Upgrading a haphazard offensive line was a crucial part of Cleveland's free agency game plan in 2017, and they have thrown some serious money around on Day 1.
The Browns took care of their own first, re-signing 2014 second-round pick Joel Bitonio to a hefty five-year, $51.2 million extension, keeping him in Cleveland for the next six years, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. That amount includes $23.7 million in guarantees. While Bitonio is still a short distance away from needing a new deal, Cleveland has a significant amount of money to spend -- more than $100 million -- and are interested in taking care of the players they believe can make up their core.
While that move may have flown a bit under the radar in year's past, it could be a sign that the Browns are looking to seriously upgrade their offensive line in order to facilitate -- and not destroy -- a rookie quarterback. The team was intent on developing young prospects like Bitonio and 2015 first-round pick Cam Erving but desperately needed a sheen of professionalism to bridge the gap between those young players and Pro Bowler Joe Thomas.
A story we read about the Packers' unique pass blocking techniques in January personally added some intrigue to Green Bay offensive linemen departing in free agency this year. As sage Packers beat man Bob McGinn noted: *Two head coaches already have told their offensive line coaches to study how the Packers pass protect and be prepared to implement those techniques next season. "Our guy told our O-line coach you better teach it or we're going to find someone who will," a personnel director for an NFL team said last week. "Green Bay does a hell of a job with it." *
Cleveland, at this point, can use all the help they can get. But as we've seen across the NFL, most success starts on the offensive line.