Ethan Pocic was a pleasant surprise for the Cleveland Browns when he was called into action but they might have a hard time bringing back the breakout center as he hits free agency.
Pocic signed a one-year deal with the Browns this offseason and entered the year as an experienced backup behind Nick Harris. When Harris went down in the preseason with a season-ending injury, Pocic was called into action and excelled as the starter.
Pocic stepped up in the starting role. He started all 13 games he played in, finishing third in the NFL behind Kansas City’s Creed Humphrey and Philadelphia’s Jason Kelce in Pro Football Focus offensive grade (83.0). He excelled at run blocking and also held his own pass blocking.
If the Browns hope to bring him back, they won’t be as fortunate as they were last year with Pocic’s contract, which was just a one-year, $1.18 million deal. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com expects him to be sought after and the Browns might have to pony up some cash to keep him as their center.
Pocic, who made $1.187 million this season, played so well for the Browns that I do think he might be hard to keep. They’re paying three of their offensive linemen double-digit millions, and they’ll likely pick up left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.’s fifth-year option worth about $14.75 million in May for 2024,” Cabot wrote in her latest Q&A column. “They’ll try to extend him, but it’s a great chance for him to get paid. They could certainly use him next season with Nick Harris coming off major reconstructive knee surgery.”
Pocic Expressed Desire to Stay in Cleveland
Luckily for the Browns, Pocic might be willing to take somewhat of a hometown discount to stay in Cleveland, considering he’s been very pleased with how his time has gone there.
“That would be a dream come true, man. That would be awesome,” Pocic told the Akron Beacon Journal. “So we’ll see what happens. That would be a dream come true, though.”
Harris would certainly be the more affordable option, with multiple members of the offensive line already scheduled to make double-digit millions. But Pocic’s impact on the unit was well-documented.
“What a great job [Pocic] has done really stepping in when Nick got hurt right away and never really missed a beat with him,” Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “A great job of the guys upstairs [in the front office] getting him into the building.”
LB Anthony Walker Another Key Pending Free Agent
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. will be a key free agent the Browns want to bring back. Walker was the leader of the defense before he went down with a season-ending season-ending quadriceps tendon tear and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Like Pocic, Walker would “love” to stick around if it’s possible.
“I love to be here, but that’s a topic for my agent and (General Manager) Andrew Berry,” Walker said January 9. “I love Cleveland. I hate moving, packing up and moving. That’s one of my pet peeves. But it’ll be exciting if I’m able to be back here.”
The position will be something the Browns have to address after a year where multiple linebackers went down with season-ending injuries.