When the Cleveland Browns traded for Pro Bowl wideout Jarvis Landry last month, the assumption was a contract extension would soon follow. That day finally came, as the Browns locked Landry up for the next five years earlier this morning.
However, the actual money involved has many criticizing Cleveland. While I’ll admit the team is forking over a lot for a player best known as a slot receiver, I still think there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t be overreacting.
Thanks to his new deal, Landry will now be paid $75 million over the next five years, with an average annual salary of $15 million. He’ll also be receiving $47 million guaranteed.
I’ll admit, when I saw the final numbers, I was a little shocked. It truly is a lot to give a receiver not known for making game-breaking catches. Landry is seen by many as a possession receiver, someone who can move the chains and is most effective when paired with another upper-tier wideout. I fully understand some being a little confused by giving a player like this so much guaranteed money.
Where you lose me, though, is when you take the Browns to task for this contract. Many are calling the team out for overpaying Landry, a claim which really doesn’t make a ton of sense when you break it down.
Need I remind you we’re talking about a Browns team which has gone 1-31 over the past two seasons. Cleveland’s reputation across the league is in shambles, with many seeing it as a walking punchline known only for bonehead moments both on and off the field.
It sounds like piling on, sure. It’s also meant to point out how insane you are if you think the Browns can sign any Pro Bowl talent at market value, much less a player who’s been to the last three.
I hate to break it to you, angry Cleveland fan, but this team is going to have to overpay top-tier players if it wants to convince them to sign. This is what happens when you fail to win more than one game across a two-year span. The Browns offering market value will almost always result with the player in question eventually heading elsewhere.
Not only is the frustration about a bad team overpaying for good talent confusing, so is the concern fans suddenly have about Cleveland’s cap space.
The Browns have led the league in unspent salary over the past two years, a stat which isn’t exactly a bragging point. They’ve sat on their hands the past two offseasons, saving up for an undetermined rainy day.
Now, Cleveland is finally putting use to its pile of money, and the fan reaction is negative? With some of the concern coming from the size of the cap hit?
The Browns were eventually going to have spend the money they’ve piled up. Personally, I’d much rather see Cleveland use it on talented players than watch another season of penny-pinching.
You could ponder why the Browns rushed to get Landry extended this early, which would be fair. After all, they had until July 16 to extend him if they wanted to avoid postponing talks until after the upcoming season. At the same time, this route came with some hazards.
Had the team waited until next offseason, it ran the risk of someone else swooping in. Remember, there are 31 other teams which can claim a better record than the Browns over the past two years. It’s not difficult to fathom Landry being swayed in the open market.
If Landry ended up fleeing after one season, Cleveland would be bashed for ponying up draft picks to get a one-year rental, criticized for being unable to hammer out an extension.
As you can see, this is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for the Browns. They’d be understandably mocked for investing in one season’s worth of Landry. In order to avoid this, they locked him up to a pricey extension, one which has fans cranky about the cap space this team has spent the past two years just staring at.
As you can see, I don’t get what all the fuss is about when it comes to extending Landry. Until the Browns shed their image as the NFL‘s punching bag, they’re going to have to overpay to keep talented players. Luckily, they have enough cap space to do so.
If this move ends up backfiring, I’ll happily admit I was wrong. Until then, I’m completely fine with Cleveland going above and beyond in attempt to retain high-quality talent.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook