Jedrick Wills

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 Place Eight Players On COVID-19 List

The Browns could be seriously shorthanded for Saturday’s game against the Raiders. On Tuesday, the Browns placed wide receiver Jarvis Landry, right guard Wyatt Teller, tight end Austin Hooper, left tackle Jedrick Wills, defensive end Takkarist McKinley and guard Drew Forbes (on IR) on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Meanwhile, tight end Ross Travis and return man JoJo Natson have been placed on the practice squad COVID list. 

[RELATED: Chargers’ Slater Placed On COVID-19 List]

All eight players have tested positive for the virus (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero), putting their availability in doubt. Still, as of this writing, the game is still slated to go ahead as planned on Saturday (Twitter link).

On Monday alone, 36 NFL players — including Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater — were placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Since then, the league has issued a memo requiring booster shots for all Tier 1 and 2 staff by Dec. 27. While players are not required to be vaccinated, coaches and trainers fall within Tier 1.

The Browns were already down three players on Sunday, including tight end David Njoku, thanks to the reserve/COVID-19 designation. Despite that, they still managed to beat the Ravens and advance to 7-6 on the year.

Browns Activate Jarvis Landry From IR

11:44am: Landry is indeed back on the Browns’ 53-man roster for Week 7. The Browns activated him from injured reserve, providing Case Keenum with a key weapon tonight.

9:56am: The Browns will be missing their all-world backfield duo and Baker Mayfield against the Broncos on Thursday night, but they should have at least one of their starting wideouts available for this game.

Jarvis Landry is likely to return from IR tonight, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. Landry has missed the past four games due a knee injury sustained on the Browns’ opening drive of their Week 2 contest. While the five-time Pro Bowler would reasonably benefit from an extra 10 days to prepare, the Browns appear prepared to deploy him to help a shorthanded offense tonight. Landry returned to practice last week.

A Landry re-emergence would be crucial for a Browns team down both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who is now on IR, and one that may not have Odell Beckham Jr. available. The shoulder injury OBJ sustained last week marked a “significant” setback, per Palmer, who notes the injury-prone pass catcher has an uphill battle to play against Denver. The Browns have yet to rule Beckham out, however.

Beckham did not practice during Cleveland’s short week but did play through the injury in the team’s loss to Arizona, catching five passes for a season-high 79 yards in Week 6. Beckham and Landry have not played together in nearly a year; Beckham suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 of last season.

Cleveland’s tackle situation appears to break down similarly. One of the team’s two starters, left tackle Jedrick Wills, is set to be available. Jack Conklin is not expected to play, Palmer tweets. Conklin logged a limited practice Wednesday but missed the Browns’ first two workouts this week. He is battling a knee injury. Swing tackle Chris Hubbard is out for the season; the Browns started rookie James Hudson at right tackle against the Cardinals.

Browns Rule Out Nick Chubb For Week 6

One half of the NFL’s top rushing duo will miss Week 6. The Browns have ruled out Nick Chubb for their key interconference Cardinals matchup due to a calf injury.

Chubb’s ailment kept him out of practice all week. Listed on Cleveland’s injury report with knee and wrist issues, Kareem Hunt missed two practices but went through Friday’s workout in a limited capacity. Hunt is questionable to play Sunday.

Both Chubb and Hunt rank in the top 10 in rushing through five games. Chubb operates as the Browns’ starter, however, and his 523 rushing yards trail only Derrick Henry this season. Chubb amassed a season-high 161 yards in the Browns’ 47-42 loss to the Chargers but came into this week with the calf malady.

During his four-year career, Chubb has only missed one previous stretch — due to the MCL sprain he suffered midway through last season. He returned from that four-game absence to make a second straight Pro Bowl and power the Browns to their first playoff berth since 2002. Chubb signed a three-year, $36.6MM extension this summer.

The Browns have listed several starters — including Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and Jedrick Wills — as questionable. Neither Wills nor right tackle Jack Conklin practiced Friday, putting them in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game. Wills missed Cleveland’s shootout loss with an ankle injury, while Conklin left the game with a knee issue.

