2019 NFL Offseason: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns (Last Year: 7-8-1)

2019 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Garrett Gilbert, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Odell Beckham Jr., TE Demetrius Harris, OT Kendall Lamm, G Eric Kush, DE Olivier Vernon, DT Sheldon Richardson, OLB Adarius Taylor, S Morgan Burnett.
Draft Picks:
CB Greedy Williams, LB Sione Takitaki, S/CB Sheldrick Redwine, LB Mack Wilson, K Austin Seibert. Browns Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Breshad Perriman, TE Darren Fells, OT Desmond Harrison, OLB Jamie Collins, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, S Jabrill Peppers.

2019 Cleveland Browns Offense:
The Antonio Brown trade was the biggest news of the offseason. Then, the Odell Beckham Jr. deal happened. It was understandable that the Steelers would want to get something for a malcontent player either past or nearing the end of his prime. The Beckham trade, conversely, was inexplicable. Beckham is one of the top receivers in the NFL, and he still has a bright future ahead of him because he’s only 26. The Browns had a major weakness at receiver last year, but that is no longer the case with Beckham on the roster.

Baker Mayfield, who would have won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 if it wasn’t for Saquon Barkley, will have a talented arsenal at his disposal, so he’s expected to make the next leap in his production. In addition to Beckham, Mayfield will be able to throw to Jarvis Landry, who will garner much less attention with Beckham on the field, and Antonio Callaway, an explosive player with tremendous upside. There’s also tight end David Njoku, who is young and could develop into a capable player.

Beckham wasn’t the only electrifying player the Browns added to their offense this spring. They also signed Kareem Hunt, which was a controversial decision. Hunt was one of the best running backs in the NFL last year, but the Chiefs cut him because a video surfaced of him hitting a woman. Hunt has made amends and undergone counseling, so the Browns opted to acquire him. They won’t have Hunt available until Week 10 because of an eight-game suspension. Nick Chubb, who had a tremendous rookie campaign, is expected to remain the starter when Hunt returns, but Hunt can offer the Browns something Chubb can’t, which is his dynamic receiving ability. Chubb and Hunt figure to form the best running back tandem in the entire league.

Both Chubb and Hunt will be running behind a stout offensive line, though the front lost Kevin Zeitler, one of the best guards in the NFL, in another trade with the Giants this offseason. The Browns were willing to part with Zeitler because they may have a viable replacement in second-year Austin Corbett. It remains to be seen if Corbett can properly replace Zeitler, but the rest of Cleveland’s interior is at least superb. Joel Bitonio is another great guard, while center J.C. Tretter performed very well in 2018.

The tackle situation is sketchier. Right tackle Chris Hubbard is fine, but there’s a big question on the blind side with Greg Robinson. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Robinson was a colossal bust. He finally wasn’t completely inept this past season for the Browns. He wasn’t great, but he was serviceable. Perhaps Robinson has turned his career around and will continue to serve as a capable starter. Then again, this all could’ve been a fluke.

2019 Cleveland Browns Defense:
While the focus of this offseason has been adding play-makers around Baker Mayfield, the Browns also spent some energy rebuilding their defensive line. Cleveland was 25th versus the run and 23rd in pass-rushing efficiency. Given what the Browns have done this offseason, it’ll be shocking if they aren’t in the top 10 in both categories in 2019.

The Browns traded Kevin Zeitler to the Giants for Olivier Vernon. While Vernon is no longer the dynamic edge rusher he once was, Vernon still collected seven sacks in 11 games in 2019. Opposing teams were able to focus on Vernon because he was the Giants’ top edge rusher. That won’t be the case for Vernon in 2019, as Myles Garrett will command the most attention. Garrett, who logged 13.5 sacks last season, has the potential to be the best defensive end in the NFL this year, especially with all the talent around him.

Cleveland also acquired Sheldon Richardson to bolster the interior of its defensive front. Richardson is stellar as both a run defender and a pass rusher, so he’ll be a big upgrade at a position that was lacking outside of Larry Ogunjobi last year. Ogunjobi is stout when it comes to stopping the run.

With all of their pass rushers, the Browns’ secondary will get lots of assistance this upcoming year. The team had a shutdown cornerback in Denzel Ward already on the roster, but needed a No. 2 option across from him. That would explain why Cleveland used its initial selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, a second-rounder, on Greedy Williams. The LSU product was once considered a top-15 prospect, so perhaps he can perform up to previous expectations. T.J. Carrie, meanwhile, figures to do a fine job in the slot once again.

The Browns added another new player to their safety group, bringing in Morgan Burnett. The former Packer and Steeler used to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but wasn’t used quite properly in Pittsburgh last season. There’s a chance he’ll rebound with a quality 2019 campaign. He’ll start next to Damarious Randall, a solid safety.

