There are still a number of moves that have been made within the AFC North that we have not discussed, but since we have time, there’s no reason to cram everything together. After focusing on a couple of moves that the Baltimore Ravens have made, it’s time to note a pretty significant move by the Cleveland Browns.
There is no single personnel issue for the Browns that is bigger than their offensive line. While their interior offensive line is a bit more stable with the very solid Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter, the rest of the group could be targeted for upgrading.
Cleveland has already identified and acquired one piece to upgrade, signing tackle Jack Conklin from the Tennessee Titans, who has been regarded as one of the top right tackles, particularly in pass protection, since he entered the league.
The eighth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Conklin is just 25 years old. He agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract with the Browns that included $30 million guaranteed, which pays him an average of $14 million per season and gives him the opportunity to double dip in free agency at the age of 28 three years from now.
One thing has seemingly been made clear, which is that Conklin is being brought in at right tackle, where he has played nearly every snap of his career. Gone are the days in which right tackles are looked down upon. They’re making money now.
Which is bad news for Chris Hubbard, the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, who has been the Browns’ starting right tackle for the past two years. The signing of Conklin obviously makes his position on the team vulnerable, and I doubt they would be looking at him to move to left tackle.
Hubbard was signed to a five-year, $36.5 million deal in 2018, which only included a $4 million signing bonus, and $9 million guaranteed in total.
I will probably be discussing this at a later date, but even with three years left on his deal, it would be easy for them to get out of it, incurring a dead money charge of just $2.4 million (the remaining proration of his original signing bonus) and a 2020 post-roster displacement cap savings of more than $4 million.
Given Greg Robinson’s arrest, the Browns don’t really even have a left tackle right now. Considering that they just replaced him at right tackle, it’s hard to imagine they will view Hubbard as left-capable, but unless they sign another tackle in free agency, they could hold on to him until after the draft, where they own the 10th-overall pick. Odds are good it will be used on a left tackle.