As most of us still have a pit in our stomach after the Houston Texans shellacked the Cleveland Browns in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, it’s time to start looking toward the 2024 season. For the most part, a good chunk of this roster will be under contract, but there are still some cap moves that Andrew Berry will likely make.
Injuries certainly didn’t help the Browns this year, but the biggest issue once again for the 2024 season is going to be the offensive line. This is one position where getting everyone back isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Jedrick Wills has a fully guaranteed fifth-year option in place and has yet to prove he is worthy of being the No. 10 overall pick four years ago. He’s fought through a lot of injuries but is at stake to lose his position to Dawand Jones who shined when given a chance to start as a rookie in 2023.
Jack Conklin should be healthy once again on the right side, but he has had season-ending injuries the last two years and it’s hard to believe he is going to make it through a full season or be able to rehab back to the player he was just three years ago.
If the Browns can start Jones and Conklin at tackle for 17 games, I will feel pretty good, but so many injuries in the past three seasons make this hard for me to believe. I like having Wills as the swing tackle, but he will be making far too much money to feel good about being the sixth man.
The biggest problem for the tackles is the depth after those three. I’ve cashed in my chips on James Hudson after this year and I just don’t think it’s in the cards for him to be a starting NFL tackle. For him to be successful he may need to try and make the move inside.
Ethan Pocic at center with Luke Wypler as the backup is where I feel best currently, but there are a ton of questions at guard with Wyatt Teller and Joel Bitonio. Both are fan favorites, and both have large contracts that they are underperforming on.
I know I’ll make no friends with this take, but one of them should be gone before the start of the 2024 season. I’m okay if Teller goes even though he is younger, Bitionio has been a staple in Cleveland, and even I want to see him finish his career here. Bitonio would likely consider restructuring, which would significantly reduce his $12 million cap number in 2024.
Bitonio and Teller have both proven to be elite run blockers, but both struggle in pass protection. With this offense changing gears with Deshaun Watson at quarterback, it’s time to make an upgrade.
With the Browns not having a first-round pick once again in 2024, it will be as important as ever for Berry to hit in the draft. I would suspect a guard in the third or fourth round who has the potential to start as a rookie, and I would also suspect that another tackle will be taken in the mid-rounds to develop.