Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are only remaining true offensive guards on the roster after Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Malcolm Pridgen opted out of playing this season amid COVID-19 concerns leaving EVP and GM Andrew Berry with a pretty important hole to fill.
“I know with the opt outs at that position, it is certainly something that we will continue to look at,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said Friday during a Zoom video conference call with reporters.
Forbes and Teller were expected to compete for the starting right guard job, which is now Teller’s to lose by default as camp nears Phase 2 next Friday.
The Browns also need depth at the position with practices finally beginning in a week and the first in pads a week from Monday, they need bodies.
“I would not put it that way. I think we need good players,” Stefanski said. “I think Andrew and his staff are going to work really hard at all of these positions. If we should have a need somewhere, we want to get a good player in here. We want to make sure that we are bringing guys in who have a chance to develop.”
Berry is also likely to search for interior defensive line help to mitigate the los of defensive tackle Andrew Billings, who signed a one-year deal as a free agent in March but opted out this past week.
The Browns had the second most players opt out – five – leaguewide. Offensive tackle Drake Dorbeck was the fifth player that chose to opt out. The Patriots led the league with eight players electing to sit out this season.
Stefanski replied “No” when asked if he felt Beckham might choose to sit out. “My conversations with him have been very positive.”
Beckham appeared to be a prime candidate to do so based on comments he made in a YouTube conversation with Cam Newton and during an interview with the Wall Street Journal that was published Monday but took place two weeks earlier in which he questioned the wisdom of trying to play during a global pandemic.
Mayfield has since said he plans to join teammates in kneeling during the national anthem this season in solidarity.
“I am proud of all of our guys that have done the research, have educated themselves and have been very thoughtful about their actions and about their words, and Baker certainly fits into that category – someone who is passionate – but he has listened before doing,” Stefanski said. “I just think that is so important. Social justice is something that we are going to constantly as a team talk about.
“We have formed a social justice committee. We are going to make sure that we are all talking and listening to each other and then ultimately doing. Baker is a great example of that. Just all in all, I have just been so impressed with our guys understanding the change that they can affect throughout this offseason, and it is going to continue through this season.”
Players will be off Saturday and return to work Sunday where they will continue Phase 1 strength and conditioning sessions as a full team for the first time. They had been running morning and afternoon split-squad sessions for safety reasons.
Also, on Sunday, at least in the morning, in-person meetings will begin between coaches and players. Meeting rooms have been expanded or retrofitted to allow for safe social distancing. The afternoon/evening meetings will remain virtual for now.