Given the additions the Browns have made to the defensive line and secondary, their weakness is now at linebacker. Joe Schobert is a very good player, but Christian Kirksey has been a huge disappointment ever since signing a massive contract a couple of offseasons ago. Jamie Collins was also underwhelming, but he’s no longer with the team. The Browns spent a couple of draft picks on linebackers, Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson, so perhaps one of them will be able to step up and provide some stability at the position.

2019 Cleveland Browns Schedule and Intangibles:
Long-time kicker Phil Dawson hasn’t been on the team since 2012, yet the Browns are still trying to replace him. Greg Joseph went 17-of-20 last season, but missed four extra points.

Punter Britton Colquitt did poorly in net yardage in 2018, ranking 30th in that regard. However, he did a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The Browns were outgained on punt and kickoff returns in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Better coaching is needed.

Cleveland has a chance to get off to a good start, as it battles the Titans, Jets, Rams (home) and Ravens to start the year before things get a bit more difficult.

2019 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.

2019 Cleveland Browns Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2019 Cleveland Browns Analysis: The Browns have one of the best rosters in the NFL. The question is whether they’ll be able to live up to suddenly very high, unprecedented expectations. Given that Cleveland has a great leader in Baker Mayfield, it seems more likely than not that the Browns won’t disappoint in 2019, prompting a playoff appearance for the first time in 17 years.

Projection: 10-6 (2nd in AFC North)

2018 Projection: 5-11. 2018 Actual Result: 7-8-1.
2017 Projection: 4-12. 2017 Actual Result: 0-16.
2016 Projection: 2-14. 2016 Actual Result: 1-15.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2019 NFL Draft: Cleveland’s options are limited in the 2019 NFL Draft because it doesn’t have a first-round pick. The team has some areas it needs to address, including cornerback and linebacker. Luckily for the Browns, the depth at those positions seems to be plentiful on Day 2.

2019 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Browns targeted some of their greatest needs with their initial selections. They obtained good value with Greedy Williams in the middle of the second frame, and then they found a new linebacker and safety by choosing Sione Takitaki and Sheldrick Redwine, respectively. I thought these two choices, unlike Williams, were reaches (especially Takitaki.)

Meanwhile, I liked what the Browns did on Day 3, for the most part. Two of their first three selections earned an A- grade, with linebacker Mack Wilson and guard Drew Forbes providing good value for where they were obtained. Sandwiched in between those two picks, however, was Austin Seibert, a kicker. There’s no reason to waste non-Round 7 draft capital on a kicker. It’s amazing how some teams don’t realize this.

Remarkably, the Browns weren’t graded in the “B” range for any of their picks. It was either hit or miss, with the hits and misses being distributed evenly. Thus, Cleveland should be graded as a whole accordingly.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

46. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU A Grade
Greedy Williams was expected by many to be chosen in the opening round. Teams gave him second-round grades, however. There was still a chance he’d sneak into the opening frame because of how weak this class is, so I think the value the Browns are getting with Williams is great. Williams doesn’t like to tackle, but he has plenty of talent, and he should be able to fill the need across from Denzel Ward.

80. Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU D Grade
This is a major reach, and I almost graded this as an “F.” There were so many other worse choices, however, so I’ll settle with a “D.” Sione Takitaki is a fast linebacker, but happens to be a tweener who may have to just be a special-teamer in his career. Takitaki also has a history of off-the-field issues, though he says he has turned his life around. We’ll see.

119. Sheldrick Redwine, S/CB, Miami C Grade
This is a bit early for Sheldrick Redwine. He’s a fast player, but doesn’t really know how to play safety well. He takes poor angles and doesn’t tackle well. He should be a good special-teams player, but he needs lots of development.

155. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama A- Grade
I’ve had Mack Wilson in the second or third round of my mock drafts, so I absolutely love this value. Wilson performed at a high level for Alabama early this past season. He struggled as the year progressed, but the potential was certainly there. However, Wilson tested poorly at the combine, and questions emerged about his instincts. It wasn’t a surprise to see him drop, but the Browns are getting a high-potential player in the middle of Round 5.

170. Austin Seibert, K, Oklahoma D- Grade
Stop it with these kickers, already, and draft players who will make it so you don’t need to use a kicker! It makes no sense to draft a kicker before Round 7 unless he can blast 65-yard field goals with ease.

189. Drew Forbes, G, SE Missouri State A- Grade
Drew Forbes made a name for himself at this pro day, where he tested off the charts. Level of competition is obviously an issue for Forbes, but it’s worth taking the risk, given the upside. Forbes was also a team captain, so I imagine the Browns will get 100-percent effort from him.