Luckily, Chubb is not expected to go on IR, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). In fact, head coach Kevin Stefanski indicated that Chubb could be back on the field for Cleveland’s Thursday night matchup against the Broncos.

Browns To Be Down Several WRs In Week 16

Dec. 27: There were no new positive tests overnight, so this afternoon’s contest with the Jets will go forward, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports (via Twitter). The Browns will be without their top four wideouts and two linebackers, and while they did activate left tackle Jedrick Wills from the reserve/COVID-19 list as expected, Wills has been ruled out of the game with an illness. Cleveland has elevated Willies and Bradley from the practice squad, along with LB Montrel Meander.

The close contact with Goodson occurred in the team’s recovery pool area, according to Pelissero (hold your jokes, please). Sharing the pool isn’t a protocol violation in and of itself, but at least one player wasn’t wearing a mask as required, and the league may choose investigate further.

Dec. 26: Some fallout is emerging from B.J. Goodson‘s positive COVID-19 test. Contact tracing deemed several Browns wide receivers high-risk close contacts, according to Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones — the Browns’ top three wide receivers — have are high-risk close contacts, Schefter and Mortensen report (on Twitter). These three will be placed on Cleveland’s reserve/COVID-19 list and miss Sunday’s game against the Jets, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (on Twitter).

A fourth wideout, KhaDarel Hodge, will also be placed on the virus list, Cabot reports (on Twitter). Linebacker Jacob Phillips is also out. Hodge is Cleveland’s fourth-leading wide receiver this season.

The Browns have not yet left Cleveland and have yet to learn how many players will be unable to travel with the team to New Jersey. The Browns are also likely to be without at least one tight end against the Jets, according to ESPN. The game remains on as scheduled for noon CT Sunday.

While this is not as dire of a situation, functionality-wise, as what the Broncos encountered earlier this season at quarterback, the Browns are in a higher-profile spot. The Browns still have a chance to win the AFC North, with two wins and two Steelers losses, and have yet to clinch a wild-card spot yet. The Jets are 1-13 but coming off a 23-20 win over the Rams.

Already down Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns do not have much in the way of receiving talent beyond their top three healthy targets. Few teams do. Landry’s 789 receiving yards lead the team, while Higgins has contributed 544 and four receiving TDs. This will be Landry’s first absence with the Browns.

Cleveland’s remaining wideouts: Marvin Hall and practice squad cogs Derrick Willies and Ja’Marcus Bradley. None of them have a catch with Cleveland this season. Hall caught 17 passes for 290 yards and two scores with the Lions this year. The Browns claimed Hall off waivers from the Lions earlier this month.

COVID-19 Latest: Browns, Texans, Panthers

The Browns have closed their facility and delayed their flight to New Jersey because of a positive COVID-19 test. They are performing contract tracing ahead of their scheduled noon CT Sunday game against the Jets. While the Browns placed Jedrick Wills on their reserve/COVID-19 list, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports the rookie left tackle did not test positive for the coronavirus. He and practice squad wideout Ryan Switzer are close contacts. However, Wills is expected to be pulled off the Browns’ virus list in order to start Sunday, Cabot adds. Cleveland indeed activated Wills off its reserve/COVID list but placed linebacker B.J. Goodson on it ahead of Sunday’s game. Goodson tested positive, Cabot reports. The Browns are planning to depart Cleveland at some point tonight, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s COVID-19 front:

  • Deshaun Watson‘s restaurant opening has caused an issue for the Texans. Watson and other Houston players were photographed maskless at the recent indoor event, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Watson received a $7.5K fine. The Texans levied fines against some of his teammates as well, with ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop noting Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks and Tytus Howard were among those at the event.
  • Whitney Mercilus now resides on the Texans’ reserve/COVID-19 list, and the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson reports he tested positive for the virus (Twitter link). This is Mercilus’ second time on the COVID list; he landed there in November as a close contact of then-COVID-positive linebacker Jacob Martin. This will end Mercilus’ season — his ninth with the Texans. Thanks to his December 2019 extension, Mercilus is signed through the 2023 season.
  • The Panthersdustup with COVID earlier this month produced a series of fines. The team handed out fines of at least $10K to players who broke virus protocols during the team’s bye week earlier this month, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Wideouts D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and Shaq Thompson, Derrick Brown and Greg Little were among those placed on the COVID list.
  • After the Broncos were forced to use practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback earlier this season, the NFL tweaked its protocol to help teams in the event similar trouble emerges. Players already receiving COVID testing will be permitted to make their debuts for new teams without having to take virus tests six days apart, Pelissero tweets. This would allow for a team to sign a player off another team’s practice squad late in the week and use him in a game in an emergency scenario.
  • Washington fined Dwayne Haskins $40K for breaking COVID protocols for the second time this season but did not suspend him.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Burrow, Ravens

