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Browns sign LG Joel Bitonio to 5-year, $51 million contract extension

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

News broke on Thursday that the Cleveland Browns have reached a contract extension with starting left guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio was about to enter the final year of his rookie contract and was set to become a free agent in 2018. Although he’s suffered season-ending injuries the past two seasons, he’s been regarded as one of the NFL’s best young guards.

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a 5-year, $51 million extension that includes $23 million guaranteed. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network added some more information on the total package:

That should keep Bitonio with the team through the 2022 season. It’s tricky to compare extensions, since you are tearing up the cheap one year he had left and spreading it over a longer period of time.

If we look at it from a six-year basis, then on a per year average, it would make Bitonio the fourth- or fifth-highest paid guard in football, depending on what happens with Kevin Zeitler. His deal is very similar to what David DeCastro (Steelers) and Kyle Long (Bears) got last year.

Here are the number of starts Bitonio has made per year:

2014: 16 starts
2015: 10 starts (ankle injury)
2016: 5 starts (Lisfranc surgery)

In 2014, Bitonio was among the offensive rookie of the year candidates. His play never saw a decline over the past two seasons while he was healthy. The Browns’ offensive line collapses after he left the lineup last year, and before he rebounded at the end of the season, RB Isaiah Crowell’s rushing numbers plummeted for a stretch of two months.