The Browns spent an entire training camp and four preseason games getting a close look at multiple candidates for their open starting right guard position, but a late arrival could flip the entire battle on its side.
Cleveland acquired guard Wyatt Teller and a seventh-round pick from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for two late-round draft picks Thursday, adding an unexpected variable to what seemed to be a solidified position.
Interior linemen Eric Kush, Austin Corbett and Kyle Kalis spent a healthy portion of training camp battling for the right guard position left open for the taking after Kevin Zeitler was dealt to New York in the offseason. Kush eventually emerged as the leader, earning starts at the position in the first three preseason games. He was more consistent than the others in camp, which mostly carried over to the games as well, but his role as a starter hasn't been locked in for the long-term.
Teller's acquisition seemed to signal that, as did head coach Freddie Kitchens' evaluation of Teller on Friday.
"Anytime he goes in the game, he brings a toughness to it, I think he plays with good technique most of the time and I think he gives us some depth at the position in the short-term," Kitchens said of Teller.
The mention of short-term leaves open the possibility of Teller ascending to the starting role. After all, the second-year lineman started in Buffalo's final seven games of last season as a rookie, and a trade at this stage isn't made solely for depth.
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Teller can't take over the job immediately, though, because of the obvious: He needs to learn the team's system and acclimate as quickly as possible. Still, though, Kitchens left open the possibility that he could eventually win the role.
"Eric is our right guard as we speak, but we haven't even had Wyatt on the field yet," Kitchens said Friday. "My first inkling would be to say yes, but we haven't seen [Teller] on the field yet. We still have four practices to get through. We will see where it all goes. Even though training camp has ended, there is always competition. There is always going to be competition while I am here. I think you get the most out of everybody when you run it that way."
When the Browns made the blockbuster deal that included shipping out Zeitler, it was assumed Corbett would compete for and eventually win the open job. Kush's signing, which was seen more as a depth and competition addition, and eventual rise to the starting lineup was a pleasant surprise. He'll have a new teammate to compete with in Teller, who passed his physical and is "good to go," per Kitchens.
Kitchens' line about competition isn't hot air. Browns general manager John Dorsey has proven with his actions that he is constantly churning the bottom third of the Browns' roster in an effort to assemble the best 53-man roster possible. We've already seen a flurry of moves during camp, all the way up to the final hours before the last preseason game.
Four practices is a short time for a lineman to get acclimated, but it's not impossible. It's a situation we should continue to monitor, because the Browns won't stop until they're fully satisfied with each position on the field.