Jack Conklin wanted to be wanted.
The Browns wanted him to be their right tackle and landed him with a three-year, $42 million contract.
“I’m pumped to get started and be a part of this great organization,” Conklin said Friday in a news release. “Going through the process, Cleveland definitely became what I felt as the main suitor. To have a team like Cleveland be so excited about me, that was the biggest part for me and my family. We wanted to go somewhere where a team was super excited and that was going to be a huge key to help the team and be a big part of the community.”
The Browns began to announce signings Friday after the players were able to pass physicals remotely and the deals became official. Players are forbidden by the NFL from visiting team facilities because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The signings of tight end Austin Hooper and linebacker B.J. Goodson and the trade for fullback Andy Janovich were also announced.
Conklin, 25, and Hooper, 25, agreed to deals Monday, shortly after the free agent negotiation period started. They are the prizes of a productive week for first-time general manager Andrew Berry.
Conklin, the No. 8 pick in 2016 by the Titans, was a first-team All-Pro as a rookie. He started every game in 2016, ’17 and ’19 but was limited by injuries in 2018.
“He’s a really smart, tough football player,” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “From what I have heard about him and talked to former coaches and teammates, he’s all about ball. I think he’s going to really fit in with that offensive line group led by Coach (Bill) Callahan. I think those guys are the pulse of your football team, the guys up front on the offensive and defensive lines.
“I think Jack represents everything we want to be as a team.”
— Jack Conklin (@Jack_Conklin78) March 21, 2020
The Browns have left guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter returning but need a starting left tackle — they’re widely projected to draft one with the No. 10 pick in April — and may try to upgrade from Wyatt Teller at right guard.
“When you’re talking about being a productive offense, certainly you have to play in a cohesive manner from the front to the back,” Stefanski said. “Adding pieces along the offensive front really allows you to do different things schematically, and Jack’s a big piece of that.”
Hooper signed a four-year, $42 million contract and will take on the dual roles of receiver and blocker. He made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons with the Falcons, setting career highs in 2019 with 75 catches, 787 yards and six touchdowns.
“The nature of the position is block someone 40 pounds heavier than you or outrun someone 40 pounds lighter than you,” he said. “It’s a position that definitely takes some time but I definitely feel like I’ve gotten a lot better in terms of timing my routes and in terms of just stemming into certain routes, and finer details and points of route running.
“And in terms of line of scrimmage, I’ve honestly just grown into my body and just understanding leverage at a different level because some of the best athletes on the field are typically those guys on the edge. They present a good challenge week in and week out.”
Hooper was a third-round pick of the Falcons out of Stanford in 2016. He’s started 28 of 59 games, with 214 receptions for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“I’m really excited to add Austin into the fold,” Stefanski said. “I just think his skill set fits so perfectly in what we want to be offensively. He’s a very smart young man.
“You can see in the way they’ve used him over the years in Atlanta, he’s got a legit skill set in all areas of the field. Had a ton of production and just excited to add the person and the player.”
Hooper (6-foot-4, 254 pounds) joins an offense led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
“I’m really excited. Coach Stefanski, from what I’ve heard about him, I just really valued his coaching style and schematically it matches what I’ve been asked to do before in the past, so hopefully it’s a smooth transition,” Hooper said. “And the amount of talent on this team, it just really excites me.”
He’s expected to join David Njoku in the two-tight end sets Stefanski likes to employ.
“Versatility is a big word for us when it comes to our offensive attack,” Stefanski said. “To have multiple tight ends allows you to do so many different things.”