The Cleveland Browns started this season with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. However, injury and question marks at the left tackle position have compromised the unit.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, September 27, authored a trade pitch that would see the Denver Broncos send offensive tackle Garett Bolles to Cleveland in return for draft compensation.
Bolles is under contract through 2024, but moving him could allow Denver to recoup some of the draft capital it used to acquire Payton and Russell Wilson.
The Browns would be wise to see if the 31-year-old can be had because Jedrick Wills Jr. has been a liability on an otherwise strong offensive front. While he’s only been responsible for two sacks allowed and one penalty, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), his lack of motor stands out. Wills barely tried to block Alex Highsmith on the sack-fumble-touchdown that cost Cleveland the game in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Garett Bolles Can Address Browns’ Poor Offensive Tackle Play
Bolles sounds ready to move on as he plays into the beginning of his seventh NFL season, all of which have been spent in Denver. The former All-Pro offensive tackle (2020) was despondent while speaking with reporters following the Broncos’ 50-point road loss (70-20) to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
“I’m tired of losing man,” Bolles said. “I’ve been here for seven years and all I’ve done is lost.”
Denver has a combined record of 35-66 since Bolles joined the team in 2017 and has lost double-digit games in every season except 2019, when the team went 7-9. While Bolles is hungry for a chance at some wins, the Browns appear in considerable need of some help on the edges of their offensive line.
Two-time All-Pro and starting right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Replacing him in the lineup since has been fourth-round rookie Dawand Jones.
While Jones has Ohio State pedigree, the massive offensive lineman just turned 22 and was thrust into a starting role less than one half of one game into his first professional season. Jones might turn into an exceptional offensive lineman, but he’s not there yet. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones ranks 55th out of 67 tackles who have seen enough snaps to qualify, while Wills ranks 63rd.
Garett Bolles Offers Browns Off-Ramp on Contract of Jedrick Wills Jr.
Cleveland exercised the fifth-year option on Wills’ $19.7 million rookie deal, which keeps him under contract through the next two seasons and means the lackluster left tackle will earn $14.2 million more in 2024 alone. It could be hard for the Browns to move that contract anywhere for any price, despite Wills’ status as a 2020 first-round pick who is playing this season at the age of 24.
That said, the Browns are all-in on winning now. PFF ranks Bolles 21st among NFL tackles through three games this season and he is under contract through 2024 on the backend of a four-year, $68 million deal. Cleveland has $34.5 million in salary cap space remaining this season and can easily absorb Bolles’ $21 million cap hit if the team deems it necessary to a playoff run.
The middle of the Browns’ offensive line remains stout, but with the loss of running back Nick Chubb for the rest of the year to a knee injury, the offense will need to rely more heavily on quarterback Deshaun Watson and the passing game. Fielding one of the NFL’s worst starting left tackles alongside one of the game’s least experienced right tackles is a potential recipe for disaster.
Instead, Cleveland can acquire Bolles for a mid-round draft asset — the team owns its own second- and third-round selections in 2024 — and start Bolles on the left side while the coaching staff develops Jones on the right.