The Browns have not honored David Njoku‘s trade request. The former first-round pick enters his fourth season in Cleveland, and while Kevin Stefanski said he had not spoken with Njoku in several weeks, the first-year Browns coach noted he is eager to work with him.

My stance hasn’t changed. The organization’s stance hasn’t changed in that we believe in David, excited to work with him,” Stefanski said, via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I’ll get to finally be in the same room as him this weekend as he is coming in for physicals and then get out on the field with him Monday.”

Njoku has not lived up to his Round 1 billing yet, leading the Browns to give Austin Hooper a tight end-record contract. While Njoku’s unhappiness was reported to predate the team’s Hooper addition, he tweeted that he “loves Cleveland” while noting the game includes “a lot of complications.” Regardless, Njoku is set to earn $1.76MM this season. The Browns picked up his fifth-year option (worth $6MM) but can cut bait on that cost before the 2021 league year.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from conducting on-field workouts throughout the offseason, the Browns have not changed their plan at tackle. First-round pick Jedrick Wills will begin his career as Cleveland’s starting left tackle, Stefanski adds. The Alabama product will make the interesting transition from college right tackle to NFL left tackle. Recently signed free agent Jack Conklin, a college left tackle, will continue his NFL right tackle work.
  • The Browns hired former Vikings QBs coach Kevin Rogers as a senior offensive assistant. Rogers was with the Vikings from 2006-10, which doubled as Stefanski’s first five years with the franchise, but has not coached since 2016. Rogers, 68, spent decades at the college level. He worked as the offensive coordinator for Syracuse (1991-98), Notre Dame (1999-2001) and Boston College (2011). His most recent gig was at alma mater William & Mary; that four-year stay ended after the 2016 season.
  • The Ravens will use Jimmy Smith in a matchup-based capacity. They are trying their longtime starting cornerback at safety and in the slot, John Harbaugh said. As of now, there is no plan to permanently move the veteran corner to safety. The Ravens are deep at cornerback, with Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young back in the fold. Young, however, has missed two of the past three full seasons. Harbaugh said the fifth-year corner is back to 100% after a neck injury last summer.
  • Ravens rookie UDFA tight end Jacob Breeland will miss the 2020 season, Harbaugh confirmed. The Oregon product was one of the top contenders for Baltimore’s No. 3 tight end spot, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec (subscription required).
  • As expected, Joe Burrow‘s rookie year will consist of on-the-job training. The Bengals will not give one of their more experienced QBs the first snaps as their starter in training camp. Burrow will take them, Zac Taylor said, per Marisa Contipelli of Bengals.com (on Twitter). Cincinnati returns 2019 draftee Ryan Finley and agreed to terms with fifth-year quarterback Brandon Allen, who worked with Taylor in Los Angeles.

Browns Sign No. 10 Overall Pick Jedrick Wills

Offensive lineman Jedrick Wills has inked his rookie contract. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that the 10th-overall pick in the 2020 draft has signed his four-year rookie deal with the Browns.

Per the terms of his slot, Wills signed a four-year deal worth $19.7MM. The deal is fully guaranteed and includes an $11.89MM signing bonus. Cabot notes that the rookie flew to Cleveland on Tuesday to sign his contract.

The 6-foot-4, 312-pound lineman spent three seasons at Alabama. This included a 2019 campaign where he protected Tua Tagovailoa‘s blind spot en route to a second-team All-American nod and first-team All-SEC honors. In 29 starts at Alabama, Wills only allowed a single sack.

