The Cleveland Browns enter the off-season oddly without a flux of uncertainty and more importantly - a vision. However, the team has critical decisions to make regarding Terrelle Pryor and Jaime Collins.
Usually for Cleveland Browns fans, January tends to be a time where debates about the next coach become rampant. Although the organization has established a core of Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta and remain on track with them entering 2017, it's never successful when a team concludes the season with a 1-15 record and these guys are more than aware of that.
During their season-ending press conference on Monday, DePodesta said the team had more than 25 percent of the total snaps taken by rookies this season, explaining the awful record. Despite the unique usage of young players in a professional setting, two players are eligible for contract extensions.
Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and linebacker Jaime Collins were among the few standouts from the Browns 2016 campaign. Their contracts are up as the season concluded and now it's up to the front office to offer a new each player a new contract.
Pryor, a quarterback-turned-receiver, displayed immense growth at the position and is seemingly a true building block for most offenses, especially a lackluster Cleveland team. Collins was acquired in a midseason trade from the New England Patriots and played well with his new team. He is all over the field and is seemingly a natural playmaker at the linebacker spot, a void that hasn't been filled in Cleveland for years.
Pryor totaled 77 receptions good for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns in his first season as a wide receiver. The former Ohio State quarterback averaged 13.1 yards per reception and 62.9 yards per game. He was able to blow by receivers and at 6-foot-6 can go up and snag jump balls.
There is still tons of room to grow for the first-year receiver and the Browns would be clueless to not re-sign him - for the right price. What that price is will remain unknown for some time, but with nearly $50 million in cap space the Browns have money to spend.
Collins, on the other hand, is also due for a new contract and is a versatile playmaker that the Browns have coveted for years.
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In Week 17, Collins had 10 tackles and finished the season with 112 tackles and three sacks. Collins only played in seven games for Cleveland and registered 59 tackles and two sacks with the Browns, all while learning a new system. In a below-average defense with a flux of injuries, Collins was one of the bright spots that highlighted the defenses potential heading into 2017.
The Browns were high on Collins during the 2013 NFL Draft, and former head coach Eric Mangini admitted they were a few picks away from drafting him.
With defensive end Myles Garrett likely to be the No. 1 overall pick, Collins and the rest of the defense will only more opportunities to make plays if the Browns add Garrett. When the initial trade occurred, many reported that Collins wanted "Von Miller money" although Collins shot those reports down quickly.
That certainly doesn't mean he won't get big money, because he will get paid no matter where he plays in 2017. It's up to the Browns to decide if they want to invest money in a player who did everything and more during his time with the team.
Obviously when discussing contracts in the NFL, the franchise tag is brought up. Each team has the option to place the tag on a player, guaranteeing their contract for one more year without negotiating a new contract. It is not a team's goal to use the tag as it avoids a multi-year deal and the Browns do not want to use theirs on either of these guys.
Cleveland has four of the top 50 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft and that should only bolster their roster for 2017. However, extending the contracts of Pryor and Collins will be the initial priority for the team.
In order to keep fans on board with the direction of the team, it's a necessary move. More importantly, it's also a move that the players will without a doubt want done, sooner rather than later.