2013 NFL Offseason: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns (Last Year: 5-11)

2013 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Brian Hoyer, QB Jason Campbell, RB Dion Lewis, WR Davone Bess, WR David Nelson, TE Kellen Davis, TE Gary Barnidge, OT Rashad Butler, DT Desmond Bryant, DE/OLB Paul Kruger, DE/OLB Quentin Groves, CB Chris Owens, K Shayne Graham.
Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo, CB Leon McFadden. Browns Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Colt McCoy, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, TE Ben Watson, DE Frostee Rucker, DE Juqua Parker-Thomas, DE/OLB Emmanuel Acho, OLB Chris Gocong, OLB Kaluka Maiava, CB Sheldon Brown, S Usama Young, K Phil Dawson, P Reggie Hodges, KR Joshua Cribbs.

2013 Cleveland Browns Offense:
The Browns would have a pretty solid offense, but there are a few things wrong with it. They have a geriatric, yet inexperienced and mistake-prone quarterback. They have an injury-prone running back who looked sluggish during his rookie campaign despite being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. They have a receiver who drops tons of passes because he can’t concentrate. And they also have an offensive line with a glaring hole in it. Just a few things wrong, as mentioned.

Beginning with the first item, Brandon Weeden completed just 57.4 percent of his passes, generated a poor YPA of 6.5 and maintained a touchdown-to-turnover ratio of 14-to-18. He will be celebrating his 30th birthday in October – and he might be doing so as a reserve. New general manager Michael Lombardi has made it known that he’s not a fan of Weeden’s whatsoever. Weeden was chosen by the previous regime; if either Jason Campbell or Brian Hoyer outplays the aging signal-caller in training camp and preseason, Lombardi could easily dump him and go with one of the guys he brought in. Regardless, it’s going to be a disastrous situation for Cleveland. Weeden doesn’t fit Rob Chudzinski’s offense, while neither Campbell nor Hoyer is any good.

It’d be nice if the Weeden-Campbell-Hoyer winner had a strong ground attack to work with, but that would require Trent Richardson staying healthy and living up to expectations. Thus far, Richardson has done neither. He was hurt all last year and consequently gained just 3.6 yards per carry, though he did catch 51 balls. Richardson will reportedly miss a portion of training camp because of yet another leg malady. These stacking injuries will continue to sap Richardson of his explosiveness. The Raiders experienced something similar with Darren McFadden.

The Browns have one solid receiver. Josh Gordon, taken in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft in what was a rare quality move by Mike Holmgren, flashed as a rookie, catching 50 balls for 805 yards and five touchdowns. He finished on a hot streak and should be able to carry that over into 2013 – as soon as he’s done serving his two-game suspension, that is. Unfortunately, that’s about it in terms of reliable returning Cleveland wideouts. The aforementioned, drop-happy receiver is Greg Little; outside of T.Y. Hilton, who was always trying to haul in deep bombs, no wideout dropped nine or more passes while seeing fewer than 100 targets in 2012 – except for Little.

Cleveland also has Davone Bess, whom it acquired from Miami in exchange for a swap of mid-round selections. Bess will actually be a safe slot target for whichever quarterback wins the job. Another intermediate option will be Jordan Cameron, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll be. Chosen in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Cameron has tons of potential, but has yet to put it together mentally, catching just 20 passes for 226 yards last year. With Ben Watson gone, Cleveland will be counting on Cameron this season.

The Browns will also need an interior lineman to step up. Left guard Shawn Lauvao, who is in the lineup because Jason Pinkston has a blood clot in his lung, needs to play much better in 2013 because he was awful as a replacement last season. There’s a chance Pinkston could make it back, but there’s no telling if that situation could reoccur.

The rest of Cleveland’s blockers are pretty solid. The line is anchored by Joe Thomas, arguably the top left tackle in the league. Alex Mack is a stud center, while right tackle Mitchell Schwartz shined as a rookie at right tackle. Right guard John Greco wasn’t a starter until given the opportunity in Week 6, but he took full advantage of it, dominating the opposition when he was on the field.

2013 Cleveland Browns Defense:
The Browns had a miserable offense, but were able to lose just four games by more than 10 points because their defense kept them competitive. With that in mind, conventional wisdom would say that the front office shouldn’t have messed with this side of the ball too much during the offseason. Well, Michael Lombardi doesn’t think conventionally. Lombardi came in and decided to completely revamp his defense, shifting to a 3-4 look despite having 4-3 personnel. Decision-makers who choose scheme over personnel almost always get fired quickly, and Lombardi is not likely to be any different. After all, two of his better players, Jabaal Sheard and Ahtyba Rubin, are completely lost in this new system.

