TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Before throwing money around in free agency, the Browns tossed some big bucks at one of their own.
Cleveland signed left guard Joel Bitonio to a five-year contract extension on Thursday, locking up a player they feel can help their climb from a new low point following a 1-15 season.
Financial terms on Bitonio’s deal were not immediately disclosed.
Although Bitonio’s past two seasons have been cut short by injuries, the Browns view him as one of the NFL’s best young interior linemen. With Bitonio and Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, the Browns are at least set on the left side of their offensive line.
There are plenty of other holes and the Browns are expected to address a few of them when the free agency-signing period opens at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Cleveland is nearly $102 million under the salary cap and the Browns have been aggressive over the past few days in lining up deals.
Wide receiver is a pressing need and the Browns have targeted veteran Kenny Britt, who played for the Los Angeles Rams last season. A former first-round pick, the 28-year-old Britt caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns last season.
The Browns are also considering re-signing Terrelle Pryor, the former quarterback who gained 1,007 yards in his first full season at receiver and was one of Cleveland’s only positives in 2016.
Pryor’s agents met with Cleveland’s front office last week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, but the sides have been unable to secure a deal.
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