The Cleveland Browns’ strategy to replace future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas was pretty underwhelming last year. They used the first pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft on the 6’4” Austin Corbett, but it was fellow rookie, college free agent Desmond Harrison, started the season on the blind side, first for Tyrod Taylor, then for Baker Mayfield.
As the Browns continued to flounder under Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Cleveland parted with both of them, promoting Gregg Williams to interim head coach and Freddie Kitchens—now head coach—to offensive coordinator.
One of the changes that Kitchens made was to put Harrison on the bench, but it wasn’t Corbett who was the next man up. Instead it was former 2014 second-overall draft pick Greg Robinson out of Auburn, who would start the final eight games. The offense as a whole only gave up five sacks in that span.
Robinson was traded to the Detroit Lions from the St. Louis Rams—the team that drafted him—in 2017, but he was released the following offseason. After finding himself unemployed for a few months, the Browns signed him in the summer.
Somehow, somewhy, he played some of the best football of his career blocking for Mayfield under the supervision of Bob Wylie, who has since been let go. Yesterday, Cleveland decided that they want to give him another look to see if he can be their long-term answer at left tackle, signing him to a one-year contract.
That deal is worth $7 million with escalators going up to $9 million, which is a pretty comfortable windfall for a player who was very nearly on the verge of finding his way to the Alliance of American Football.
In re-signing Robinson, Cleveland has done something it hasn’t been able to for a while, which is to retain all of their starting linemen from one year to the next, and even some of their key depth as well, Harrison and Corbett among them.
Left guard Joel Bitonio has been in place for years now, their lone starter that was an original draft pick of theirs. Center J.C. Tretter and right guard Kevin Zeitler were both added via free agency in 2017, while former Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Hubbard was signed in 2018 to man the right tackle position.
“I have always had confidence in my ability”, he told the team’s website in November last year as he was finding success as a starter. “I feel like at times I was given the short end of the [stick], but all I can do is show up each day continue to get better and work my butt off”.
He now has a one-year prove-it deal to, well, prove it. That being his worthiness of being regarded a franchise left tackle, which is what the Rams drafted him to be. Which would come in handy now that the Browns finally seem to actually have a franchise quarterback to protect.