Jack Conklin

AFC North Notes: Conklin, Hunt, Steelers

Browns offensive tackle Jack Conklin missed quite a bit of time during his second year in Cleveland, seeing two separate trips to the injured reserve. He spent three weeks on injured reserve after an elbow injury sidelined him in early November. In his first game back from injury, Conklin tore his patellar tendon and promptly returned to injured reserve for the rest of the season.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, Conklin’s recovery is coming along quite well. While he remains off the field in OTAs, rehabbing on his own, and likely will be held off the field in mandatory minicamp, as well, Conklin is expected to be ready to practice at the start of training camp. He will likely be limited as camp opens up, but Conklin is expected to be ready to start once the Browns roll into Charlotte this September to open their season.

Here are a few more notes out of the AFC North, starting with another note from The Land:

  • The Browns have a fairly full running backs room. Nick Chubb is the premier back with D’Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton serving complimentary roles and fifth-round draft pick Jerome Ford joining John Kelly in reserve roles for the position. Despite the wealth of potential contributors and the lack of certainty concerning his future going into a contract year, Kareem Hunt is viewed a valuable member of the Browns’ offense going into the season. According to Mary Kay Cabot, Hunt “is still very much in the Browns’ plans for this season” with no ideas of dealing or releasing the 26-year-old due to a lack of substantive extension discussions.
  • Omar Khan was recently promoted to the role of general manager of the Steelers. He doesn’t have a strong background in personnel, but is well-versed on the way Pittsburgh operates. It appears that Khan had a plan in place to address that weaker section of his resume. According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, Khan pushed for his hiring to be a sort of package deal including his good friend Andy Weidl, who served previously as the vice president of player personnel for the Eagles. Bringing in Weidl and pairing him with director of pro scouting Sheldon White, who has extensive league experience in player personnel, creates a strong trio of executives to start a new era in the Steel City.

Latest On Browns C J.C. Tretter, O-Line Plans

Browns center J.C. Tretter profiles as a potential cap casualty, given that his release would save the team $8.2MM against the cap while incurring a modest $1.6MM dead money charge. Cleveland GM Andrew Berry recently addressed Tretter’s status, and he stopped short of confirming Tretter will be back in 2022, the final year of his current contract.

“For all of these situations on our roster, we work through them over the next couple weeks,” Berry said (via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal). “J.C.’s been a real productive veteran for us, he’s been a starter since 2017 for us and played a lot of really good football, we expect him to continue to play some really good football.”

Tretter, 31, has dealt with ankle and knee injuries over the past three seasons, but he has missed just one game since joining the Browns in 2017 (which came in Week 16 of the 2021 season and which was due to a positive COVID-19 test). Although he has never made a Pro Bowl, Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics have consistently rated him as a high-end starter, with a grade no lower than 72.0 since 2018. And with the Browns angling for a postseason berth in 2022, a quality veteran on a reasonable salary at the pivot is a nice luxury for Berry to have.

That is especially true when considering that RT Jack Conklin, who recently restructured his deal, missed 10 games in 2021 due to a variety of injuries, including a torn patellar tendon. Berry said that Conklin is “doing well” in his recovery, but in light of the play-time incentives included in the reworked contract, it seems as if there is at least a chance that Conklin will miss game action in 2022.

If that happens, though, the Browns do not plan to shift LT Jedrick Wills to the right side. Wills had some injury issues of his own in 2021 and did not play particularly well in his 13 contests, but he is going to stay right where he is, despite his RT experience in high school and college.

“No, Jed will stay at left tackle,” Berry said. “We feel good about the depth that we have at the tackle position.”

Berry did leave open the possibility of supplementing that depth. Swingman Chris Hubbard, who played in just one game in 2021 due to a triceps injury, is eligible for free agency, and as a result of the health issues experienced by Hubbard, Wills, and Conklin, 2021 fourth-rounder James Hudson and former Jets taxi squad member Blake Hance were forced into significant action.

On the plus side, 2020 fifth-rounder Nick Harris played well in Tretter’s absence last year. If Berry were to move on from Tretter, that would suggest that he has considerable faith in Harris.

In related news, head coach Kevin Stefanski will continue calling the team’s offensive plays, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (via Twitter). This is despite the fact that Alex Van Pelt no longer has to pull double-duty as offensive coordinator and QB coach.

Browns Rework Jack Conklin’s Contract

The Browns are starting to carve out some extra cap space. Per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), the Browns have reworked the final year of offensive lineman Jack Conklin‘s contract.

As Yates notes, Conklin was due a non-guaranteed $12MM in 2022. Now, he’ll earn $8MM in fully guaranteed money, plus up to $4MM in play-time incentives (starting at 55% and up to 75%). Conklin initially signed a three-year, $42MM deal with the Browns in 2020.

Now, Conklin will be locked in for 2022, he can still earn up to the $12MM he was due, and the Browns save $4MM in cap space. The Browns already entered the offseason with plenty of breathing room under the cap, with ESPN’s Jake Trotter citing their projected cap space at $27.32MM.

