Has J.C. Tretter already played his last game with Cleveland Browns?
Then there is the other elephant in the room. Has J.C. Tretter played his last game in a Browns uniform or in the NFL for that matter? Tretter has greatly outperformed the expectations placed on him when they signed him as a free agent in 2017. Tretter started the 2016 season as Green Bay’s center, then suffered a sprained MCL that caused him to lose his starting role and his place on the Packers’ roster.
Since arriving in Cleveland, Tretter has been the definition of a professional. His ability to make calls and adjust protections up front gave the Browns flexibility to employ multiple blocking schemes. Add to the fact, his toughness and ironman approach has bled over to his teammates and fostered a mindset that everyone up front now plays with.
However, entering the final year of his contract, it needs to be acknowledged that Tretter’s knee issues are catching up with him. The veteran has gutted out the last several seasons, barely practicing, and at times not practicing at all just to make it to Sunday. While the toughness he has demonstrated is admirable, toughness itself is not enough to get the job done.
Don’t be surprised if Tretter calls it a career on his own accord. He’s a highly intelligent human and obviously knows the physical limitations his knee has placed on him. If Tretter makes it to training camp and decides to hang up his cleats, it will be because he has truly reached the end of the road.
But, more often than not, the game becomes done with you before you are done with it. The Browns properly prepared themselves for this eventuality when they drafted Nick Harris to be Tretter’s heir apparent in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Because of Tretter’s toughness and grit, Harris has only had one opportunity to display his abilities as a center. That opportunity came on Christmas day when Tretter was unable to play due to a positive covid test. Harris took full advantage of the situation and displayed the skills and ability that gave Andrew Berry the confidence to bring him into the fold.
Harris, listed at 6-foot-1 and 293-pounds, demonstrated his excellent movement skills and ability to reach the second level. His ability to shield with his back in traffic in the run game was quite impressive and was an element he excelled at in college. Although it is a severely limited sample size, Harris put enough positives on tape to believe that if given the opportunity to be a starter, he would be up for the challenge.
From a financial perspective, moving on from J.C. Tretter would save the team just over eight million dollars on the cap. While not everything comes down to money, when you are a team looking to extend young core talent, you save where you can afford to. The transition from Tretter to Harris at center is an inevitability, whether it’s this season or in 2023. Don’t be surprised it is the former rather than the latter.