Browns Reunion With Former Starter Shut Down

JC Tretter

Getty Images JC Tretter and Joel Bitonio of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns parted ways with veteran starting center JC Tretter this offseason and it’s unlikely he’ll be back with the team, despite remaining a free agent.

The Browns released Tretter prior to free agency, saving more than $8 million against the cap. He appeared in all but one regular-season game with Cleveland and was remarkably consistent. Tretter was also a locker room leader and the president of the NFLPA. Former fifth-round pick Nick Harris, who has been with the Browns since 2020, is expected to step in to the starting role.

Tretter was expected to have some suitors as a free agent but still remains without a team heading into training camp. While a reunion with the Browns at a lower number is intriguing, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com doesn’t believe he’ll return unless there’s a significant hole left by injuries. Per Cabot in her latest Q&A column:

The Browns are very high on 2020 fifth-round pick Nick Harris, and expect a seamless transition at center. The only way I see Tretter coming back is if Harris suffers a season-ending injury. But Tretter is still one of the best centers in the NFL and should find work somewhere this season. Perhaps his hard-line stance against the offseason program didn’t help him with some teams.

The Cowboys have been floated as a possible destination for Tretter but nothing appears imminent in terms of him finding a new squad.


Harris Considered X-Factor on Browns Offensive Line

Other than Tretter, the rest of the Browns offensive line should remain intact, which is a major plus for Cleveland, considering they’ve been one of the better units in the league.

As Cabot noted, the Browns are excited with what they’ve seen out of Harris, who has started just a pair of games in his career. The Browns’ official site recently pointed him out as an X-Factor for the offensive line this season.

“The Browns have consistent talent at every other position on the offensive line and have been able to build a top-five run game in the league the last two seasons because of it,” staff writer Anthony Poisal wrote. “If Harris can step in and immediately perform at a high level, there should be no drop-off.

Harris is 6-foot-1 and comes in at 293 pounds. While he’s not the most impressive athlete, his grit is what put him on the radar as a draft prospect.

“Harris’ body type belies his impressive foot quickness and ability to make all the move blocks needed from his position,” NFL.com wrote prior to the draft. “His ability to sustain both run and pass blocks speak to his consistency of effort and performance, but size, scheme and positional limitations could cause him to drop lower in the draft than his actual tape would dictate.”


Browns Have Stellar Guards to Help Out Harris


Wyatt Teller: Even though we can't hit, we have gotten great work in | Press ConferenceWyatt Teller talks with the media following the team's final Mandatory Minicamp practice at FirstEnergy Stadium. #BrownsMedia #PressConference2022-06-16T18:49:26Z

While Harris may take some time to adjust to being the full-time starter, he’ll have some good partners around him in guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller — who were both dubbed as All-Pro team selections a year ago.

Teller expressed confidence in Harris while speaking to reporters at mandatory minicamp.

“I feel like as an offensive center, you have to be smart, and Nick is smart,” Teller told reporters on June 16. “This past year, we were just applauding him for gaining 12 pounds of lean mass. He totally changed his body since coming here.”

While Teller will be missed for his consistency and leadership, the Browns still appear to be in a good spot going forward.

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