Following a four-year stint with the Titans that had both highs (like earning All-Pro honors as a rookie) and lows (like having his fifth-year option declined), Conklin joined the Browns in 2020. He started all 15 of his games in 2020 and earned another All-Pro nod, but he was limited to only seven starts in 2021 after suffering a torn patellar tendon.

Browns’ Jack Conklin Done For Year

Browns tackle Jack Conklin is done for the year (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Now confirmed to have a torn patella tendon, Conklin will have to turn his attention to rehab with an eye on 2022.

That hurts to see Jack like that,” defensive end Myles Garrett said after Sunday’s game (via Cleveland.com). “I see the guy work every day, saw him work in training camp. I was part of the group that got him to come here. To see him have to deal with all these injuries, knowing what he’s going through and it’s tough to see, tough to watch and I feel for him.”

As noted by Garrett, this is just the latest malady for Conklin. In 2021 alone, he’s missed time with a dislocated elbow and a separate knee injury. It’s all amounted to a seven-game season, a disappointing follow-up to his stellar 2020. Last year, Football Focus rated him as the tenth best tackle in the NFL as he captured First-Team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.

Blake Hance filled in after Conklin’s early exit, and he’ll continue to start at RT the rest of the way. The Browns can also be expected to add another tackle for depth during their Week 13 bye.

Latest On Browns’ Jack Conklin

The Browns believe that right tackle Jack Conklin is dealing with a torn patella tendon in his knee, according to a source who spoke with ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). Conklin, who was carted off during last night’s loss to the Ravens, will know more after additional testing this afternoon.

You hate that for anybody, especially Jack, who’s been fighting to come back after the dislocated elbow,” said quarterback Baker Mayfield (via ESPN.com). “It’s just one of those freak deals. He’s one of our guys, and it’s just a really, really unfortunate thing.”

Conklin has already missed time this year, thanks to the elbow dislocation he suffered in Week 8 and another knee injury earlier in the year. Of course, when healthy, Conklin has performed as one of the game’s best right tackles. In 2019 and 2020, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the tenth best tackle in the NFL. And, even in this injury-marred season, PFF has him slotted 14th.

The Browns gave the former first round pick a three-year, $42MM deal in 2020. He’s still under contract for 2022 and almost certain to return — releasing him would save just $6MM against $9MM in dead money. Beyond that, they’d be hard-pressed to find a better option for less on the open market.

Browns Activate RB Kareem Hunt, RT Jack Conklin

As expected, the Browns will be getting some reinforcement tomorrow night against the Ravens. The team has officially activated running back Kareem Hunt and and right tackle Jack Conklin from injured reserve. Both players are listed as questionable but are expected to play. Cleveland has also waived guard Hjalte Froholdt and defensive end Joe Jackson, and they’ve promoted defensive end Porter Gustin and wideout Jojo Natson from the practice squad (via Nate Ulrich of the Beacon Journal on Twitter).

Hunt has been on Cleveland’s IR list since suffering a calf injury in Week 6. Despite Hunt missing extensive time and Nick Chubb being sidelined for multiple games as well, Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack still leads the NFL. Hunt, however, was averaging 5.2 yards per carry through six games. The ex-rushing champion has topped out at 4.9 over a full season.

Hunt has experienced knee and wrist issues as well this season, and he is unlikely to be 100% again until the 2022 campaign. But Hunt returning at slightly less than 100% would certainly help a Browns team that has struggled through the air. The running back duo obviously affects the Browns’ offensive output. In five games with Chubb and Hunt active, the Browns are averaging 28.4 points and 417.6 yards per game. In the six in which either has missed, they have scored just 16.5 points per contest while averaging barely 315 yards, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter).

Conklin went down with a dislocated elbow in Week 8, adding a three-game absence on top of a two-game hiatus earlier this season. The Browns gave the ex-Titans right tackle a three-year, $42MM deal in 2020. His five missed games this season mark his first extended absence since 2018, when he missed nine games. The former first-round pick remains one of the NFL’s best right tackles. Pro Football Focus grades Conklin 14th among all tackles in his abbreviated 2021 slate.

Jackson has appeared in a career-high 10 games this season, collecting 11 tackles and one sack. Froholdt has seen time in four games for Cleveland this season. Gustin got into 14 games for the Browns last year but has been limited to only one appearance in 2021. Natson has also seen time in one game this season, returning three kickoffs.

Browns Designate Kareem Hunt, Jack Conklin For Return

FRIDAY: Both Hunt and Conklin are expected to return when first eligible. Kevin Stefanski said he anticipates each key contributor being activated and suiting up in the Browns’ pivotal Week 12 game against the Ravens on Sunday night, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. While Cleveland has 21 days to activate each player, it looks like neither will stay in IR-return limbo longer than a week.

WEDNESDAY: Two key pieces of the Browns’ offense will be back on the practice field Wednesday. The team designated Kareem Hunt and Jack Conklin to return from IR, opening their respective 21-day activation windows.

