One of the primary goals for the 2016 Cleveland Browns – outside of finally winning a football game – has been finding young and talented players the team can utilize to build a foundation for the future.
Said goal was the reason why older vets were sent packing in the offseason, and why Cleveland has prioritized collecting draft picks over making splashes in free agency. It also explains why all 14 rookies selected in this year’s draft made the final roster to begin the season. The Browns know this latest rebuild will be a trying one, so any diamonds they can find in a roster littered with raw and untested youth need to be held on to.
Six games into the season, it’s clear Cleveland has indeed found at least one player to hang on to. Terrelle Pryor, the former quarterback turned receiver, has been an incredible bright spot in a season filled with defeats and injuries. To the surprise of many, he was able to make an extremely difficult transition in positions, and is now the Browns’ top receiver.
He’s also on the final year of his contract. Cleveland tendered Pryor to begin the year, and if he isn’t re-signed by season’s end, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.
For reasons obvious, the team can’t allow this to happen. Pryor has become a legitimate offensive threat and, as a result, retaining him for the future has to be high on Cleveland’s to-do list.
Based on reports from yesterday, it seems as though the Browns have taken opening steps in getting this done. Word is Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has been in Cleveland recently, and the two sides have opened preliminary talks on a contract extension.
It should be noted, though, these talks have been labeled “very” preliminary, implying there’s still a sizable amount of work to be done. While it’s encouraging to see the Browns getting the ball rolling, it still might take some time before things are finalized.
The hope, obviously, is that time is the only thing in the way of getting this extension done. Considering what Pryor has given Cleveland this season, the team would be crazy to not lock him up long-term.
Many Browns fans felt a receiving corps featuring rookie Corey Coleman and the talented-but-troubled Josh Gordon would at the very least provide some highlights for a struggling team. However, a broken hand sidelined Coleman two weeks in, while Gordon’s latest attempt at a comeback was derailed when he entered rehab. Despite this, the Browns have still been able to score on offense, and Pryor is a big reason why.
So far this year, the former Ohio State Buckeye has logged 413 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Pryor’s freakish abilities also make him a threat as a wildcat quarterback, something Cleveland took advantage of when he logged 165 all-purpose yards in a Week 3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He’s also developed a strong rapport with rookie QB Cody Kessler, something which has definitely helped keep the offense afloat.
While six games is hardly enough proof that Pryor can indeed be a top-flight NFL receiver, it’s certainly enough to convince the Browns he’s worth retaining. This, plus the team’s current salary cap situation, gives Cleveland zero excuses for not extending him.
Right now, the Browns have almost $50 million in cap-space, due mainly to not over-paying free agents and clearing out sizable contracts. As you can see, coming up with the funds for Pryor’s next contract won’t be a difficult task. No, this doesn’t mean Cleveland should overpay him for the sake of doing so. Still, there’s no reason for the Browns to penny-pinch and low-ball a player who’s been one of the lone bright spots of the season.
For all intents and purposes, Pryor definitely wants to stay in Cleveland. His appreciation for coach Hue Jackson has been reiterated numerous times, and it’s tough to believe the feelings aren’t mutual.
That said, until significant momentum builds in the contract talks, there will understandably be concern from fans regarding the Browns’ ability to get this done. The team took an odd and, what some reporters referred to as “cold,” approach to retaining free agents last winter, a process you’d hope would be avoided for a young talent like Pryor. If Cleveland does intend on trying to save some money by attempting to under-pay him, the talks could take an ugly turn.
Again, though, there’d be no excuse for such a thing. The Browns have been seeking young talent which can help them finally become a winning franchise after decades of losing. Pryor fits that description perfectly, and needs to be retained as a crucial piece for Cleveland’s future.