The Cleveland Browns have a centerpiece to build around for the foreseeable future as they look to assemble an offensive line to protect quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The Browns inked center JC Tretter to a massive three-year, $32.5 million extension on Thursday with more than $23 million of that guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Tretter was a 2013 fourth-round pick by the Packers, coming to the Browns in 2017 as a free agent. He hasn’t missed a start during his time in Cleveland. Tretter, 28, was in the final year of the three-year $16.75 million contract.
“JC’s a leader in that room in general, and he makes a bunch of the calls up front,” Browns coach Freddie Kitchens said on his radio show. “He and (left guard) Joel (Bitonio) kind of lead that room and it’s always comforting for a young quarterback to have a guy that he can depend on to make some of the calls or even confirm some of the calls he wants to make in the heat of the moment.”
The fully guaranteed money sets a new mark for centers. According to Spotrac, Ryan Jensen of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers commanded the most previously with $22 million guaranteed.
JC Tretter Among the Best at his Position
The Browns offensive line has been under fire this year, but not because of the man in the middle. While Cleveland has tried to find the right combination up front, Tretter has been the constant with his high level of play.
According to Pro Football Focus, Tretter carries a rank of 67.3 and has allowed just one sack. He’s been called for just three penalties, which is tied for 10th in the league.
Nick Shook of Around the NFL also pointed out some key stats regarding Tretter, with the Browns center ranking as the 8th-best center in the league, 9th-best pass-blocking offensive lineman (and second best center) and the 16th-best run-blocking center.
Browns Still Trying to Find Right Combination on Offensive Line
The Browns have rotated in variety of combinations on the line, with Wyatt Teller, Eric Kush, Greg Robinson, Kendall Lamm and Justin McCray all seeing sporadic playing time.
“I think you are always trying to find different roles for people. I think these guys have done a good job of adjusting to their role and being willing to change that role at any given moment,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said this week when asked about the O-line shuffle. “I think that makes a good offensive line. I think you always want continuity, but sometimes your needs change during the course of a season or during the course of a game, and I think these guys have that innate ability to change those and never look back.”
The Browns were in deep talks to land veteran Pro bowl tackle Trent Williams from the Redskins, but the trade ultimately never worked out. However, considering what is going on now between the Redskins and Williams, it might have been a blessing in disguise.
“I like our O-line,” Kitchens said the day after the Browns decided to stay pat at the trade deadline. “We are going to continue to try to get these guys better. They are committed to trying to get better. That is what we are going to do.”
Tretter will play a big part in that not just this year, but going forward as the team looks to build around a young offensive core that includes Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb and veteran Pro Bowl pass-catchers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.