Browns Urged to Add Starting Super Bowl Tackle to Bolster O-Line

Jack Conklin, Cleveland Browns

Getty Jack Conklin #78 of the Cleveland Browns is injured during a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns could field one of the best offensive lines in the NFL this season, but only if they can stay healthy or add enough depth that bad injury luck won’t matter.

Cleveland has one of the best built fronts in the league, with starting guards Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio both coming off of Pro Bowl seasons in 2021 and two-time All Pro Jack Conklin set to return at right tackle. The biggest concern is whether the unit can stay even reasonably healthy, which was not the case last year.

“The Browns didn’t finish a game last season with all their primary starters healthy,” Browns staff writer Anthony Poisal wrote on Thursday, July 14. “Injuries to [Jedrick] Wills and Conklin made it hard for the group to be at full strength, which was a reason why the Browns allowed 49 sacks, sixth-most in the league. They know that number must decrease in 2022, and having a healthy unit would likely make that goal easy to meet.”

While sacks can come from anywhere on the field, they most frequently occur off the edges of the defensive line. As such, help at the tackle position is where the Browns need to focus their efforts if they plan to add some injury insurance to the depth chart. The need for more help on the edge will become even more significant should quarterback Deshaun Watson end up facing a protracted suspension, in which case backup Jacoby Brissett will take the reins under center for multiple games.

The best option at the tackle position still available on the free agent market is probably Riley Reiff, who started for the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl just last season.

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Reiff Offers Browns Durable History Over Long NFL Career

Riley Reiff, Khalil Mack

GettyOffensive tackle Riley Reiff, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, blocks pass rusher Khalil Mack, formerly of the Chicago Bears, at Soldier Field on September 19, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions selected Reiff with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of the University of Iowa. Since then, Reiff has proven himself a durable and reliable starter season after season.

He has appeared in 147 of 161 games over the course of his 10-year career, starting 139 of those contests, including every game in which he played following his rookie season. Reiff, now 33 years old, joined the Bengals in 2021 after four years with the Minnesota Vikings, earning his first career trip to a Super Bowl.

The tackle allowed just four sacks and incurred only one penalty across 711 offensive snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus.

Reiff Deal Likely Pricey, But Worth The Investment For Browns

GettyThe Cleveland Browns’ offensive line has a chance to be elite in 2022.

Reiff could be a little expensive considering he is a career starter at a crucial position on the field, but the Browns would do well to pay for the play.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report identified Reiff as one of the most underrated free agents left on the market as of Monday, July 18, before laying out the argument for the tackle to land in Cleveland.

“The Browns could use Reiff as insurance for right tackle Jack Conklin,” Knox wrote. “Conklin … is coming off of a torn patellar tendon that he suffered in late November. Reiff might not be a bargain-bin insurance policy — he played on a one-year, $7.5 million deal last [season] — but Cleveland happens to lead the league in cap space [at roughly $48.5 million].”

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