Getty The Browns’ offensive line has been under fire this season.
The Cleveland Browns have signed multiple top assets at skill positions this offseason. Now the team is working to make sure they can protect those investments by strengthening the offensive line.
Offensive lineman Blake Hance will return to Cleveland after signing an exclusive rights free agent offer on Wednesday, April 13, according to the official NFL transaction cable. The Browns will pay him $825,000 in 2022, according to Spotrac.
Hance represents a significant signing for the Browns after his performance over the course of last season. Although he appears at guard, Hance filled in for Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin at the tackle positions on multiple occasions.
The utility lineman appeared in all 17 games for the Browns last year, winning starts in eight of those meetings. According to the Browns’ depth chart as it appears on ESPN.com, Hance enters the offseason as Wills’ backup at left tackle, though he’ll likely move around the line as needed again next year.
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An unlikely origin story landed Hance with the Browns in the playoffs
For a backup lineman who had never appeared on an NFL field prior to January 2021, Hance has an infamous origin story with the Browns.
A graduate of Northwestern, where he started on the offensive line his senior in 2018, Hance caught up with the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars the following year. However, he was never able to practice his way into a real game.
Hance was a blocker with no offensive line come the 2020 playoffs. Cleveland, making its first postseason appearance in 18 years, added Hance to help bolster an ailing offensive line. The Browns’ first postseason game in nearly two decades also happened to be the first time Hance played a snap as a professional.
Cleveland went on to demolish their AFC North Division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in that game by a score of 48-37, and Hance has been with the team ever since.
Hance will protect new QBs in Cleveland starting in 2022
While Cleveland’s offensive line won’t change much this offseason, the quarterbacks they’ll be protecting already have.
Baker Mayfield, who has been under center for nearly all of Hance’s pro career, including through the 2020 playoffs, appears about to leave. Mayfield requested a trade after the team held its initial meeting with former Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, whom the Browns eventually traded and later extended in a massive $230 million deal in March.
On Wednesday, Mayfield said publicly that he was misled and felt “disrespected” by the way management in Cleveland handled the situation. Trade talks for Mayfield are expected to intensify as the NFL Draft approaches, which is scheduled for two weeks from today.
The Browns also signed backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and former Steelers player Josh Dobbs, as Watson is expected to miss time early in the season due to a potential NFL suspension for off-the-field conduct.
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