As Cabot writes, Wills has been working virtually with offensive line coach Bill Callahan and former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. Despite the unconventional offseason, Callahan has made it clear that he won’t have any reservations about starting the rookie at left tackle in front of Baker Mayfield.

With the signing, the Browns have now signed five of their seven draft picks, via PFR’s 2020 NFL Draft Tracker:

1-10: Jedrick Wills, T (Alabama): Signed
2-44: Grant Delpit, S (LSU)
3-88: Jordan Elliott, LB (Missouri): Signed
3-97: Jacob Phillips, LB (LSU)
4-115: Harrison Bryant, TE (Florida Atlantic): Signed
5-160: Nick Harris, C (Washington): Signed
6-187: Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR (Michigan): Signed

Poll: What Will Giants Do At No. 4?

While the variance in this draft’s top three picks may be low, the Giants could go in a number of directions at No. 4 overall. They have been connected to several different strategies.

Picking in the top six for the third straight year (after never landing there from 2005-17), Big Blue has needs at a few places. The Giants could use help on the offensive line and at outside linebacker and safety. Based on the organization’s history and Dave Gettleman‘s impossible-sounding track record featuring zero trade-down maneuvers in seven drafts as either the Panthers or Giants GM, the Giants would be expected to hold their pick at No. 4. But noise about the team moving down has emerged.

Gettleman said this week he is seriously entertaining the prospect of moving down — something he did not strongly consider the past two years when the Giants took Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. The Giants may be going as far as planting a seed about Justin Herbert interest. Gettleman was believed to be higher on Herbert than Jones last year. But with only two teams in the past 38 drafts using back-to-back first-round picks on quarterbacks — the 1982-83 Baltimore Colts and the Cardinals in the past two years — teams do not appear to be buying this.

With Chase Young a lock to be off the board by No. 4 and the Giants not expected to take a cornerback that high, they may be down to tackle or Clemson do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons. The Giants have not gotten what they paid for in Nate Solder and signed stopgap right tackle Cameron Fleming. The latter, however, could be used as a swing man — as he was in New England and Dallas — to open the door for a rookie to start at right tackle.

Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs has been linked to the Giants for several weeks. However, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, massive Louisville blocker Mekhi Becton and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills loom as possibilities as well.

The Giants are evaluating Simmons’ fit. He played everywhere from off-ball linebacker to safety to edge rusher to slot cornerback at Clemson. That kind of rare versatility prompted ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold to label him the draft’s top prospect.

While Simmons could help the Giants in multiple areas, Gettleman has preached offensive line development since arriving in December 2017. They also would be in a better position to address their edge rusher need with more picks, hence the greater interest in trading down.

So where what will the Giants end up doing at No. 4 overall? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Jets Eyeing OL At No. 11?

It’s no secret that the Jets could use some help at wide receiver. And, with the No. 11 pick, they could have the opportunity to take CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, who stand as the cream of a rich WR crop. Meanwhile, they also need to protect quarterback Sam Darnold (and his spleen), so they could opt for offensive line help in the first round. As Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets, the Jets have done their homework on this year’s top big men. 

[RELATED: Jets Could Also Start The WR Run At No. 11]

Before the travel restrictions, the Jets had dinner and a private workout with Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, per Pelissero. He also hears that they’ve hosted Louisville’s Mekhi Becton on a top 30 visit and Zoom-chatted with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. They’re the four best offensive lineman in this year’s class, so there’s no guarantee that any of them will slip to Gang Green. Thomas has also garnered interest from the Dolphins (No. 5), Pelissero hears.

Of that quintet, Wirfs is widely viewed as the most NFL-ready. He also offers serious athleticism for his size (6’5″, 320 pounds), plus versatility. At Iowa, he played primarily at left and right tackle. Pro scouts also believe that he has the ability to move inside and play guard.

The top 10 already has teams in need of line help and other teams are contemplating trades to land one of this year’s best OLs. The Bucs and Broncos have serious interest in moving up the board and they could leapfrog the Jets on Thursday.