We’ve already reviewed all of the Browns’ unrestricted free agents, so now it’s time to take a look at the team’s three restricted free agents, starting with RB Isaiah Crowell.
How and When He Joined the Browns: Crowell joined the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2014, which included a $10,000 signing bonus, a big deal for someone who didn’t get drafted. One solid game at the end of the preseason in his rookie year forced Cleveland to keep him on the 53-man roster as opposed to the practice squad.
Productivity Level Last Season: It was another season of up-and-down spurts for Crowell, but much of that can be attributed to all the issues the offensive line had with injuries. Through it all, he still managed career highs. In 16 starts, he ran the ball 198 times for 952 yards (4.8 YPC) and 7 touchdowns. He also improved as a received, catching 40 passes for 319 yards. He also had the longest run in the NFL last year, an 85-yard touchdown against the Ravens.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: After a controversial social media incident prior to the season, Crowell made amends for his mistake and didn’t let it affect his performance on the field. Even though this upcoming year will technically be his “contract” year, he showcased his talents well enough to establish himself as the clear No. 1 back in Cleveland, and someone who worked well in Hue Jackson’s system.
What the Browns Should Do: Reports after the season indicated that Cleveland had a desire to extend Crowell’s contract, so at the very least, we know the club will offer him a tender to keep him with the club in 2017. I expect that to be a second-round tender; a first-round tender values him too much, and an original-round tender would be silly because that means anyone can sign him for free (if Cleveland does not match the offer).
The running back market is hard to gauge. Chris Ivory was overpaid last year, getting 5 years for $32 million ($6.4 million per year). One could argue that DeMarco Murray was underpaid, getting 4 years for $25.25 million ($6.312 million per year). I think Crowell should aim closer to Mark Ingram money, though, which was 4 years for $16 million (average of $4 million per year) back in 2015. Adjusted a bit higher, if I were to offer Crowell a deal, I’d offer him 4 years, $18 million, with $8 million guaranteed.
Let us know below whether or not the team should try to tender or re-sign Isaiah Crowell!