Hunt has been on Cleveland’s IR list since suffering a calf injury in Week 6. Conklin went down with a dislocated elbow in Week 8, adding a three-game absence on top of a two-game hiatus earlier this season. Both will be eligible to return Sunday, should the Browns move to activate them by Saturday afternoon’s deadline.

Despite Hunt missing extensive time and Nick Chubb being sidelined for multiple games as well, Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack still leads the NFL. Hunt, however, was averaging 5.2 yards per carry through six games. The ex-rushing champion has topped out at 4.9 over a full season.

Hunt has experienced knee and wrist issues as well this season, and he is unlikely to be 100% again until the 2022 campaign. But Hunt returning at slightly less than 100% would certainly help a Browns team that has struggled through the air. The running back duo obviously affects the Browns’ offensive output. In five games with Chubb and Hunt active, the Browns are averaging 28.4 points and 417.6 yards per game. In the six in which either has missed, they have scored just 16.5 points per contest while averaging barely 315 yards, via ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter).

Like Hunt, Conklin is signed through the 2022 season. The Browns gave the ex-Titans right tackle a three-year, $42MM deal in 2020. His five missed games this season mark his first extended absence since 2018, when he missed nine games. The former first-round pick remains one of the NFL’s best right tackles. Pro Football Focus grades Conklin 14th among all tackles in his abbreviated 2021 slate.

Browns Place RT Jack Conklin On IR

The Browns will be without one of their top offensive linemen for at least the next three games. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that right tackle Jack Conklin has landed on injured reserve.

Conklin dislocated his elbow during last weekend’s loss to the Steelers. Fortunately, the veteran will likely avoid surgery, and there’s optimism that he’ll be able to return to the lineup later this season.

This is poor timing for the 27-year-old, as he had just returned to the lineup after recovering from a knee injury. The eighth-overall pick by the Titans in the 2016 draft joined the Browns in 2020 on a three-year, $42MM deal. He started 15 games during his first season in Cleveland, earning first-team All-Pro honors (the second of his career). He’s started each of the six games he’s appeared in during the 2021 campaign. Blake Hance will likely start at right tackle while Conklin’s out of the lineup.

The Browns have also activated fullback Andy Janovich and center Nick Harris from injured reserve, and they promoted defensive tackle Sheldon Day and tight end Miller Forristall from the practice squad (per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).

Browns’ Jack Conklin Suffers Dislocated Elbow

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski says Jack Conklin will miss “multiple weeks” with a dislocated elbow (via Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com). Stefanski did not specify a timeline for the right tackle, but it’s likely that he’ll be placed on short-term injured reserve. 

Conklin returned to face the Steelers yesterday after missing the prior two games with a knee injury. The 2020 First-Team All-Pro was expected to provide a big boost to the front five, though his presence wasn’t enough in the 15-10 defeat.

The Browns will likely deploy tackle/guard Blake Hance on the right side, but they may need some reinforcements behind him. Currently, fourth-round rookie James Hudson stands as the team’s only other true reserve tackle.

Conklin remains under contract through 2022 thanks to his three-year, $42MM deal. The former No. 8 overall pick will only be 28 when that deal expires, setting him up for an even bigger payday down the line. In the more immediate future, Conklin will aim for a pre-Thanksgiving return as the Browns fight to salvage their season.

Browns Likely To Be Quiet At Trade Deadline

The Browns, currently sitting at 4-3 and in third place in the AFC North, are not expected to swing a major deal in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Cabot does not anticipate the club acquiring a high-profile talent or trading one away.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham became the subject of trade speculation even before his first season in Cleveland was over, and those rumors have continued to crop up ever since. The Browns have done their best to quash all such rumblings, and Beckham will likely stay put at least through the end of the 2021 campaign. After all, he is dealing with a painful sprain in his right shoulder, and he is still owed $9MM over the rest of the season, so even if Cleveland were interesting in making a trade, there are obvious hurdles.

Plus, the Browns have every reason to keep Beckham around. Although he and QB Baker Mayfield have yet to develop a consistent rapport, OBJ continues to get open and remains an elite talent, so it would be surprising to see a Cleveland outfit that has postseason aspirations make that type of trade.

The same logic applies to tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper. Neither player has offered much production in 2021 — aside from a monster Week 5 game for Njoku that accounted for over half of his 2021 receiving yards and his only touchdown — but the hope is that the passing game will improve as the season goes on, just as it did last year. Njoku is playing on an expiring contract and requested a trade on several occasions last summer, but his most recent comments on the matter suggested that he would like to remain in Cleveland, and Cabot expects both him and Hooper to still be Browns once the deadline has passed.

Speaking of Mayfield, Cabot says the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft will likely require offseason surgery on his injured shoulder. His injury has complicated extension talks, and now, if an extension is reached, it probably won’t happen until after the season. Mayfield is under club control through 2022 via the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, which the Browns exercised earlier this year.

In related news, Cleveland does have starting RT Jack Conklin back in action for today’s critical matchup with the Steelers. Conklin had missed the prior two games with a knee injury.