Nick Harris

Browns Not Seeking OL, DL Additions?

At this point in the offseason, teams use the remaining free agent market to address depth needs on their rosters. As a result, some view offensive and defensive line as two positions the Browns could use to make additions between now and training camp. However, May Kay Cabot of cleveland.com observes that the team is confident in its current options in both position groups. 

The Browns cut veteran center J.C. Tretter in March, saving the team significant cap space but creating a hole in the middle of the 0-line. They have signed former Seahawk Ethan Pocic, but the top candidate for Tretter’s vacated role is Nick Harris, who has made one start in each of his first two NFL seasons. If healthy, the team will also be able to return one of the league’s top tandems at both tackle (Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin) and guard (Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller).

In terms of depth, 2021 fourth-rounder James Hudson is in line to remain the team’s top swingman. He played over 300 snaps as a rookie, making four starts along the way. While he struggled during his initial season, earning a PFF grade of 57.3, Cabot notes how confident the Browns are that he will take a step forward after gaining experience at the NFL level.

The situation is similar on the other side of the ball. The Browns are high on the potential shown in spring practices by Jordan ElliottThe 2020 third-rounder has only made four starts so far in his career, but he took on a significantly larger workload last season, setting himself up to do the same this year. He could be joined as a starter by former first-rounder Taven Bryan, who signed a one-year deal in free agency. Cabot also names rookie Perrion Winfrey as a candidate for at least a significant depth role.

Given their cap situation, the Browns could easily afford another signing along either the offensive or defensive fronts. Aside from any difficulty which could arise from convincing remaining free agents to come on a short-term deal (given the lengthy suspension expected to be handed down to Deshaun Watsonwhich could very well take the team out of 2022 contention), Cleveland already appears content with their in-house depth.

OL Notes: Browns, Bakhtiari, Pats, Bears

Although the Browns signed the Seahawks’ primary center of the past two years (Ethan Pocic), they are first attempting to see if one of their recent backups can claim J.C. Tretter‘s old job. Nick Harris is working as Cleveland’s first-string center during OTAs, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal notes. A fifth-round pick out of Washington in 2020, Harris made one start in each of the past two seasons — the late-2021 outing came when Tretter contracted COVID-19 — but he practiced extensively with the Browns’ first-unit O-line last season. Tretter dealt with injuries, and while the veteran played through them, he often sat out practices or worked in a limited capacity. This gave Harris a runway to full-fledged starter action and gave the Browns enough confidence to make Tretter a March cap casualty. The NFLPA president remains a free agent.

Ditching Tretter, 30, remains a gamble for the Browns, who still hold the NFL’s most cap space. Tretter graded as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-best center in 2021, started all but one game in five Cleveland seasons and provided a solid pivot on one of the league’s best lines. Here is the latest from the O-line scene:

  • The ACL tear David Bakhtiari suffered on New Year’s Eve 2020 wrecked his 2021 season, limiting him to just one game (Week 18). The Packers are proceeding cautiously with their two-time All-Pro left tackle this offseason. Matt LaFleur confirmed the team is holding Bakhtiari out of OTAs, via ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky (on Twitter), for conservation purposes. The expectation is the 10th-year veteran returns for training camp. Still, the lengthy recovery Bakhtiari required from his injury makes his status worth monitoring ahead of an age-31 season.
  • New England picked up Isaiah Wynn‘s fifth-year option in 2021, guaranteeing the injury-prone left tackle $10.4MM this season. But he has missed OTA time, leaving recently re-signed right tackle Trent Brown — the left tackle on the Patriots’ 2018 Super Bowl-winning team — to fill in on the left side. The Pats have made a few trades involving contract-year talent under Bill Belichick — Sony Michel, Brandin Cooks and Jamie Collins being recent examples. If New England was to dangle Wynn, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes teams would be willing to fork over a reasonable return (subscription required). That might be a bridge too far, considering the Pats already traded a veteran blocker (Shaq Mason) and saw Brown’s run of absences continue with eight more last season.
  • The Bears have 2021 second-rounder Teven Jenkins pegged as their right tackle starter. Jenkins returned from preseason back surgery to start two games as a rookie, but he was close to 350 pounds last year. The Chicago blocker is back near his listed 320-pound weight, with Adam Jahns of The Athletic noting Jenkins is checking in around 325. Larry Borom is penciled in to take over for Jason Peters at left tackle.

Minor NFL Transactions:  11/22/21

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Jordan Brown

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/10/21

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals 

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

  • Signed: K Lirim Hajrullahu

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

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).

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/6/21

We’ll keep track of the latest minor moves here:

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

New Orleans Saints

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Browns OL Chris Hubbard Done For Season?

The Browns are 10-4 and appear to be playoff-bound for the first time since 2002, but they suddenly find themselves thin at right guard. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), offensive lineman Chris Hubbard suffered a dislocated kneecap in Cleveland’s win over the Giants last night. Hubbard will go under the knife, and his season will be over.

Hubbard was filling in for starting RG Wyatt Teller, who sustained a sprained ankle in the Browns’ loss to the Ravens last week and who is not expected back until the playoffs, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Teller also missed some time earlier this season with a strained calf, and his absence is significant. The third-year blocker is playing at a Pro Bowl level and is currently Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated guard.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said this morning that he is not prepared to rule Hubbard out for the rest of the season, and he also said he does not know if Hubbard will need surgery. However, he did confirm that the veteran O-lineman will miss a significant amount of time (Twitter link via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal).

Hubbard has not lived up to the five-year, $37.5MM deal he signed with Cleveland in March 2018, but he does offer valuable experience and depth. He has started in Teller’s absence in each of the four games that Teller has missed this season, and he also started a game at right tackle. Rookie Nick Harris will line up at right guard for the time being, and it would not be surprising to see the Browns sign a reinforcement in the coming days.

NFL Draft Signings: 5/22/20

Here are Friday’s draft pick agreements:

  • The Browns continue check off their draft list. After agreeing to terms with two picks earlier this week, the Browns signed fifth-round selection Nick Harris. A center out of Washington, Harris profiles as depth behind J.C. Tretter. However, he could also represent a candidate for upward mobility at guard. Prior to becoming the Huskies’ starting center in 2018, Harris started 17 games at guard during his freshman and sophomore years. Cleveland employs Joel Bitonio at left guard but does not feature as much certainty on the right side.