A consistently strong contributor for the Cleveland Browns, Joe Schobert is playing out the last year of his deal; it is time to pay the man.
For some reason, general manager John Dorsey has not opened his wallet for any of the impending free agents on the Cleveland Browns while other teams around the league are setting the market. One player has made a Pro Bowl in 2017, was the second-highest graded linebacker last season according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and this year is on a torrid pace in his contract year. It is time for Dorsey and the Browns to pay linebacker Joe Schobert.
During Monday night’s game against the Jets, the fourth-year player out of the University of Wisconsin was all over the field for the Cleveland defense as they took down Gang Green. Schobert finished the Monday Night Football beatdown with 10 solo tackles, one tackle for loss, and a timely forced fumble on Le’Veon Bell as the Jets were driving. He was PFF’s highest-graded Browns defensive player, per PFF CLE Browns on Twitter.
This performance came on the heels of a game against the Tennessee Titans where he came up with seven solo tackles for the Browns. Schobert has been a reliable force in Cleveland, now entering his third year as the starting middle linebacker, and it is time for the Browns to reward him with a long-term extension.
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At this point in the season the Browns have over $33.6 million in cap space for the 2019 season; any dollar not spent will roll over into next year’s cap number. The Browns are expected, at this point, to have over $61 million in cap space, but this does not account for any extensions for Schobert, safety Damarious Randall, center J.C. Tretter or wide receiver Rashard Higgins.
This offseason, the San Francisco 49ers inflated the linebacker market by giving Kwon Alexander a four-year, $54 million deal with $27 million guaranteed. At $13.5 million annually, the Niners may have overpaid for his services just a bit, but the Atlanta Falcons paid even more for their Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones.
Jones received a four-year extension from the Falcons at $14.25 million annually and $34 million guaranteed. It would be a good barometer on a new deal to work somewhere in the middle of these two contracts as Schobert is a higher graded performer than Alexander, but is not quite to the level of Jones.
Regardless, the Browns will be looking at right around $14 million annually with at least the first two years of that deal guaranteed in order to retain Schobert, but he is worth every last penny.
While the Browns have the richest contract for a defensive end to look forward to in the next year or two with Myles Garrett, they currently have the cap space and Schobert should be their top priority of all the impending free agents on the roster.
The Browns did draft two linebackers this past April, however, selecting Sione Takitaki in the third round and Mack Wilson in the fifth. However, Wilson started yesterday’s game due to an injury to Adarius Taylor, while Takitaki was seen as just a special teams contributor.
It would be a colossal failure of Dorsey and the Browns to watch Schobert walk out the door this offseason if Takitaki and Wilson are not ready to roll as the linebackers of the future in Cleveland. Two weeks into their rookie seasons and they are not ready and still have a steep learning curve to overcome.
Most contracts are only guaranteed through the first two years anyway, so keeping Schobert around while Wilson and Takitaki have time to adjust to the speed of the NFL is not a terrible plan. If the Browns need to clear up a linebacker spot to make room for either of the rookies, then it should be veteran Christian Kirksey who should see the door and not Schobert willingly walking out of it.
The Browns can afford for their salary cap in 2020 to drop from $61 million to $47 million with the extension of Schobert. Dorsey has been stubborn with his wallet to this point, but it is time for the Browns to let the cash flow and ensure that Schobert is a Brown for the foreseeable future.