Browns Still Mum On Whether Or Not They Will Pick Up Jedrick Wills Jr.’s 5th-Year Option

The Pittsburgh Steelers traded their 2020 first-round draft pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for three-time All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. In hindsight, that feels like a pretty good deal, and as a bonus, they have no question to consider this offseason about picking up anybody’s fifth-year option.

Many other teams do, however, including all of the Steelers’ AFC North rivals. The Cincinnati Bengals have an easy one. Their 2020 first-round pick was Joe Burrow. Done and done. Sign me up. The other two teams—not as easy. While the Baltimore Ravens are still weighing the option for linebacker Patrick Queen, the Cleveland Browns must decide whether to pick up the option of left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.

As the 10th-overall pick at tackle who has played the requisite number of snaps, Wills’ fifth-year option number, if exercised, would be $14,175,000. That salary would be locked in for 2024 as soon as the Browns pick it up.

They haven’t said much about it, interestingly. “He’s winning his one-on-one matchups”, head coach Kevin Stefanski said of Wills earlier this month. “Never perfect because it’s hard to be perfect as a left tackle in this game. But he played well. I really think, if he stays healthy, the trajectory continues to ascend”.

This was about a month ahead of the deadline to exercise the option and gave little hint of their plans. Particularly lately, many teams may like what their first-round pick is doing and still decide not to pick up the option. Beginning with the 2018 class, it became fully guaranteed upon exercise. More recently, the pay scale changed as well relative to the player’s accomplishments.

Browns general manager Andrew Berry was no clearer during his pre-draft press conference, once again alerting reporters to the fact that he does not discuss contract situations in the press. He would offer nothing more than a “We’re pleased with Jed”.

The Steelers, notably, didn’t even address the fifth-year option of 2018 first-round draft pick Terrell Edmunds until after the deadline had passed and they opted not to pick it up. Then-general manager Kevin Colbert said at the time that the decision was based on the salary cap, not performance.

Wills is the first first-round pick for Stefanski as head coach and for Berry as general manager; they have never had to make a fifth-year option for a player that they had drafted. They have only had to make two decisions, both in their first year together in 2020: their 2018 first-round picks of Baker Mayfield (a big, fat no) and Denzel Ward (who received an extension last year, negating the option).

Since being drafted, Wills has started all 45 games in which he has played, including all 17 last year. He had a career-high six holding penalties last season, however, among eight total infractions. He has not been regarded as being among the top players at his position, though certainly respected as a starter.

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