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Browns signing WR Jerry Jeudy to three-year extension worth up to $58 million

Jerry Jeudy's trade to Cleveland set him up for quite a prove-it season with a new team and quarterback collectively carrying the weight of great expectations into 2024.

Well, it did until Tuesday. Instead of allowing Jeudy to prove he was worth a long-term investment, the Browns signed Jeudy to a three-year extension before he played a single snap with the team. NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday that Jeudy's extension is worth up to $58 million, including $41 million fully guaranteed at signing.

The extension is general manager Andrew Berry's demonstration of confidence in Jeudy's potential, which to this point Jeudy has not realized in his career. The 15th-overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft has flashed potential in his four seasons, but he has also struggled to either remain available due to injury, or just disappeared from the action during games. One can easily explain away the latter by pointing to Denver's quarterback situation -- which wasn't great when Jeudy arrived and remains in flux after the two-year trial with Russell Wilson flopped -- but it's also fair to wonder whether Jeudy simply isn't as good as most believed.

In signing the 24-year-old Jeudy -- who turns 25 in April -- to such a deal, Berry is clearly banking on the former.

"When we acquired Jerry via trade this spring, it was with the vision that he would become a core member of our offense in 2024 and beyond," Berry said in a statement released by the team. "He is a scheme-versatile receiver with high-level ability to separate against man coverage and a diverse number of ways to produce on the perimeter or in the slot.

"We felt that the ability to add a passionate and competitive player with his combination of strengths would be an important component of our offense now and into the future. At 24-years-old and just entering his prime, we are pleased to have Jerry as a member of the Browns for the next several seasons and believe the best is yet to come."

Handing Jeudy $41 million before he's broken 1,000 receiving yards in a season even once in his career seems reckless. One can even go as far as suggesting the extension is a case of Berry doubling down on the low-risk trade he made to acquire Jeudy earlier in March, almost as if the GM was confirming his move preemptively.

But the financials of this situation could make Berry look like a savvy GM in hindsight. This is, of course, nothing more than mathematical theorizing, but in cases such as this, extensions usually allow a general manager to push financial compensation into future years in return for immediate flexibility, something a contender like the Browns value more now than the risk of possibly wasting millions on an underperforming receiver.

The maximum value of $58 million means Jeudy will have to hit every incentive (plus possible associated roster bonuses) included in this deal, the details of which are not yet public. The more important number at this point is the guaranteed $41 million, which when spread over three years makes for an average of $13.66 million per year, landing him below the likes of Jeudy's former teammate, Courtland Sutton, and slightly ahead of new Falcons receiver Darnell Mooney and new Jaguars wideout Gabe Davis.

Mooney has one 1,000-yard receiving season to his name. In the last two seasons, he hasn't broken 500 yards. Davis' production in 2022 and 2023, meanwhile, looks similar to that of Jeudy -- and he produced those numbers while playing with star quarterback Josh Allen, while Jeudy was left with Wilson and Jarrett Stidham.

If Jeudy ever truly flirts with his potential while playing in a receiving corps headlined by Amari Cooper and buttressed by Elijah Moore, he'll be worth $13.66 million per year. And he can earn more by exceeding the low expectations that followed him to Cleveland.

If that all happens, Berry will look like a genius. And if Berry has structured the contract properly, the downside might not be as dreadful as most assume when viewing the deal at face value.

Time will ultimately tell, of course. But Berry is once again demonstrating the Browns are in it to win now, and willing to face criticism for taking big swings ahead of a pivotal 2024 season.

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