The Cleveland Browns have boasted one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. If there were no injuries within the group, they would be in good position to continue in 2022 as they did last season. The front office must make the right decisions now for the Browns offensive line to remain elite.
Cleveland Browns Offensive Line Can Be Elite
The current offensive line has three all-pro caliber players, a former 10th overall pick in his third season, and a solid veteran at center. The Browns need to maintain or develop their offensive line and stay at the top end of the league.
Can Jack Conklin Keep Playing at an Elite Level?
In 2020, front office brought in Jack Conklin for the purpose of solidifying the right tackle position. He fit right into their blocking schemes. The following season, everything worked against him. Conklin suffered a dislocated elbow October 31st against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He pushed through and returned to play the Baltimore Ravens on November 28th. He sustained a torn patellar tendon shortly after and was out for the remainder of the season. Conklin may defy the odds and return in time for training camp but it has emphasized the lack of depth at offensive tackle.
The Options Remaining at Offensive Tackle
As it stands, second-year player James Hudson would be up next. Hudson struggled during his first time on the field, but later in the season displayed signs of progress. Hudson still has a long way to go, but without him the Browns don’t appear to have anyone who could step up.
According to Dawg Pound Daily’s Casey Kinnamon, Morgan Moses and Germain Ifedi would be cost effective replacements. That’s important as Conklin is on a $15 million contract. Another option would be to move Jedrick Wills to right tackle and shift guard Joel Bitonio to left. This is a radical solution, but Bitonio stepped in at left tackle for two games and played at an elite level.
As for J.C. Tretter, he can make calls and adjust protections up front allowing the Browns to implement multiple blocking schemes. However, his knee issues are catching up with him and he is entering the final year of his contract. He may call it a day himself, which means Nick Harris will take over. On Christmas Day, Harris displayed movement skills impressive enough to allow Berry to have confidence in him. The transition from Tretter to Harris is inevitable.
The Offensive Line Is the Oldest Unit on the Team
While the Browns are the fourth-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.69, the offensive line’s average age is 27.6. That is not old by NFL standards, but they will age at a faster rate within the team. Moving on from Conklin, Tretter, or both, will make the offensive line room significantly younger. The Browns are set at center because they can go younger and cheaper without much decline and still extend their winning window. The same cannot be said of right tackle.
If Andrew Berry pays top-dollar to a free agent or selects a tackle on day 2 of the draft, it will be clear that the organization is trying to improve right tackle. If they are comfortable with their situation, it is unlikely they will make any drastic moves. Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and Wills are solid and Bill Callahan has a reputation as one of the best offensive line coaches in history.
There is uncertainty in this position group, but they are capable of developing and remaining a top unit in the league.