Lombardi had to spend resources on replacements for Sheard and Rubin as a consequence. He paid tons of money to Baltimore’s Paul Kruger and then used the sixth-overall selection in April’s draft on Barkevious Mingo. Both of these acquisitions could easily flop. Lombardi should’ve had some reservations about paying $41 million over five years to a guy with only seven career starts. What if Kruger was just a flash in the pan last year? And then there’s Mingo, who barely did anything at LSU this past fall. He mailed in some games as well. He should not have been a top-10 selection.

As for Rubin’s replacement, Lombardi also spent lots of money (5 years, $34 million) on former Raider Desmond Bryant, who played very well at times in Oakland. However, Bryant has no experience in the 3-4. He projects well there, but it’s unknown how he’ll perform until the actual games begin. Bryant will start on the defensive line with natural nose tackle Phil Taylor and the winner of the Rubin-Billy Winn battle. Both Winn and Rubin did a decent job of stuffing the run last year, but neither helped much in terms of getting to the quarterback.

Sheard and Rubin aren’t the only Cleveland players not happy about the 3-4 move. Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson struggled when the Browns utilized that formation in the past. He’ll be stuck in it again next to Craig Robertson, who did not play well at all last year. Young players like Tank Carder, James-Michael Johnson or L.J. Fort could challenge for that job.

An area that the Browns neglected this offseason was the cornerback position. They’re set on one side with stud Joe Haden, who would’ve been a Pro Bowler had he not missed a few games with a suspension. However, the No. 2 job is completely up for grabs with Sheldon Brown no longer on the team. Third-round rookie Leon McFadden and the pedestrian Chris Owens will compete for the job, while the heavily penalized Buster Skrine will reprise his role as the slot corner.

The safety position is in a similar situation, as Cleveland has one strong player there accompanied by a weak one. T.J. Ward had an awesome 2012 campaign in all facets of the game, but his running mate, Usama Young, is gone. This means that Tashaun Gipson is expected to start at free safety. Gipson started just one game last year, but did not perform well.

2013 Cleveland Browns Schedule and Intangibles:
The Dawg Pound is just not an intimidating place to play. Since their expansion year in 1999, the Browns are a dreadful 41-71 as hosts (14-26 the past five seasons).

Phil Dawson was awesome this past season, but he signed with the 49ers. Shayne Graham, who went 31-of-38 with Houston last year, was signed to take over.

Punter Reggie Hodges has never been the same since his torn Achilles. He was replaced this offseason with someone named Spencer Lanning.

Joshua Cribbs is gone as well, so the Browns will have to find a new return specialist. They’ll also have to figure out how to get better at defending punt take-backs.

Here are some of the winnable games Cleveland has on its schedule: Miami (home), Bills (home), Lions (home), Chiefs (road), Jaguars (home) and Jets (road).

2013 Cleveland Browns Rookies:
Go here for the Browns Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2013 Cleveland Browns Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2013 Cleveland Browns Analysis: The Browns showed progress last year. They were actually competitive, which was quite shocking for their fans. Unfortunately, Michael Lombardi appears to have sabotaged any progress they have made. This might be for the greater, long-term good, but Cleveland is going to be dreadful for quite a while.

Projection: 3-13 (4th in AFC North)

2013 Fantasy Football Rankings

More 2013 NFL Season Previews


2013 NFL Draft Grade: C-

Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.

Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: Cleveland has a new regime, and based on Michael Lombardi’s decision to go with scheme over personnel, this franchise will likely be looking for a new front office in a few years. The only way Lombardi can keep his job long-term is if he finds a franchise quarterback. Elsewhere, the interior offensive and secondary are the two areas that must be addressed. If the Browns don’t like Geno Smith, they must trade out of the No. 6 pick.

2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Scheme over personnel never works. Cleveland fans saw it fail with Romeo Crennel recently, and it’s capsized other franchises countless times elsewhere. The Browns had a very solid defense last year that kept the team in a lot of games. Despite this, Lombardi came in and decided to move to a 3-4, which meant that two of the stop unit’s better players, Jabaal Sheard and Ahtyba Rubin, were no longer good fits. This is why the Lombardi regime will ultimately fail.

Barkevious Mingo was chosen No. 6 overall because of the poor Sheard fit. Mingo will start across from Paul Kruger and will probably struggle in the early going. He was dreadful this past season and completely quit at times. He was definitely a reach at No. 6; he probably should have gone in the early teens just based purely on potential.

