While the Browns spent the first day of the new league year signing other teams free agents, they also made sure that one of their own players won’t reach free agency in 2018.
The team reached an agreement on a five-year, $51.2 million deal that will guarantee the 2014 second-round pick $23.7 million and keep him in orange and brown until 2022.
While Bitonio has missed 17 of the last 32 games the team has played, when healthy he teams with perennial All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas to give the Browns one of the top left sides of the offensive line in the NFL.
While some may see it as a risk due to his injury history, Browns Executive Vice President of Football Sashi Brown sees the move as a building block for the future.
“It’s important for us to identify the young talented players on our roster, who fit our culture, and make sure they remain with the Cleveland Browns.” said Brown. “Joel has proven that he is a smart , tough, physical football player and we view him as one of the best young linemen in the league.”
Regardless of what critics say, the move does show that the team is looking to keep home-grown talent, which is something many of criticized them for failing to do in the past. It also gives the Browns one shining piece out of the awful 2014 draft.