The injury bug has descended on the Cleveland Browns yet again. This time the center position is suffering some losses. How can Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry best navigate around the Nick Harris injury?
The Browns lost their starting Center, Nick Harris, on the second play in their opening preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was later announced that he had torn the ACL in his right knee. The injury is season-ending, requiring surgery, and is a loss to the Browns’ plans at this position. Harris had put much work in during the off-season, had gained weight, but kept his mobility, and the Browns were looking forward to seeing this progress reflected on the pitch. Harris replaced JC Tretter, who had been the starting center in Cleveland since 2017, and to make matters worse, Dawson Deaton also suffered a torn ACL to his right knee in practice on Monday. Before these injuries, the Browns had listed four centers on their roster, leaving them with two remaining- Ethan Pocic and Brock Hoffman.
How serious are these injuries to the Browns, and what are their options to replace Nick Harris now that they have lost two players in three days? Dawson Deaton was by no means guaranteed a place on the team and was probably destined for the practice squad. He played for Texas Tech in college as a guard, was a three-star recruit, and was drafted by the Browns in round seven in the 2022 Draft. Deaton was drafted as a developmental player, and Brock Hoffman was signed as an undrafted free agent from Virginia Tech after the 2022 Draft. Nick Harris and Pocic were the two main centers the Browns intended to rely on for the 2022 season. Ethan Pocic is an experienced player who the Browns signed from the Seattle Seahawks, where he has played 57 games since 2017. In 2021 he played in 600 snaps and only allowed two sacks.
A Look At Our Depth
Let’s look at the 53-man roster and the offensive lineman positions; we can reliably assume that Jedrick Wills, Joel Bitonio, Ethan Pocic, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin, and James Hudson, and Chris Hubbard will be rostered. This leaves two places up for competition, and both will probably be interior positions assuming no injuries to tackles. The Browns still have Michael Dunn and Hjalte Froholt on their roster, and both have played center; indeed, Froholt took snaps at this position against the Jaguars. Michael Dunn played 14 games for the Browns in 2021, and Froholt played six games, so both players have some experience and are versatile. It could well be that the Browns decide to select these two players to make up the final two offensive lineman positions, and Hoffman might make the practice squad. None of these players will be able to replace Nick Harris.
Return Of The King
Many Browns fans want to see JC Tretter return, and given the experience of the Browns centers listed, their concern is understandable. In addition, Tretter knows the offense extremely well and could slot in ideally, having never missed a game due to injury in five seasons. However, we must remember that the Browns cut Tretter earlier this year, and most teams don’t re-sign players they cut. Tretter is expensive and was going to cost the Browns $9.1 million, and he never practiced due to both knees being painful. The other available free agent center is Billy Price, who had 985 snaps at center last season with the New York Giants and only allowed two sacks, ranked 11th amongst centers. Price, like Tretter, is expensive, and in 2022 is expected to earn a base salary of $10.4 million. If Tretter is expensive, Price is even more so, but the Browns have cap space and may decide to bring in experience and offer a one-season contract, and of these two, Tretter is likely to be their preferred option.
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