None of Cleveland’s other picks scored higher than a “B”. Nothing really stood out, and it’s inexplicable that a potential starting quarterback wasn’t added. That’s just inexcusable.

Given their selections and scheme change, the Browns are worse now than they were at the end of the 2012 season. That’s why I’m giving them a bad grade.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

6. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU: C- Grade
I guess 2012 tape doesn’t matter for the Browns. Barkevious Mingo was awful this past season and flat out quit in some games. Mingo doesn’t even fill a real need unless Jabaal Sheard is dealt, which is confusing in itself because Sheard was one of the top defenders on the Browns last year. You also have to wonder what the Browns are going to do at quarterback. Michael Lombardi has a dubious draft history, and it doesn’t seem like he’s off to a good start.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

68. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State: B- Grade
This is a bit early for the 5-foot-9 Leon McFadden, but the Browns were desperate for cornerback help across from Joe Haden. It’s hard to argue this selection too much considering how badly Cleveland needed an upgrade at the position.

175. Jamoris Slaughter, S, Notre Dame: B- Grade
The Browns had to find some competition for the safety spot next to T.J. Ward. This is a slight reach for Jamoris Slaughter, but that’s not that big of a deal in the sixth round.

217. Armonty Bryant, DE/OLB, East Central Oklahoma: B Grade
Armonty Bryant possesses good talent, but he also has character issues. He was arrested during football practice once for selling drugs. He might be worth the risk in the seventh round.

227. Garrett Gilkey, OT, Chadron State: B- Grade
Tackle depth wasn’t a priority for the Browns, but it doesn’t hurt. Garrett Gilkey was considered a Round 6-7 prospect.

Season Summary:
It seems like the Browns bring in a new coach every couple of years. They’re beginning anew again, firing Pat Shurmur after just two seasons. Perhaps this franchise should look at the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals, who have maintained a combined five coaches since 2003. There’s a reason those three teams consistently make the playoffs, while the Browns continuously pick in the top 10 of the NFL Draft almost every April. Cleveland needs stability.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign QB Brian Hoyer
  • Raiders sign KR Joshua Cribbs
  • Browns sign OT Rashad Butler
  • Browns acquire WR Davone Bess from Dolphins for mid-round swaps
  • Browns sign K Shayne Graham
  • Eagles acquire DE/OLB Emmanuel Acho from Browns for RB Dion Lewis
  • Raiders sign S Usama Young
  • Browns sign WR David Nelson
  • Jaguars sign WR Mohamed Massaquoi
  • Browns cut S Usama Young
  • Browns cut OLB Chris Gocong
  • 49ers acquire QB Colt McCoy from Browns
  • Browns sign QB Jason Campbell
  • Browns sign CB Chris Owens
  • Browns sign TE Kellen Davis
  • Cardinals sign DE Frostee Rucker
  • 49ers sign K Phil Dawson
  • Saints sign TE Ben Watson
  • Browns sign TE Gary Barnidge
  • Browns sign DE/OLB Quentin Groves
  • Browns re-sign RB Chris Ogbonnaya
  • Raiders sign OLB Kaluka Maiava
  • Browns sign DT Desmond Bryant
  • Browns sign DE/OLB Paul Kruger
  • Browns cut DE Frostee Rucker

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Brandon Weeden will turn 30 in October. Nice first-round pick, Holmgren. Cleveland desperately needs a franchise quarterback that the team has never had since its return to the NFL in 1999. The Browns missed out on Robert Griffin, and now there aren’t any worthy signal-callers to draft this April. Signed Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer

    2. Rush Linebacker: Jabaal Sheard led the team in sacks with only seven. Juqua Parker-Thomas was next with six, and he’ll be a 35-year-old free agent this offseason. Cleveland desperately needs rush linebacker help. Damontre Moore is the no-brainer pick if he’s available at No. 6 overall this April. Signed Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves; drafted Barkevious Mingo

    3. Cornerback: Sheldon Brown is a 34-year-old free agent, so Cleveland will need to find young blood across from Joe Haden. Buster Skrine is too heavily penalized to be relied upon as a starter. Signed Chris Owens; drafted Leon McFadden

    4. Right Guard: The Browns had issues at both guard positions, but John Greco handled himself well since replacing Jason Pinkston in October. Right guard Shawn Lauvao, however, was the weak link on an otherwise solid offensive line.

