Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images
Also on the list of players to consider: TE Ricky Seals-Jones, OT Justin McCray, and DE Bryan Cox.
Now that we’ve covered all of the Cleveland Browns’ unrestricted free agents, let’s take a look at the team’s five restricted free agents that they will need to make decisions on by 4:00 PM on March 18th. An explanation on what restricted free agents are, along with this year’s tender amounts, are in the sidebar below.
List of the Browns’ RFA
Biggest Storyline: It was pretty much a certainty already that Cleveland would tender RB Kareem Hunt, and then at the NFL Combine, new GM Andrew Berry confirmed that he will be tendering the team’s backup running back. However, he declined at this time to reveal whether which tender he’d use on him.
Hunt was originally a 3rd round pick, so the cheapest option is to use the original round tender of $2.144 million on him. I think the real decision is between a 1st round tender ($4.667 million) and a 2nd round tender ($3.278 million), a difference of about $1.4 million in cap space for 2020. If Cleveland was 100% dead set on not wanting other teams to negotiate with Hunt this offseason, they’d use the 1st round tender. But it might be tempting for them to use a 2nd round tender.
With Hunt’s skillset, I could see a team coughing up a 2nd round pick in exchange for signing Hunt to a long-term deal, despite his off-the-field issues. Then, the question is whether or not Cleveland would match Hunt’s deal to have both he and Nick Chubb locked up long-term, or do they take advantage of Hunt’s value? In other words, if Chubb is already viewed as basically the top running back in the NFL, should we flip our luxury of Hunt into a 2nd round pick, which could be used for an extra starter (i.e. left tackle, right tackle, or safety)? This might not be popular on here, but I think I’d be up for tempting the 2nd round tender.
Rest of the Group:
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones was originally an undrafted free agent. He finished the 2019 season with 14 catches for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. I liked what he showed as a receiver and would be OK tendering him on the one-year deal for $2.144 million. That would be an original round tender, so Cleveland would not receive anything in return if he was signed. Better yet, let Seals-Jones’ contract expire and re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent to a veteran minimum deal, or something closer to what Darren Fells got last year (1 year, $1.5 million).
- OL Justin McCray was acquired via a trade last year for basically free from the Packers. It’s hard to think that he started 4 games in 2019. He didn’t fare too well in those outings, and although his experience may be considered valuable on a short contract, I would let him walk.
- DE Bryan Cox Jr: After going undrafted in 2017, Cox spent three+ years with the Panthers before being claimed by the Browns mid-way through last season. He logged 12 tackles and 0.5 sack, showing some ability to make or disrupt some plays in the backfield on what eventually became a thin defensive line. I wouldn’t bring him back on a tender, but if he wanted to re-sign for the veteran minimum, I think he warranted another look.