221. Donnie Lewis, CB, Tulane C+ Grade
Donnie Lewis is a try-hard player who was a 4-year starter for Tulane. Perhaps his hustle can earn him a spot on a 53-man roster as a special-teamer, but Lewis seems to lack the strength and physical traits to be a defensive player in the NFL.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Browns had won just one game in 2016 and 2017 combined, but this past season was different. That’s because they finally had a viable starting quarterback after spending the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Baker Mayfield. The future is now bright with Mayfield under center, as a playoff run in 2019 is a very realistic possibility.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign S Morgan Burnett
  • Browns sign OT Kendall Lamm
  • Browns sign G Eric Kush
  • Browns sign OLB Adarius Taylor
  • Browns sign TE Demetrius Harris
  • Browns acquire WR Odell Beckham from Giants for draft picks, S Jabrill Peppers
  • Browns sign DT Sheldon Richardson
  • Browns acquire DE Olivier Vernon from Giants for G Kevin Zeitler

    Team Needs:
    1. Wide Receiver: The Browns have some promising young receivers, but they lack a No. 1 option. They could obtain one with the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, or perhaps sign someone in free agency. Traded for Odell Beckham

    2. Left Tackle: Former first-round bust Greg Robinson surprisingly did a good job at left tackle last year. That’s not someone Cleveland can count on going forward, however, so a new blind-side protector is needed. Signed Kendall Lamm

    3. Defensive Tackle: Larry Ogunjobi is a quality run stuffer in the interior of the defensive line, but the Browns lack a defensive tackle who can generate a consistent pass rush at the position. Signed Sheldon Richardson

    4. Guard: Kevin Zeitler was traded to the Giants for Olivier Vernon, opening up a need at guard. Signed Eric Kush

    5. Outside Linebacker: Christian Kirksey used to play well, but he’s been a huge bust ever since signing a big contract. Jamie Collins, meanwhile, has been mediocre in Cleveland. A big-time upgrade is needed here, and the Browns could use an early draft pick on one. Signed Adrius Taylor

    6. Cornerback: The Browns hit a home run with Denzel Ward, who was a shutdown cornerback as a rookie. They need a better No. 2 corner, however.

    7. Defensive End: Myles Garrett is a stud, but he needs a worthy bookend to complement him. Emmanuel Ogbah is a decent player, but he’d be better served as a rotational lineman. Traded for Olivier Vernon

    8. Kicker: The Browns have endured kicking issues ever since Phil Dawson departed. It’s time to finally fix this issue.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2019 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Vikings. Age: 28.
      Signed with Browns (3 years, $36 million)

      Sheldon Richardson is an extremely talented defensive lineman, playing very strongly in the pass rush and run defense. He can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4, so he should garner tons of interest if he gets to the open market.

    2. Morgan Burnett, S, Steelers. Age: 30.
      Signed with Browns (2 years)

      Morgan Burnett was once the centerpiece of Green Bay’s defense, playing numerous positions. He joined the Steelers last year, but struggled, as Pittsburgh did not use him optimally for some reason. Burnett has the talent to have a nice, rebound 2019 campaign. He turned 30 recently, but he should still have two high-end seasons.

    3. Kendall Lamm, OT, Texans. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (2 years, $7 million)
    4. Eric Kush, G, Bears. Age: 29. — Signed with Browns
    5. Adarius Taylor, OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns
    6. Demetrius Harris, TE, Chiefs. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns

    Cleveland Browns Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jamie Collins, OLB. Age: 29.
      Signed with Patriots

      Jamie Collins was once a valuable member of New England’s defense. The Patriots then traded Collins to Cleveland, where he had two-and-a-half disappointing seasons. Cutting Collins, who turns 30 in October, was a no-brainer for the Browns, as his release clears $10.5 million off the books.

    2. E.J. Gaines, CB, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Bills (1 year, $3.6 million)

      E.J. Gaines would be rated higher than this if he didn’t have a bad history of injuries and concussions. It’s a shame, but his career could be cut short.

    3. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns. Age: 30.
      Signed with Chargers (2 years)

      Tyrod Taylor was miscast as a starter with the Browns. He didn’t fare well as a result, but he’s still a stellar backup quarterback in the NFL.

    4. Breshad Perriman, WR, Browns. Age: 25.
      Signed with Buccaneers (1 year, $4 million)

      Breshad Perriman has played like a one-star player for most of his career, but he’s a former first-round pick, and he’s only 25. He also showed some potential late in the year with the Browns. There’s still time for Perriman to turn his career around.

    5. Briean Boddy-Calhoun (RFA), CB, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Texans
    6. Ray-Ray Armstrong, ILB, Browns. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Browns
    7. Darren Fells, TE, Browns. Age: 33. — Signed with Texans (1 year)
    8. Orson Charles, FB, Browns. Age: 28.
    9. Phillip Gaines, CB, Browns. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Browns (1 year)
    10. Carl Davis, DT, Browns. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Browns
    11. Jermaine Whitehead (RFA), S, Browns. Age: 26.
    12. Earl Watford, G, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Buccaneers (1 year)

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

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