The Cleveland Browns have inked multiple major assets at the skill positions this offseason. Now the team is working on making sure they can protect those investments by fortifying the offensive line.
Offensive lineman Blake Hance will return to Cleveland after signing an exclusive rights free agent tender on Wednesday, April 13, per the NFL’s official transaction wire. The Browns will pay him $825,000 in 2022, according to Spotrac.
Hance represents a meaningful signing for the Browns after his performance over the course of last season. Though listed as a guard, Hance filled in for Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin at the tackle positions on multiple occasions.
The utility lineman appeared in all 17 games for the Browns last year, earning starts in eight of those contests. According to the Browns depth chart as it appears on ESPN.com, Hance enters the offseason as Wills’ backup at left tackle, though he will likely move around the line as needed again next year.
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Unlikely Origin Story Landed Hance With The Browns in Playoffs
For a backup lineman who had never appeared on an NFL field before January 2021, Hance has something of an infamous origin story with the Browns.
A graduate of Northwestern where he started on the offensive line as a senior in 2018, Hance caught on with the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars the following year. However, he was never able to practice his way into an actual game.
Hance was a blocker without an offensive line as the 2020 playoffs arrived. Cleveland, making its first appearance in the postseason in 18 years, added Hance to help bolster an ailing offensive line. The Browns’ first playoff game in nearly two decades also happened to be the first time Hance played a snap as a professional.
Hance Will Protect New QBs in Cleveland Starting in 2022
While the offensive line in Cleveland won’t be changing all that much this offseason, the quarterbacks they’ll be protecting already have.
Baker Mayfield, who has been under center nearly the entirety of Hance’s pro career including during the 2020 playoffs, appears on his way out. Mayfield requested a trade after the team held its initial meeting with former Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who the Browns ultimately traded for and then extended on a massive $230 million deal in March.
On Wednesday, Mayfield said publicly that he was misled and felt “disrespected” by the way management in Cleveland went about handling the situation. Trade talks for Mayfield are expected to ramp up as the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for two weeks from today, approaches.
The Browns also signed backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and former Steelers signal caller Josh Dobbs, as Watson is expected to miss time early in the season due to a likely suspension from the NFL concerning his off-field conduct.