The Cleveland Browns will have a competition for the starting right guard job, so should they pursue Larry Warford to add to the competition.
The debate on Larry Warford and whether the Cleveland Browns should make him an offer rages on. Dawg Pound Daily staff members have argued about this on a daily basis, and it has become a cause célèbre. Everyone agrees on facts of the case. Warford is a Pro Bowl player, in his prime, and though he does not fit what the Browns are looking for, he might be signed at a bargain rate.
Joel Cade has fired the latest salvo in this war, arguing that the skilled, but slow Warford would be counter productive in the Browns anticipated wide zone scheme, which needs mobile offensive linemen.
However, others on staff are more open-minded to Warford, suggesting that although the Browns do not have a strong need for another right guard, the Browns cannot turn down Pro Bowl offensive linemen, so an offer should be made at the right price. In this year’s weird economy, even a low one-year offer has a chance of being accepted. Greg Newland and I have put forward this view.
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So, how slow is Warford? Well, some people say that his 40-yard dash at the Combine was 5.58 seconds. However, Cade claims that the recorders got tired of waiting for him to finish and just made something up.
There are three reasons to sign Warford: salary cap, salary cap, salary cap.
The Browns might be able to get Warford for a very low price because other teams in the NFL are pretty much spent out. Also, a major cut in the cap allowance is expected in 2021, so few teams are willing to offer multi-year contracts right now. Nevertheless, the Browns still have cap space for 2020, despite having to dip into their savings to cover overspending this year.
Andrew Berry could create roster space and cap money to fit Warford onto the roster by cutting Kendall Lamm or Chris Hubbard, or even both. Lamm is scheduled to be paid $2.65 million this season, of which $2.35 million could be recovered by the Browns. He is in the second year of a two-year deal. Lamm has been graded at the starter level by Pro Football Focus, but the main issues for him is health. He started 13 games in 2018 for the Houston Texans, plus two for the Browns last year. He had two separate knee injuries last year or he would have played more.
Hubbard has been the starting right tackle for the past two years, though few can understand why. In this fan’s opinion, he is a guard who has been playing out of position. After restructuring his contract, Hubbard’s current cap number is $4,620,833 with $4.4 million guaranteed, according to overthecap.com. So if they cut him, the Browns save only $220,833 in 2020. But the 2021 payroll is cut by $6,016,667, which is a significant chunk of change.
If you applied the cap savings from Lamm and Hubbard to Warford, that allows the team to spend up to $8,587,500 and remain even, or maybe a bit ahead.
Warford’s agent, Neil Schwartz, is said to be shopping for a contract of around $7 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. He might have to settle for less, given the grim financial situation.
So the Browns could afford to pay Warford on a one-year deal, and they have a year to try to develop a low cost replacement for Hubbard in 2021.
So there you have it. I propose clearing $8 million in cap space by cutting Hubbard and Lamm and using most of that money to sign Warford. This is not to belittle Hubbard or Lamm, both of whom are legitimate threats to become NFL starters again. You have to figure on Hubbard going back to the Steelers and Lamm might just drive south on I-71 to join the Bengals.
It’s not a slam dunk, but this fan would rather take a chance on a guy with talent, even if he is not fully functional in the preferred offensive scheme of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and head coach Kevin Stefanski.
The Browns can still start second year lineman Drew Forbes if he turns out to be greatly improved, but they would have Warford on the bench instead of Hubbard and Lamm.
Can you live with that? It’s not that Warford is such a great match to the Browns. Hubbard and Lamm are good players, too. But how can the Browns keep two good second-string players over a Pro Bowler?