other teams who have taken chances on underwhelming high draft picks, the Browns believe Robinson has “freakish” athletic ability and believe with proper coaching he can grow into a solid blocker, Pluto notes. In 395 snaps with the Lions last season, the former Auburn standout graded as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst full-time tackle.

Here’s the latest from some of the Browns’ top rivals.

  • The Bengals are set on the left side of their offensive line, with Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling and Billy Price entrenched as starters. With 2015 high draft picks Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, along with Giants castoff Bobby Hart, involved in the right tackle competition, Cincinnati perhaps has less certainty about who will play right guard. Former UDFAs Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond, and 2016 fifth-rounder Christian Westerman, are going to vie for that spot, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes. PFF’s No. 41 tackle in 2017, Hopkins is the incumbent, playing 707 snaps last season and starting 12 games.
  • Continuing this afternoon’s theme of AFC North offensive lines, the Steelers appear to be close to slotting Chukwuma Okorafor as the swing tackle behind Alejandro Villanueva and Marcus Gilbert. The Steelers may be leaning toward placing Matt Feiler in as a backup interior lineman, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. A third-round pick, Okorafor would then be in line to replace Chris Hubbard, the new Browns right tackle, in that swing job. “Chuks, we drafted that guy for that reason,” Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “Now the young guy gets a chance kind of like Al a few years ago. And last year, Chris Hubbard got the opportunity with Marcus out. We’ve got a lot of time to work with him. Right now, that’s our guy going forward.” Gilbert’s contract expires after the 2019 season, and although Ben Roethlisberger would prefer he be re-signed in advance of his walk year, the high-end right tackle has dealt with injuries and a suspension in recent years and will be 31 in February.
  • While it’s unlikely Jordan Dangerfield will be able to keep first-round pick Terrell Edmunds off the field, he exited the Steelers’ offseason program as a first-string safety, per Joe Rutter of the Tribune-Review. Morgan Burnett missed minicamp because of an injury Mike Tomlin deemed minor. Edmunds ran with the second-team defense but is expected to get looks at safety and linebacker for a Steelers team that was deficient at those spots at the end of last season. Dangerfield is a fifth-year player who hasn’t seen action since 2016.