    5. Wide Receiver: Rookie Josh Gordon improved as the year went on, but Greg Little kept dropping passes. Little is too unreliable, so the front office should bring in some competition for him. Traded for Davone Bess; signed David Nelson

    6. Defensive End: The front office will have to add some new personnel to make their new 3-4 defense work. Signed Desmond Bryant

    7. Inside Linebacker: Cleveland could use an upgrade at linebacker with Chris Gocong coming off a torn Achilles. D’Qwell Jackson might move over to the weakside position if the front office selects Manti Te’o in the 2013 NFL Draft.

    8. Tight End: Second-year tight end Jordan Cameron possesses potential, but he didn’t show anything last year. He’ll get a chance with Ben Watson likely gone, but Cleveland needs to bring in someone else to challenge him. Signed Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge

    9. Fullback: The Browns were so desperate for a fullback this year that they converted Alex Smith from a tight end into one.

    10. Kicker: Phil Dawson needs to be re-signed. Signed Shayne Graham

    11. Punter: Reggie Hodges also needs to be re-signed.

    2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Paul Kruger, DE/OLB, Ravens. Age: 27.
      Signed with Browns (5 years, $41 million)

      Paul Kruger notched nine sacks during the regular season and then three more against the Colts in the playoffs. He also was solid in coverage.

    2. Desmond Bryant, DT, Raiders. Age: 27.
      Signed with Browns (5 years, $34 million)

      Desmond Bryant served as a solid interior pass-rusher after Richard Seymour was lost for the year. Excluding Lamarr Houston, no other Raider defensive lineman was better at applying pressure on the quarterback, though that’s not saying much.

    3. Shayne Graham, K, Texans. Age: 35.
      Signed with Browns

      Shayne Graham was a decent 31-of-38 last year with 4-of-9 from 50-plus.

    4. David Nelson, WR, Bills. Age: 26.
      Signed with Browns

      David Nelson caught 61 passes for 658 yards in his second season back in 2011. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the opening week this year. He should be ready for kickoff weekend of 2013.

    5. Jason Campbell, QB, Bears. Age: 31. — Signed with Browns (2 years)
    6. Brian Hoyer, QB, Cardinals. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (2 years)
    7. Christopher Owens, CB, Falcons. Age: 26. — Signed with Browns
    8. Kellen Davis, TE, Bears. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns
    9. Quentin Groves, DE/OLB, Cardinals. Age: 29. — Signed with Browns (2 years, $2.8 million)
    10. Rashad Butler, OT, Texans. Age: 30. — Signed with Browns
    11. Gary Barnidge, TE, Panthers. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (3 years)

    Cleveland Browns Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Phil Dawson, K, Browns. Age: 38.
      Signed with 49ers

      Phil Dawson showed no signs of his age this past season, nailing 29-of-31 attempts, including a perfect 7-of-7 from 50-plus.

    2. Sheldon Brown, CB, Browns. Age: 34.
      Sheldon Brown is coming off a great year, serving as a terrific starter across from Joe Haden. He also held his own when Haden was out of the lineup. Unfortunately, he turns 34 in March, so his best days are behind him.

    3. Joshua Cribbs, KR, Browns. Age: 30.
      Signed with Raiders

      Joshua Cribbs maintained decent return averages in 2012, but he has just one special-teams touchdown in the past three years. He’ll be 30 in June.

    4. Juqua Parker-Thomas, DE, Browns. Age: 35.
      Juqua Parker-Thomas served as a solid situational pass-rusher for the Browns, registering six sacks. He’ll be 35 in May, however.

    5. Kaluka Maiava, OLB, Browns. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders (3 years, $6 million)

      Kaluka Maiava started games at both strongside and weakside linebacker this year. He handled himself pretty well as a two-down player.

    6. Ben Watson, TE, Browns. Age: 32.
      Signed with Saints

      Ben Watson’s best days are behind him. He caught 49 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.

    7. Frostee Rucker, DE, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    8. Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
    9. Usama Young, S, Browns. Age: 28. — Signed with Raiders
    10. Chris Gocong, OLB, Browns. Age: 29.
    11. Chis Ogbonnaya (RFA), RB, Browns. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Browns (2 years)
    12. Reggie Hodges, P, Browns. Age: 31.
    13. Ray Ventrone, S/ST, Browns. Age: 30.
    14. Alex Smith, FB/TE, Browns. Age: 31.
    15. Scott Fujita, OLB, Browns. Age: 34. — Announced retirement
    16. Brandon Jackson, RB, Browns. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Browns

    2013 NFL Free Agent Positions:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades

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