Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
The Browns should make the effort to re-sign Schobert, but at what contract?
How and When He Joined the Browns: Schobert was a 4th round pick by the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft, being selected No. 99 overall. The Browns drafted 14 players in that draft, and Schobert was the only one who played out his entire rookie contract (Rashard Higgins was also in that draft, but was waived once before quickly being brought back).
Productivity Level Last Season: He started all 16 games in 2019, registering 133 combined tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, 9 passes defended, and 2 forced fumbles. His 133 tackles were good for 10th most in the NFL.
While Schobert had several games in which he made a significant impact defending the pass, including two multi-interception games, he still allowed five touchdown passes and saw a decline in his coverage production from the previous year. Additionally, his run defense has not improved, as he continued to show limited range in defending sideline-to-sideline. According to Pro Football Focus, Schobert has graded at 55.0 or lower over his past two seasons against the run. This article from last offseason highlights Schobert’s limited range that also was evident this past season.
Why Keeping Him Could Make Sense: Cleveland has Christian Kirksey under contract for two more seasons, but he has only played in 9 games over the past 2 years due to injury, so there is no guarantee Cleveland even keeps him on his contract. The Browns have other voids to fill, and creating another void at middle linebacker would be a setback, especially when Cleveland has the opportunity to reward a home-grown talent. On top of that, Schobert has shown the ability to improve, and can thrive when the defense in general is playing at a high level.
What the Browns Should Do: The Browns should definitely make the effort to bring Schobert back. Are there better, more dominant middle linebackers in the NFL? Of course. When things are going bad for the Browns’ defense, Schobert’s inability to be more of a factor against the run gets on my nerves. But his overall body of work is solid, and having been one of the team’s rare draft picks to succeed, under the Andrew Berry era no less, it would seem to go against the team-building philosophy to cast a leader like that aside.
The sticking point will more so be related to his contract value. Over the past three years, Schobert has been among the league leaders in tackles, earning a Pro Bowl appearance in 2017. What I am doing is looking at the contract that Kirksey signed back in 2017, having had similar production at the time, which was a 4-year deal worth $38 million and $20 million guaranteed. That was three years ago, so the value of that deal should go up: 4 years for $45 million with $26 million guaranteed.
I could see the Browns shedding the remainder of Kirksey’s deal to help make up some of the cap space for Schobert’s new deal, maintaining their flexibility of adding new free agents. The only holdup is whether Schobert wants an even bigger deal or not, upwards of $15 million per year.
Let us know below whether or not the team should try to re-sign Joe Schobert.