Grading the Cleveland Browns first wave of free agency
By Greg Newland
Austin Hooper, Tight End: B+
The first big signing of 2020 was Austin Hooper who signed a four-year $44 million with $23 million fully guaranteed. While there’s a lot to like about the Hooper signing, it could be argued it would have been better to make the splash at safety or linebacker and not a tight end.
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However, Hooper is only 25 years old and has improved substantially in each of his first four years as an NFL player. Hooper and David Njoku could be a tremendous tandem for Baker Mayfield to rely on.
While Hooper is now the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, keep in mind at $11 million per year this is still a great value signing. Someone who can catch the ball and block in Kevin Stefanski’s system is exactly what the team needed. Look for Hooper to once again show improvement and play a vital role in the play-action game with Mayfield.
Jack Conklin, Offensive Tackle: A+
Likely the most important signing came later Monday afternoon when the Browns signed Jack Conklin to a three-year $42 million with $30 million guaranteed deal. After Baker Mayfield was sacked 40 times in 2019, a major upgrade was needed. Conklin is a great fit in the wide-zone scheme of Stefanski and was the number one rated tackle in one-on-ones last year.
Another homerun contract by Andrew Berry, front-loading the contract with the $20 million guarantee upfront. Additionally, $14 million per year for the top available tackle felt like a great price. This worked well for the Browns and Conklin. The Browns didn’t break the bank, and Conklin will only be 28 at the end of this deal, allowing him the opportunity to sign another large contract in his prime.