Jacob Phillips roster decision will be interesting for the Browns

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As the Cleveland Browns look toward narrowing their roster down to the initial 53-man group, the injury to linebacker Jacob Phillips could create an interesting decision.

Originally, reports were that Phillips would miss the rest of the regular season with a torn bicep. A clear-cut decision for the 2021 season for Phillips, as initially reported, would have led to Phillips being placed on the injured reserve list this week.

While the Browns were not due to make decisions to get down to an 80-man roster until Tuesday, they announced their five moves Monday afternoon.

Phillips was not one of them.

That leaves his 2021 season in question. Moving forward Cleveland has a few options with their second-year linebacker:

  • Place on injured reserve as a part of getting the roster down to a 53-man roster.

If the Browns take this route, Phillips would not be able to play this season even if he was healthy. The team could have kept him for this week to see how he is doing to give them more time to make their decision but decide this was the best route.

  • Release/trade him.

This is only noted here because it is, technically, an option but an unlikely one.

  • Phillips makes the initial 53-man roster then is placed on injured reserve.

This seems to be the most likely route but comes with a caution. First, the benefit here would be that the Browns could activate Phillips whenever he got healthy during the 2021 season. With all the talk of their hope for him this offseason, Cleveland seems to have high hopes for the former LSU linebacker.

There is still a caution. For the Browns to do this, they must cut or waive a player they would not have had to if Phillips was placed on injured reserve prior to the initial 53-man roster. The team would then wait a day, place Phillips on the injured reserve so he could return and then, likely, re-sign that player back to the roster.

The Browns did this a couple of years ago with LT Greg Robinson. Cleveland wanted to keep rookie Drew Forbes eligibility for the season. The Browns were able to pull it off but it is not without risks especially in 2021.

This version of the Browns has a lot of talented players on the roster. The team would like need to cut a veteran, instead of exposing a young player to waivers, with an understanding that they would sign him right back shortly thereafter. While there may be a handshake agreement, the two sides cannot negotiate this in advance.

As a team with big aspirations this season, Cleveland risks another team offering more money for whatever player they cut and plan to re-sign. A risky proposition but one that, as long as things go as planned, allows Phillips to return this season.

Is the linebacker worth that risk? We will find out over the next week.