2 Contract extensions the Browns need to make and 1 to avoid

Who should the Cleveland Browns extend and who can they let hit the open market?

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout
Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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1. Browns should avoid Za'Darius Smith extension

There's no denying the Browns got a steal when they traded for Za'Darius Smith and a couple of late-round picks for two fifth-round selections. Smith is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL and the Browns were able to take advantage of the Minnesota Vikings' desire to clear cap space — just as they did in 2022 when the Dallas Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper.

Smith joins Myles Garrett, who has 32 sacks over the past two seasons. That gives them arguably the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL right now. Throw in Dalvin Tomlinson at defensive tackle and suddenly, the D-line looks like a strength for the Browns.

Even so, Cleveland doesn't need to think about extending Smith. Much like Deion Jones, who they added during the 2022 campaign, this is a player with one year in mind. Berry has done well with this single-year focus on players such as Jadeveon Clowney and the aforementioned Jones. He's also missed with Malik Jackson and Taven Bryan serving as examples.

Smith is highly unlikely to fall in the same category as Bryan and Jackson and that could be a problem as well. Should he hit free agency at 31 years of age coming off a stellar campaign, Smith will be looking for one final payday. If he doesn't do enough to earn a big paycheck, it's just as likely the Browns won't want him back.

With Ogbo Okoronkwo, Isaiah McGuire, and Alex Wright behind him, it's best to let Smith serve as the starter for one season and then allow youth to prevail in 2024. And if none are ready, then they can look for their next offseason steal without having to fork out a huge deal for a player over 30.

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