Jun 12, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns lineman John Greco (77) and Mitchell Schwartz (72) during minicamp at Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
When the Browns used their second first-round draft pick on Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving, the clock began ticking along the right side of the offensive line.
While Erving could be insurance if center Alex Mack leaves the Browns in free agency after the upcoming season, the Browns don’t have the luxury of letting another first-round selection be a non-contributor during his rookie season. And as talented as he may be, Erving is not taking over for Mack, left tackle Joe Thomas or left guard Joel Bitonio barring a disaster like last season.
Schwartz is a player who has been viewed differently nationally than he has locally. Pro Football Focus named Schwartz the starting right tackle on its All-Third Year Team following last season. In addition, he hasn’t missed a start in three years with the Browns.
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And like Taylor, Schwartz can be an unrestricted free agent after this season, although his cap number is a little more palatable at just a little more than $1.6 million.
“You really just go about your job and do the best you can,” Schwartz told the team’s website. “You can only control what you can control. They’ve got to play the best five guys, regardless. That’s something each individual player controls how well they do on the field. Anything besides that is out of your hands.”
As for Greco, he hasn’t missed a game since joining the starting lineup in 2013 and is versatile enough to fill in as Mack’s backup at center. Greco is in the third year of his contract and is scheduled to make $2.825 million this season – but things get interesting once the season is over. Greco’s current deal only calls for a salary of $925,000 in 2016 and $975,000 in 2017, making him either an affordable backup or an easy roster cut come next spring.
“People are like, ‘oh, you’re benched,’ or, ‘oh, you’re gone.’ It just creates competition. I have to play hard no matter what,” Greco told the team’s website. “I have to essentially act like there’s a first-rounder every year. You can’t just become satisfied. There’s never been a point in my career where I’m like, ‘OK, I’m the guy. There’s no one knocking on the door behind me. It’s just me and you can relax.’ When you do that, you’re going to play bad.”
While it seems unlikely that the Browns would cut Greco or Schwartz this season – after seeing what happened after Mack’s injury last year that would be poor form, indeed – that doesn’t mean they won’t feel pressure from Erving and start the season on the sidelines.
It’s all part of the Browns continued plan to drive the competition.
What players do you think are feeling the most pressure heading into 2015?