Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry made the expected and reasonable decision in May to pick up the fifth-year option on left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.
The move, which guarantees Wills a salary of $14.25 million for the 2024 season, keeps one of the league’s best offensive lines intact for another year and gives the Browns more time to evaluate whether or not Wills is the long-term answer at left tackle. (Or even the future answer at right tackle, his position at Alabama, as a replacement for Jack Conklin, but that is a discussion for another day.)
Wills has experienced an up-and-down first three years with the Browns since the team made him the No. 10 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. After posting a pass-blocking grade of 79.4 as a rookie, Wills has been below 70 the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. His run-blocking grades have also been below par (a low of 50.3 as a rookie with a high of 61.7 in his second season), which has left some fans wondering why the Browns are bothering to keep Wills around.
Left tackles are not easy to find, however, which ties back to why it was reasonable for the Browns to stick with Wills, even more so given that Wills will play this season as just the 15th highest-paid left tackle in the league.
Now with Wills under contract for the next two seasons, the next step is to consider what a second contract could look like, if one were to materialize, and when it makes sense to start talking about one.
While there are some easy predictions on the list, quarterbacks Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, for example, Ginnitti sees the Browns taking a wait-and-see approach on Wills:
The Browns exercised Wills’ $14.1M 5th-year option for 2024 last month, putting him on track to negotiate an extension over the next calendar year. While he hasn’t risen to elite blindside tackle status, he seems a worthy candidate to stick around for Deshaun Watson’s tenure.
Calculated Valuation: $19M per year
Current Position Max AAV: $25M (L. Tunsil)
Current Position Max Guarantee: $64M (R. Stanley)
Prediction: No extension (yet). The Browns are still trying to fill out their 2023 roster, so adding cap to Year 4 of this rookie deal makes little sense right now. Extending out of his $14M salary next March seems the right approach.
Fortunately, the Browns don’t have to do anything soon regarding Wills as they have him under contract at a reasonable price for the next two seasons. And Wills will make the decision on a second contract an easy one based on his play, one way or another.