Linebacker Joe Schobert and free safety Damarious Randall are in line for contract extensions, but should the Cleveland Browns pull the trigger on new deals for them?
Should the Cleveland Browns extend the contacts of Joe Schobert and Damarious Randall, the two most notable players who are eligible for extensions this year? This is not a simple decision, as J.C. Tretter and Greg Robinson also become unrestricted free agents next year. The Browns want to build on their nucleus of star players, but at what cost?
Players are eligible to be extended after their third year in the NFL, and thus it would be in the best interests of the team to lock up the players that they believe will be mainstays for the next few years. If the Browns do not sign Schobert and Randall to extensions, they will become unrestricted free agents in 2020. Cleveland would like to avoid that if possible.
In the table below, some of the larger salaries are listed. The red numbers mean that they are not currently included in the currently contracted projected payroll. Garrett is signed for next year, but he and his agent will be looking for an extension next year, which could revise his salary substantially.
Undoubtedly the agent for Schobert would like to have his client paid at a top-five salary, like Eric Kendricks of the Minnesota Vikings at $10 million per year, according to Overthecap.com. Schobert is a proven star, having made the Pro Bowl after the 2017 season.
However, if you are John Dorsey, you have to think about whether someone like Genard Avery or one of the rookies might develop into a middle linebacker next year. Then again, Joe missed a few starts with a hamstring injury last year. Is that going to be an increasing issue? Schobert didn’t lead the Browns in tackles last year as a Mike linebacker should, but instead came in second to Jamie Collins.
And what about the wretched team performance against the run last year: over 2,100 rushing yards allowed and a 4.7 yards per carry average? Is none of that Joe’s responsibility? So, the Browns like Joe, but how about we pay Joe at the rate of 30th highest inside linebacker contract?
The pay rate for inside linebackers is surprisingly lopsided, with the big talent getting big money, but a dramatic drop-off. By coincidence, the 30th highest listed linebacker cap number, at least according to Overthecap, belongs to another Brown, Adarius Taylor, at $2.5 million per year, even though Taylor will probably play on the outside this year.
Similarly, Damarious Randall would like a top-five deal, like Lamarcus Joyner of the Raiders, at around $10.5 million per year. Randall has been a welcome addition to the team, bringing positivity, energy, and skill to the free safety position, after having been converted to cornerback with only limited success, by the Green Bay Packers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2015, but maybe the Browns might offer to lock him up at the top-30 level or $4.5 million per year.
If the Browns were to extend Schobert and Randall now, likely it would be at a price closer to their asking prices. Given that they will also extend Garrett, increasing his pay by a large amount, the team would need to find some $30 million dollars next year, and even more if Tretter and Robinson are going to be retained.
That is difficult, but not impossible to accommodate. The Browns still have carryover dollars that they can use in 2020 that allow them to overspend the annual cap for another year. There are also some hefty salary cap savings that could be obtained by cutting some non-guaranteed salaries.
The reader is invited to go down the list and identify cap savings that could be accrued. In any case, there are some tough decisions that need to be made, and players such as Chris Smith, T.J. Carrie, Chris Hubbard, and Christian Kirksey are going to come into serious scrutiny. Then there is Duke Johnson. The Dawg Pound might be willing to pay him $4.85 million next year, but John Dorsey may not.
But if you spend out in 2020, there needs to be room created to extend Baker Mayfield. Baker Mayfield WILL offered an extension in 2021, and it will reflect the highest pay of any player in NFL history. This sounds like an outrageously bold prediction, but it is not. Consider that when Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders reached his fourth year, he received a five-year, $125 million dollar extension, making him the highest paid quarterback in the NFL ($25 million per year average) up to that point in time.
Look, if Derek Carr got a deal like that, then as long as Baker is (a) healthy and (b) not in jail, he will absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt get a huge deal, adjusted upward for the year-to-year expanding cap allowance.
If the Browns do not extend Schobert and Randall immediately, it does not mean they are done. If they play at an All-Pro caliber they can still get the big contracts that their agents are seeking. There is plenty of time to come to a deal, even if the process is a bit nerve-wracking.
Fans need not worry that either of these two players will slack off if contract negotiations do not go their way. They’ll play hard to earn a new contract, either with the Browns or possibly a new team next year.
The Browns want to keep them, but may feel they need more time to decide their true worth.
In order to afford to pay their young stars, they will not be able to retain everyone. Like Jamie Collins this offseason, there may be several additional big dollar free agents who are not going to be retained next offseason. For that reason, the Browns may want to have the benefit of another season of play before making their best offers to Joe Schobert and Damarious Randall. It might have been a no-brainer two years ago, but now there is more competition for the available dollars.