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How Greg Robinson and the Browns helped Germain Ifedi

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It’s less than two weeks until the legal tampering period begins, and fifteen days until the official start of NFL free agency, meaning fans are starting to see teams around the league start to reach contract agreements with their soon to be free agents. Tuesday it was reported that the Cleveland Browns had reached an agreement with Greg Robinson on a one year contract for 2019.

This may not immediately seem like it has a significant impact on the Seattle Seahawks, however, the Seahawks have a couple of decisions to make on their own offensive tackles this offseason, and this action by the Browns is likely to impact at least one of those choices. It was just last week that the Atlanta Falcons agreed to a three year contract with tackle Ty Sambrailo that will likely set the market for the services of George Fant should the team allow him to test free agency via an original round tender.

Robinson is a former first round pick, having been chosen second overall by the then St. Louis, but now Los Angeles Rams in 2014. However, Robinson quickly flamed out with the Rams before being traded to the Detroit Lions and then finding himself waived/injured before the end of his rookie contract.

In any case, Robinson signed with the Browns in June of last year, only to lose the starting left tackle position to Desmond Harrison, an undrafted free agent out of West Georgia. That might have been enough to discourage many, but Robinson persisted and kept with it, eventually taking over the starting tackle spot after Hue Jackson was fired and Gregg Williams made the switch at the position. Robinson played well enough down the stretch to earn the contract for 2019 worth up to $9M, and that leads directly to how Germain Ifedi fits into the picture.

As a 2016 first round draft pick, 2019 is set to be the final year on his rookie contract, however, the team will need to make a decision on the fifth year option it holds on Ifedi. Ifedi’s performance has been less than what many fans have desired, but per PFF’s grades he graded out similarly to how Robinson graded in 2018, and there are other metrics which put Ifedi’s performance ahead of Robinson.

So, some metrics have Ifedi better and some have Robinson better, and it’s important to keep in mind that Ifedi is two years younger, as he won’t turn 25 until this summer. That said, the fifth year option for first round tackles taken at pick eleven or later was $9.625M in 2018, and with the cap having increased, it is likely that the cost of the option for a first round tackle such as Ifedi will be in the $10.1-$10.2M range.

That’s the decision that the Seahawks front office will be forced to make between now and early May, however, there are several key factors that will figure in before a final decision is made. They’ll obviously take their time and wait to see how things play out with the market for offensive linemen in free agency, as well as to consider the relative lack of guarantees that come with the option. While a $10.1M price tag might seem excessive for Ifedi, as it would only be guaranteed for injury, if he does not perform well, the team can simply release or trade him with zero cap implications. The only way the team would be on the hook for that $10.1M price tag would be if he were to suffer a serious injury during the 2018 season that prevented him from passing a physical next offseason.

That said, my expectation has been and remains that the team is likely to exercise the fifth year option, and then if they deem him worthy of keeping around on an extension going forward can convert much of the $10.1M 2020 salary to signing bonus to defer the cap hit, while securing his services going forward. If they deem that he is not worth keeping around, then they can cut him after 2019 or let him leave as a free agent after 2020, whichever they deem more beneficial.

In any case, Robinson has now likely set a floor for Ifedi’s market, and with that floor not being very far away from what he would command on a fifth year option, this contract has not changed my opinion of the Ifedi situation one bit.