The talk of almost every team’s offseason in the NFL is about the players that they could add to the roster. Whether it is a veteran through a trade or free agency or a rookie through the NFL draft, fans and media tend to focus on getting more on the roster.
Great teams focus, mostly, on developing and keeping the players that they have on their roster.
The Cleveland Browns have eight draft picks and can create a significant amount of cap space this offseason through a number of contract restructures. They also have a few major decisions to make including whether to move on from S John Johnson III to save cap space this season.
Keeping players also has to be an important priority for the team instead of waiting for them to hit free agency. Generally, a player who hits free agency gets a bigger to much bigger contract than if they sign a year early with the team they are currently with.
The Browns have three players that are set for free agency in the next couple of years that could, and maybe should, be extended this offseason. One is an older veteran who could guarantee more money now but lower his cap hit while two are younger players developing:
Cleveland’s top receiver is signed through the 2024 season with a couple of void years on his contract after that. An extension could give him more money guaranteed overall while dropping his cap hit a few million dollars in 2023.
On the other side of the ball, Delpit started to play very well last season despite a terrible scheme cooked up by then-DC Joe Woods. Also set for free agency in 2024, the LSU product is a versatile player that could thrive under Jim Schwartz. GM Andrew Berry might want to get a contract done now before Delpit has shown that skill on the field this season.
A former sixth-round pick, DPJ has shown that he is very good in contested catches and down the field. While Browns fans may want to see what he looks like in a full season with Deshaun Watson, doing so is risky for the team. Receivers are getting significant contracts all around the league.
While fans of the two younger players may want to “wait and see,” that approach generally leads to having to pay much more after you see. Berry has to project what he believes will be Delpit and Peoples-Jones’ ceilings and negotiate from there.
With Cooper, an extension allows the veteran to know where he’ll be for a couple of more years, settle in as a leader for the team and get a little extra money while the team gets certainty and a lowered cap hit.
Overall, these three extensions shouldn’t be too huge this offseason but, especially with the two younger players, could get quite expensive the longer Cleveland waits to try to get them done.