Browns Predicted to Trade Away $57 Million Pro Bowler

Kevin Stefanski, Browns

Getty Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns have one of the best offenses in the NFL — at least on paper — but even the best things eventually fall apart.

Such was the message from Jacob Roach of USA Today’s Browns Wire on Wednesday, June 14, when he predicted two-time Pro Bowl right guard Wyatt Teller would be the team’s most likely trade candidate.

“Though I don’t see anything happening until next year, I think the most likely [trade] candidate is Wyatt Teller,” Roach wrote in response to a mailbag question. “He hasn’t been as good as he was when the extension was given, and [the Browns] have so much money invested in the rest of the line. It will be telling next offseason if they sign a veteran guard in free agency that they are leaning [toward moving] on. Teller is good, but he is much better as a run blocker than a pass blocker, and the offense will be throwing the ball a lot more going forward.”

Wyatt Teller Has Earned 2 Pro-Bowl Nods Since Signing Contract Extension With Browns

Wyatt Teller, Browns

GettyRight guard Wyatt Teller of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November 2022.

Teller signed a four-year extension worth $56.8 million in November 2021, with a little more than half of that money ($29.1 million) fully guaranteed. The deal keeps the offensive lineman under contract through 2025, though the Browns have an out following the upcoming season. Releasing Teller would cost Cleveland $7.65 million in dead money.

Roach’s position that Teller hasn’t been as good since signing his extension is a hard sell, considering the guard went on to earn his first Pro Bowl nod in 2021 and followed it up with another last year. He has also won second-team All-Pro honors twice in his career (2020, 2021).

Teller will turn 29 years old in November, as he nears the end of his sixth professional campaign. He has been fairly reliable from a health standpoint, appearing in 58 of 66 regular season contests over the past four seasons and starting 52 games during that span.

The offensive lineman finished 2022 with a Pro Football Focus (PFF) overall grade of 70.3, which included a run-blocking grade of 70.3 and a pass-blocking grade of 67.9. Teller’s numbers rendered him the 18th best guard in the NFL last season out of 77 players who played enough snaps to qualify at the position.

Browns Likely to Extend Jedrick Wills Jr. Long-Term Despite Struggles

Jedrick Wills

GettyOffensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. of the Cleveland Browns.

PFF ranked Teller’s counterpart, left guard Joel Bitonio, as the second-best guard in the league, while the analytics-based website listed center Ethan Pocic as the third-best player at his position.

The Browns were weaker at the tackle spot, with right tackle Jack Conklin coming in with a grade of 66.7 — good enough for the 45th spot out of 81 qualifying players. Left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. had the lowest grade of Cleveland’s offensive line starters, pulling a 62.7, which ranked him as the 56th-best tackle in the league in 2022.

High-quality tackles are a little harder to come by in the NFL than guards because the position requires a rangier skill set to protect the quarterback against opposing pass rushers on the outside. Roach is right that the Browns’ offensive evolution is likely to include a greater emphasis on the air attack with quarterback Deshaun Watson expected to start Week 1 at home against the AFC North Division rival Cincinnati Bengals on September 10.

Those two facts combine to make it harder for the Browns to move either Conklin or Wills, despite Conklin’s significant injury history and Wills’ failure to live up to his draft position as a 2020 first-round pick (No. 10 overall). Cleveland has displayed its loyalty to both players, inking Conklin to a four-year, $60 million extension last December and picking up its fifth-year option on Wills’ rookie deal, locking him in through the 2024 campaign at a cost of nearly $14.2 million that season. The Browns are also projected to sign Wills long-term, per Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report.

Bitonio and Pocic are each signed through 2025 and unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon after finishing near the top of their respective positions in 2022, based on PFF’s analytics model. All of this does point to Teller potentially being the odd man out in Cleveland, though it remains difficult to get there.

The Browns will still focus heavily on their ground game next season, with four-time Pro Bowler Nick Chubb starting at running back. At some point, Cleveland will need to roll back its spending, as Watson’s $230 million fully guaranteed deal is going to strap the team’s salary cap each of the next four years. That could mean parting with a highly valued player still in his prime next offseason.

That said, Cleveland will have several options from which to choose if and when the franchise decides it needs to trade one of its higher-end, higher-paid players. Should Teller produce his third consecutive Pro-Bowl campaign in 2023, Browns fans can expect management to look elsewhere to employ cost-cutting measures.

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