Joel Bitonio

Latest On Browns’ Interior OL Depth

The Browns have been set at guard for the last five years. Joel Bitonio has held down a starting job in Cleveland since getting drafted in 2014, making the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons and earning first-team All-Pro honors in 2021 and 2022. Wyatt Teller has joined Bitonio as a starter since being traded from Buffalo in 2019 and has joined Bitonio in the last three Pro Bowls. The team’s depth behind the two is set to look a little different in 2024, though.

The need for depth hasn’t been critical during the tenure of Bitonio and Teller. Bitonio missed 17 games back in his second and third seasons but didn’t miss any games after that until this past season. Teller has only missed two games in the past three years but hasn’t quite shown the durability of Bitonio in a shorter career. Still, with Bitonio heading into his 11th season in which he’ll turn 33, it makes sense to have an eye on the future.

While Michael Dunn has been a serviceable injury replacement, starting two games in each of the last three years, he doesn’t provide much upside as the future starter at the position. For that reason, the Browns made two key additions to the roster this offseason, signing former Seahawks starter Germain Ifedi and drafting Michigan rookie Zak Zinter in the third round of this year’s draft.

The preferred option here is likely Zinter, who’s had an excellent camp, according to Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. Cleveland got an excellent value on Zinter after the former Wolverine needed to have a steel rod placed in his leg, preventing him from working out for teams throughout the pre-draft process. He was able to participate fully in organized team activities and minicamp and showed enough to have the Browns excited about his potential to eventually replace Bitonio or Teller as a top guard.

Without the opportunity to start this year, Zinter should still have the chance to push Dunn for the primary backup role at guard. If, for any reason, Zinter isn’t quite ready to step into that role, Cleveland has Dunn and an experienced starter in Ifedi to hold down the role until he is.

NFL Injury Updates: Higgins, Turner, Palmer, Saints, Jones

The Bengals will be without their second leading receiver for their Week 10 matchup against the Texans. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Tee Higgins will miss Sunday’s game after injuring his hamstring in practice on Wednesday. He will reportedly continue to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

Partially due to the early struggles of quarterback Joe Burrow, Higgins is off to the worst start of his career this season. After averaging 1,009.33 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, Higgins is currently on track to finish the season with only 703 yards. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger, as well, threatening to take even more away from Higgins this year.

Leading wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been limited this week with a back injury and is currently listed as questionable. Should he play, though, he will be joined by Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and sixth-round rookie Andrei Iosivas. With Higgins out, tight end Irv Smith may, too, continue to see an increased role in the Bengals’ passing gameplan.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • The Jets will be without yet another offensive lineman this week as backup lineman Billy Turner will miss Sunday’s game in Las Vegas, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. Turner suffered a “concerning” broken bone in his hand during his first start of the season last week that head coach Robert Saleh disclosed had required surgery. Turner was starting in place of injured right guard Connor McGovern, who was placed on injured reserve before last week’s game with a dislocated knee cap. With all the current injuries on the offensive line, New York only has three linemen on the active roster – Chris Glaser, Dennis Kelly, and Carter Warren – that it can turn to as a replacement starter this weekend. They also have Jake Hanson, Xavier Newman, and Rodger Saffold, who should be available off the practice squad. Saffold and Hanson are recent signings who may have been brought in to assist with the team’s plague of injuries on the offensive front.
  • Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer was placed on IR earlier this week without much word on the specifics of what was being called a knee injury. Daniel Popper of The Athletic provided an update on Wednesday that Palmer is dealing with a knee sprain. Popper’s report comes from head coach Brandon Staley, who relayed that Palmer will obviously be out for the next four weeks, the minimum required on IR, but he has “no expectations” after that. They will simply have to reassess once Palmer is eligible to return.
  • Two Saints rookies suffered injuries this past Sunday. Defensive end Isaiah Foskey suffered “a low-grade quad strain,” according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Foskey’s absence, as a rotational lineman, will open the door for more potential snaps for either Tanoh Kpassagnon or Kyle Phillips, who was signed to the active roster weeks ago but has yet to make his season debut. Foskey is expected to miss a week or two, but the injury isn’t considered serious. Running back Kendre Miller was the other Saints rookie to suffer an injury, spraining his ankle against Chicago last week, per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. He hasn’t participated in practice all week and will also be out this Sunday. It’s unclear whether or not his injury will linger to hold him out for much longer. Miller’s usage has decreased significantly since the return of Jamaal Williams, but with Eno Benjamin on IR, the team may feel the need to elevate practice squad running back Jordan Mims to back up Williams and Alvin Kamara.
  • The Browns will be down three offensive tackles for this weekend’s trip to Baltimore. According to Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald and Morning Journal, rookie fourth-round tackle Dawand Jones has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Starting tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills both currently reside on IR, Conklin since Week 1 and Wills just this past week. Jones had been starting across from Wills in place of Conklin. With Wills and Jones out next week, Cleveland will have to start two fresh faces at offensive tackle. Schudel reports that James Hudson III is expected to start at right tackle. Starting left guard Joel Bitonio is expected to slide out to serve as a left tackle. Backup center Nick Harris will get an opportunity to start in Bitonio’s place at left guard. A beleaguered offensive line will face a significant challenge with three new starters in new positions against a Ravens defense that leads the league in sacks.

Browns Restructure Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, David Njoku Contracts

AUGUST 22: The Browns aren’t done carving out cap space. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Browns have restructured the contract of tight end David Njoku. The move opens up more than $2.7MM in cap space, bringing the organization close to $37MM in cap room.

AUGUST 21: The Browns have created more than $20MM in cap space in recent days, using two of their best players’ contracts to get there. Cleveland restructured Myles Garrett and Joel Bitonio‘s contracts, per’s Mary Kay Cabot and’s Field Yates.

Cleveland’s Bitonio move created $7.9MM in cap space; the Garrett restructure opened up $12.9MM. These moves return the Browns to the top spot in NFL cap space, a place they resided throughout the 2022 season. Cleveland used cap carryover and a Deshaun Watson restructure to reach this point as well.

[RELATED: Assessing Browns’ 2023 Offseason]

Garrett signed a then-record-setting $25MM-per-year extension during the 2020 offseason. Doing so tied the former No. 1 overall pick to the Browns through the 2026 season. Given Garrett’s performance level, it would not surprise to see the parties huddle up about another extension. For now, however, Garrett is attached to a deal that has been passed over by two edge rushers (T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa) and is about to be eclipsed by the 49ers’ forthcoming Nick Bosa extension.

Bitonio is on his third Browns contract, having agreed to a three-year, $48MM extension during the 2021 season. The Browns locked down both their starting guards — Bitonio and Wyatt Teller — in the same week two years ago. Bitonio, 31, is signed through the 2024 season. He has been the Browns’ longest-tenured player for a bit now. The Browns used void years to slash Bitonio’s 2023 cap hit from $14.6MM to $6.7MM, with four such years now present in the contract. It would not surprise if Garrett’s deal, which presently includes no void years, will soon have those present as well.

The Browns now have more than $35MM in cap space; no other team holds more than $23MM. It will be interesting to monitor how the team goes about its late-summer plans now that it added more than $20MM in cap room. Cleveland’s most notable adjustment came in March, when a restructure dropped Watson’s would-be record-setting figure ($54.9MM) to $19.1MM. While only one void year is present in the quarterback’s landmark deal, the contract’s 2024-26 cap hits each ballooned to $63.9MM.

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 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 (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 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.

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 tweets.

There is some momentum toward a second Bitonio extension, with USA Today’s Mike Jones and’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.

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 notes (Twitter links).

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’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.

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 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, “[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’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.