It's (already) the final Friday of February, and we're packing our bags for Indianapolis.
Before it's Combine time, we're tackling four of your questions in the latest Browns Mailbag.
The Browns have a large number of unrestricted free agents and a couple of restricted free agents, and veterans whose contracts could be restructured. How are they compensated for a net loss of free agents? Would they consider a third-round tender on D'Ernest Johnson? — Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia
Teams across the league are awarded compensatory picks for a net loss in free agents, but explaining the exact nature of how it's done is a bit complicated. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein did a great job recently of breaking down the entire process if you want an in-depth look at it. We're going to share some of the highlights that will allow you to (kind of) keep score at home as the Browns go through free agency.
The NFL, which does not publicize its exact formula, doles out 32 compensatory picks each year. These picks come at the end of Rounds 3-7. The maximum number of compensatory picks a team can receive is four, though there are exceptions for teams that receive additional compensatory picks via the league's newly enacted policy of awarding teams that have minority coaches or executives leave for head coach or general manager positions. To qualify for a compensatory pick via free agency activity, a team "must end up with more or better qualifying free agents lost than gained in a particular year." The NFL's formula, per Zierlein, "takes into account a player's average salary per year (APY), snap count and postseason awards." Compensatory free agents are defined as players who sign with different teams during the first month and a half of the new league year. Players who were released by their previous team do not qualify.
That, in a nutshell, is why the Browns, who were very active in free agency last year, aren't expected to receive any additional compensatory picks for the 2022 NFL Draft. The Browns will have compensatory picks in the third round of each of the next two drafts, however, because of the departure of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who was hired as the new Vikings general manager.
So, in sum, whatever the Browns do or don't do in free agency this year will affect their shot at more compensatory picks for the 2023 NFL Draft.
As to your second question, Johnson, who was undrafted out of South Florida, would only be eligible for a first-, second- or a right-of-first-refusal tender. If Johnson receives a right-of-first-refusal tender from the Browns and looks to sign an offer sheet with a different team, the Browns — if they opt not to match the offer sheet — would not be compensated for his departure.
Check out photos of G Joel Bitonio, DE Myles Garrett, RB Nick Chubb, G Wyatt Teller and CB Denzel Ward at the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada
Should we draft a kicker before Round 4? — Steve S., Wooster
The Browns have nine picks in the 2022 draft, 6 picks in the first four rounds. Would it be a great pick to take Cade York, LSU kicker? — Millington A., Huntington, West Virginia
We're combining these questions for obvious reasons. Let's start at the top.
Drafting a kicker before the fourth round would not be unprecedented, but it'd certainly be uncommon. Since 2000, just four kickers have been selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft. Leading the way, of course, is Sebastian Janikowski, who went 17th overall to the Raiders in 2000 and went on to have a 19-year career. The other three were Nate Kaeding (third, 2004), Mike Nugent (second, 2005) and Roberto Aguayo (second, 2016). Kaeding and Nugent both had long NFL careers, though Nugent spent just four years with the team that drafted him (Jets). Aguayo lasted just one season in the NFL. There doesn't appear to be a kicker in this year's draft who is garnering any Day 1 or 2 buzz, but things can certainly change in the coming months.
Now let's talk about York, who has one of the biggest legs in this year's draft class. He went 54-for-66 on field goals in his three years at LSU. Most impressively, he made a whopping 15 kicks from 50 or more yards. York's 57-yarder in 2020 is the longest field goal in LSU history, and he's considered the top kicker in this year's draft, according to Pro Football Network.
Could it be possible that Cleveland gets both Ohio State WR Wilson & Olave? If Olave should drop, would there be an advantage to get teammates that played together, won together? — Thomas B., Maricopa, Arizona
Never say never, but it's not considered likely that either player makes it to the middle of the second round, where the Browns hold their second pick. Wilson has been projected as high as a top-10 selection while Olave has been regularly pegged as high as the Browns at No. 13 and largely in the second half of the first round.
Additionally, you have to go all the way back to 1984 to see the last time the Browns used their first two picks on the same position (safeties Don Rogers and Chris Rockins). Since that time, the Browns have used their first two picks on three occasions to address the same position region. For example, in 2011, the Browns used their first pick on DT Phil Taylor and their second on DE Jabaal Sheard. In 2007, they drafted CB Joe Haden in the first round and S T.J. Ward in the second.