The Browns have been known to have a Top-3 offensive line. But now, they have an issue at the center position. You can’t have a center problem - you just can’t.
Ethan Pocic played well this past season and was suggested that he be signed to an extension that would keep him in-house for a few years. That didn’t happen.
RELATED: THE CONTINUING JOURNEY OF ETHAN POCIC
Nick Harris won the job in training camp last year but was bulldozed in his first preseason game and placed on IR with a knee injury. Two weeks later, seventh-round draft pick Dawson Deeton was also injured with an ACL tear and found his rookie home the IR list. When Pocic himself became injured, the fill-in was guard Hjalte Froholdt who played well at the guard position but had issues at center.
The backup to the backup to the backup was guard Michael Dunn who is now a restricted free agent. Froholdt was signed to a reserve/futures contract in January.
There are those who point to Harris’ size as a deterrent to playing center. He stands 6’1” and weighs 293 pounds. That is ideal for a nose tackle, but center? Pocic is 6’6”, 309 pounds.
Deaton is 6’1”, 306 and was ranked as the third-best center in the nation coming out of high school. At Texas Tech he became a full-time starter beginning his sophomore campaign. He finished his college career with 35 starts and was named Second Team All-Big 12 in 2020 and 2021, plus was invited to the Combine.
Where does Cleveland go from here for a qualified center? Here are three possibilities for the Browns.
Dalton Risner – Denver Broncos
6’-5”, 312 pounds
NFL draft: 2019 Round 2, pick #41 (Broncos)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 61.1 (overall)
2022 season: 15 starts, 3 sacks allowed: 1 penalty, offensive snaps: 967
Barry Shuck: Risner had just one penalty called on him last season. He had a season-ending elbow injury last year but had been very durable up to that point. Risner is very active in the community, is a good leader, will leave all he has on the field, and is a fav in the locker room.
In Denver, he won the Darrent Williams Good Guy award given to the athlete that is the darling of the press mainly for his openness and availability. The Broncos have a new head coach and it seems they are letting a lot of key players test the free-agent waters including Risner. He has stated he is happy in Denver, but Cleveland just might become his next home.
Contract Projection: Three years, $22.5 million ($7.5M per year); $15 million total guaranteed
Connor McGovern – New York Jets
6’-4”, 306 pounds
NFL draft: 2016 Round 5, pick #144 (Broncos)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 59.5 (overall)
2022 season: 17 starts, sacks allowed: 5, 7 penalties, offensive snaps: 1,114
Barry Shuck: This dude is just mean and nasty. Cleveland could use some of that during the wartime that is really the offensive line. McGovern is an excellent run blocker as evidenced by his 87.1 PFF grade in this regard.
The Jets consider McGovern as an important piece to their offensive line puzzle. Plus, they have a vacancy at right guard. Ini 2022, McGovern earned a 78.9 PFF grade at run-blocking which plays into the Browns scheme of run first and ask questions later. That grade was good enough for ninth out of 34 qualified centers in the league. Which makes him Top-10. And get this: McGovern runs a 5.11 in the 40.
Contract Projection: Three years, $22.5 million ($7.5M per year); $12.5 million total guaranteed
Garrett Bradbury – Minnesota Vikings
6’-3”, 300 pounds
NFL Draft: 2019 Round 1, pick No. 18 (Vikings)
Career Pro Bowls: none
PFF grade: 70.2 (overall)
2022 season: 12 starts, 2 sacks allowed, 4 penalties, offensive snaps: 809
Thomas Moore: Garrett Bradbury is a former first-round selection, which often gives a player extra time that they may not otherwise deserve. Pass blocking has never been Bradbury’s strength, although he did earn a career-high grade of 68.1 as a pass blocker last season from Pro Football Focus.
That grade is a major outlier, however, as Bradbury was under 43 in each of his first three seasons, as his lack of strength leaves him struggling to get the job done as a pass protector. He was better when it came to run blocking as he posted a grade of 72.4, which was also a career-high.
Those numbers are below the man who anchored Cleveland’s line last year in center Ethan Pocic (79 overall, 71.5 in pass blocking and 79.1 in run blocking, per PFF), and while the contract projections for the two players are not close - $21 million in guarantees to Pocic vs. $10 million for Bradbury - the Browns still would be better served by bringing back Pocic and having him compete with Nick Harris, last year’s presumptive starter before suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason.
Contract Projection: Three years, $18.75 million ($6.25M per year); $10 million total guaranteed
Put on your GM hat. Which of these players profiled would you sign?