Cleveland Browns fans are going to learn a hard lesson about the NFL over the next 12 to 16 months.
Namely that if you want to pay elite players like quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Nick Chubb, defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward, you may need to say goodbye to some other talented players.
Right guard Wyatt Teller is a perfect example of that hard truth.
Teller enters the 2021 season on the final year of his rookie contract. He is also coming off a season where he established himself as one of the league’s best run blockers and a key member of the league’s best offensive line.
The NFL has a real salary cap, despite what the “salary cap is a myth” folks will have you believe, so while general manager Andrew Berry is likely open to keeping the offensive line intact after this season, that simply may not be possible.
It is a reality that is not lost on Teller, who shared his understanding of the business side of the league during a media appearance on Wednesday before practice (quotes via The Beacon Journal):
“We have such a good team, all the money can’t go around. It’s just impossible. I want to make the most that I can. We make this money for a short amount of time and 80% of the league is bankrupt after five years. So do it smart, get what you deserve, get what you earn and the rest can go down as history.
“The better I do, the better the guys around me do, the better the team does. The better the team does, we all get paid. It’s not a bad problem to have for AB, having to deal with all this money.”
If Teller can prove that last season was not a fluke, he could be in line for a contract that averages around $13 million (or more) a year, which would put him in the top five among the league’s right guards. That might be reasonable, but with the Browns already paying right tackle Jack Conklin, center J.C. Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio, someone has to be on the outside looking in on the offensive line.
There is still an entire season to be played, of course, and the it benefits both Teller and the Browns for him to do everything he can to repeat his performance from 2020, which is something that offensive line coach Bill Callahan is working on, according to a team-provided transcript:
“Just working him a little bit quicker, trying to improve his change of direction and those nuances that come back from last year that we are trying to get better and improve upon. The big thing for Wyatt is just refining, working hard and striving to groove his technique. If we can groove it a little bit better than it was a year ago, we will be that much better collectively as a line. All of those aspects of line play come into it when we are trying to take each individual player and really focus on their development and their improvable areas. If we can keep rolling in that regard and keep making them adjust, work and try to find different ways and means of techniques and different aspects to take control of a defender, that has really been a true focus for him.”
An extension for Teller is a reality right up until the moment it is not, but there is a real possibility this might be his last season in Cleveland.
If all goes well, he will make that decision as hard as possible for Berry.