Packers Lose OL JC Tretter to Browns

Packers utility lineman JC Tretter has agreed to a deal with the Cleveland Browns.

A fourth round pick in the 2013 draft, Tretter has filled in as a guard and center over his four years in Green Bay, starting ten games during his career. However, Tretter’s potential was also limited by injuries, which shortened or completely eliminated three of his four seasons so far.  

  • 2016 season recap verdict: Met high expectations
  • Tretter’s contract with Cleveland: 3 years, $16.75 million ($10 million guaranteed)
  • Green Bay's projected compensatory pick range: 4th round or 5th round
  • The Packers next play the Browns: 2017 in Cleveland

A cerebral, athletic player, Tretter has steadily improved year over year. A tight end and tackle in college, he found a home on the interior of the Packers’ line. He rebounded from a leg injury that cost him his whole rookie season to win the starting center job in 2014, only only to see another injury send him to the sidelines again shortly before the season opener.

When finally healthy, Tretter was a spot starter and backup at three interior line spots in 2015, and filled in well for the Packers in relief of Corey Linsley, who missed the early portion of the 2016 season. Through the first seven games of last season, Tretter was one of the top rated centers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

How Tretter’s signing helps the Browns

Cleveland entered free agency with $102 million in cap space, the most of any team in the NFL. Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote this week that it’s a priority for Cleveland to “beef up the protection for whoever plays quarterback.”

The Browns allowed 17 more sacks than the next closest team in 2016, and fired offensive line coach Hal Hunter. New coach Bob Wylie will be keen to work with Tretter, who will be the team’s starting center in 2017. Ironically, Wylie started his coaching career at Tretter’s Ivy League rival Brown.

Tretter will probably be tapped to fill one of the interior line spots, most likely center. The Browns were stung by the loss of center Alex Mack to the Browns last offseason, and Tretter would provide a capable replacement for the All-Pro.

If possible, should the Packers have matched this contract?

NFL personnel told Bob McGinn before free agency began that Tretter’s a valuable commodity. “I think he gets somewhere in that $5 to $6.5 (million per year) range,” they said. “Last year Ben Jones got $17.5 million (over four years) to sign (with Tennessee). JC Tretter is a much better player than Ben Jones.”

Tretter is a good center, but a luxury. Corey Linsley is at least a comparable player, and may be better in some respects. Paying a premium for depth at center is not an ideal allocation of resources.

Does Tretter leaving help or hurt the Packers?

In the short-term, Tretter’s departure hurts the Packers’ depth at offensive line. His ability to play guard made him a potential replacement if fellow free agent T.J. Lang departed.

If Ted Thompson and the Packers front office is serious about re-signing T.J. Lang, Tretter’s departure heightens their efforts.

Green Bay will most likely look to the draft and undrafted free agency to re-build their interior offensive line. Center Corey Linsley and guard Lane Taylor will return in 2017, but depth is needed even if Lang re-signs.

In the long-term, if Corey Linsley is capable of playing center at a high-level, Tretter leaving for greener pastures may be the least felt loss in this year’s free agent class.