Andrew Berry to talk contract with Joe Schobert’s agents at NFL Combine

Browns EVP/GM has multiple business decisions to make in the coming weeks

Daryl Ruiter
February 25, 2020 - 4:32 pm
Andrew Berry Cleveland Browns

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (92.3 The Fan) – Andrew Berry and the Browns hope to keep linebacker Joe Schobert.

And they hope that it is not too late to do so.

Schobert, selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, has developed into one of the smartest players in the league. A Pro Bowler in 2017 and a second alternate in 2019, keeping Schobert from free agency next month could be difficult.

“Joe is a good player and an even better person,” Berry said Tuesday. “We are going to spend some time with his representation this week to talk through his contractual situation. He's obviously earned the right to test market if he deems that appropriate. But it's one of those situations where we like Joe. It obviously has to work for both sides.

“It has to work for us from a cost perspective with our long-term roster strategy, and obviously it has to be a fit for Joe and his family as well.”

This is part of the price of constant change where the Browns are concerned.

Unfortunately, Berry, hired just last month, couldn’t begin talks with Schobert sooner. New head coach Kevin Stefanski, hired before Berry in January, hasn’t been able to meet with the linebacker face-to-face either.

“I think Joe’s a good football player,” Stefanski said. “I have not gotten a chance yet to get in front of him, as you can imagine, but I think from everybody that I’ve spoken to in the building about Joe the person, I think it’s A-plus-plus. So really looking forward to seeing how this whole process plays out, but this is free agency, so like Andrew mentioned earlier, it has to be both sides. I’ll just wait to see how this thing shakes out.”

Former general manager John Dorsey spoke multiple times with Schobert’s agents during the season but did not come close to reaching an agreement on an extension.

“That is one of the things that we believe at our core that we are going to be aggressive in engaging in pre-market extensions for players that we view as pillar players — long-term fits for the organization,” Berry said. “That does present it challenges, but those are challenges that we're going to have to face every year.”

Schobert is a tackling machine. He led the Browns with 133 tackles last season, and he led the NFL with 144 tackles in 2017.

Last season Schobert had a career-high four interceptions, broke up a career-high nine passes, forced two fumbles and recovered another.

Schobert isn’t the only business decision on Berry’s plate in the coming days and weeks.

Olivier Vernon’s $15.25 million price tag in the final year of his contract is likely too expensive. The Browns will have to decide to release, trade or restructure the defensive end.

“Obviously, Olivier, he didn't have the year that he'd hoped this past season,” Berry said. “We still think he's a good player and then we're going to work through all those situations with all players across our roster over the next couple weeks.”

Guard Eric Kush and receiver Rashard Higgins can also become free agents.

“We have done a really nice of staying in communication with the representation for all players that have expiring deals and we’re going to touch base with a number of them, Berry said. “I’m not going to get into any more specifics, but we believe in honest and direct communication and that’s something we’re going to continue over the next couple of weeks.”

Berry clearly has an idea what direction he wants to go in with some of those decisions, but not all of them.

“Some of the decisions are certainly easier than others, but we do have three weeks until the start of the new league year,” Berry said. “We are still working through others, so, short way to answer your question, there are some that we do think that we have a pretty strong resolution at this point, but we are still discussing matters.”