Browns quarterbacks paying price for not paying Schwartz and Mack
The Cleveland Browns had an established offensive line in 2015, but the front office elected to not pay them and the quarterbacks are now paying the price.
The Cleveland Browns are realizing they’re paying the price of not paying the price of a sturdy offensive line. The Browns enter Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season forced to start their third quarterback on the 53-man roster – rookie Cody Kessler.
Previous starters Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown are both out with injuries for an extended period of time after absorbing brutal hits in their respective starts. In the off-season, the front office elected to not resign offensive linemen Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. The two contributed greatly to the overall success of the offensive line, giving nine-time Pro Bowler Joe Thomas additional help.
Browns fans tend to toss the word “help” around frequently, usually pertaining to the quarterback position. All of the Browns’ failed quarterbacks were never given a fair chance to develop in a football culture that was negligent in protecting its quarterbacks.
Cleveland drafted Thomas in 2007 and he has been a franchise player ever since. In 2012, the Browns cracked the Pro Football Focus Top 15 list for offensive line rankings and have remained in the top-half ever since. Furthermore, they’ve cracked the Top 5 several times as well, including twice out of the past four seasons.
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The Browns ranked No. 5 overall in 2015 largely in part to Thomas, Mack and Schwartz. Then, despite finally developing and building a sturdy offensive line, the Browns decided to let Schwartz and Mack walk.
In all fairness, Mack leaving via free agency was a foregone conclusion. The disgruntled center had been upset with the misleading direction the Browns front office repeatedly offers. Mack wanted to play for a winner, something he was clear about throughout the season to the Browns.
Schwartz, on the other hand, had played all 4,427 snaps in his four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. The relationship between the right tackle and the team seemed well and his play certainly warranted a new contract.
Mary Kay Cabot at cleveland.com reported in the early hours of free agency that Schwartz’ camp and the Browns were close on an extension, although a twist of events soon took place.
After the Browns initial meeting, the team reportedly pulled their offer – speculated to be worth $7.5 million per season. The head-scratching move only left players more confused when Schwartz agreed on a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs hours later. The Chiefs and Schwartz agreed on a five-year $33 million deal, relatively similar to the Browns reported offer.
Instead, the Browns decided to proceed forward with Austin Pasztor at right tackle and 2015 first-round pick Cam Erving at center. Erving, after struggling at guard all of last season, moved to his natural position of center to help his development. This idea has not panned out in the Browns favor, as Erving has failed to protect opposing defenders and struggled snapping the ball as well. Erving is now out due to injuries sustained in Sunday’s loss, and the line continues to have questions.
Kessler will make his debut against an intimidating Miami Dolphins defense and it won’t be pretty. This is a Dolphins defensive line that features Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Mario Williams, who recently injured New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Next: Is the Browns O-Line about to get worse?
The Dolphins are licking their chops at the opportunity to get at the rookie quarterback. Expect them to welcome him to the NFL with persistent pressure and ferocious hits. Say a prayer for Kessler before he starts on Sunday, he is going to need it.