The Cleveland Browns have been big spenders ever since trading for DeShaun Watson and that trend probably won’t reverse any time soon.
One of the players in line for the next big payday in Cleveland is offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., the Browns’ No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Wills is heading into his fourth professional season in 2023, which he play at 23 years old. Cleveland exercised its fifth-year option on the lineman’s contract earlier this month, locking Wills into the 2024 campaign at the price of $14.2 million.
That is a substantial one-year salary for a player who has been just OK since entering the NFL while underperforming his draft position. However, it pales in comparison to the money Wills is projected to receive in the form of an extension by as early as next offseason. Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report on Wednesday, May 10, predicted that Wills will eventually ink a five-year extension worth $88 million in total, including $48 million in guaranteed money.
Jedrick Wills Poised to Benefit From Browns’ Salary Cap Concerns
Despite Wills’ shortcomings, he plays a premium position on an offensive line that is already among the league’s best. Davenport laid out his argument for the Browns signing Wills to a lucrative long-term deal as the best financial decision the team can make.
Wills hasn’t been terrible by any stretch, but he has arguably been the weakest link on one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. Per Pro Football Focus, last year Wills surrendered six sacks and committed 10 penalties. His sacks allowed have increased in all three pro seasons.
This is a financial decision for the Browns. Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed contract puts a massive strain on Cleveland’s cap space every season. Having Wills on the books for over $14 million in 2024 takes away that much more wiggle room for [general manager] Andrew Berry.
That makes this a relatively easy decision. Provided that Wills doesn’t completely fall apart in 2023, he’ll be signed to a long-term extension in 2024 that affords the team more cap flexibility.
Browns’ Offense Ready to Explode if Deshaun Watson Returns to Form
Cleveland’s offensive line is pretty well set around Wills, with two Pro-Bowl guards in Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio, and a former All-Pro right tackle in Jack Conklin. Beyond that, Ethan Pocic will return at center in 2023 after stepping into the starting role due to injury issues last season.
A solidified offensive line should help Watson regain his Pro-Bowl form from a few years ago. Handing the ball off to one of the league’s best running backs in Nick Chubb won’t hurt, either. On the outside, the Browns have wide receivers Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore, while David Njoku offers high-level talent from the tight end position.
Cleveland struggled mightily on offense in 2022, a deficiency that showed up in the team’s 7-10 record. However, with seemingly every position on that side of the ball now set, there will be no excuses for the Browns’ offense come next season.