Report: Joe Schobert Won't Be Back in Cleveland in 2020
Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com is reporting, citing a source, that linebacker Joe Schobert will hit the free agent market and will not return to the Cleveland Browns for this upcoming season. Andrew Berry, the team's general manager said he would be meeting with Schobert's representation at the NFL Scouting Combine. Per her report, Schobert was looking for $10 million per year and the Browns are unwilling to pay it. The source suggests the Browns are saving their money for offensive line help in free agency.
Whether this is a ploy by Cabot's source, likely Schobert's agent to use the public to try to put pressure on the team to meet their demands is unclear. Free agency doesn't begin until March 18th and the window is still open for the Browns to potentially tag Schobert and obviously they could revisit the issue before he gets to free agency. One last possibility is the Browns will let Schobert get his best offer and then decide if they want to match it.
Schobert has expressed an interest in staying with Cleveland. Berry has stated that Schobert is a good player, but a better person, which would seemingly fit with where this team is heading. Free agency and this year's draft class don't immediately offer any obvious replacements outside of Isaiah Simmons, the linebacker out of Clemson, though he's not a middle linebacker and it's not a given he'll last to the Browns pick, currently sitting at 10th.
Sione Takitaki could also be the team's middle linebacker next year, which seemed to be what he was drafted to do when John Dorsey selected him in the third round last year. The Browns would still have a substantial hole as they got nothing out of their weak side linebacker last season. Schobert could be a great fit there as well, though the team may not feel comfortable paying him $10 million per season to move there.
The figure itself seems pretty benign. Schobert's play, which has included trips to the Pro Bowl, seems worth it. His leadership on the field, his steady presence in the locker room and his consistency also seem worth that figure.
One last thing to consider is the fact there has been next to no free agent movement to this point as teams in particular are waiting for the collective bargaining agreement to be figured out, which could dramatically change the landscape for contracts. All teams are waiting, which has led to a lot of reports suggesting player movement which may be premature. Jeff Darlington of ESPN, for example, is reporting that Tom Brady is telling people close to him that he won't be in New England next season. The Patriots, meanwhile, are non-commital on anything, waiting on the CBA to be ratified.
It's certainly a possibility that Schobert won't be a Cleveland Brown next year and it's possible that Berry said as much to Schobert's agent. However, given the timing of the reporting and the holding pattern the entire league seems to be in, it might just be the opening salvo from his agent in negotiations.