2020 NFL Offseason: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns (Last Year: 6-10)

2020 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Case Keenum, FB Andy Janovich, TE Austin Hooper, OT Jack Conklin, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Andrew Billings, LB B.J. Goodson, CB Kevin Johnson, S Karl Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo.
Draft Picks:
OT Jedrick Wills, S Grant Delpit, DT Jordan Elliott, LB Jacob Phillips, TE Harrison Bryant. Browns Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
OT Greg Robinson, G Justin McCray, LB Joe Schobert, CB T.J. Carrie, S Damarious Randall, S Juston Burris, S Morgan Burnett, S Eric Murray.

2020 Cleveland Browns Offense:
Baker Mayfield certainly deserves some blame for the Browns’ disappointing 2019 campaign. He was guilty of more turnovers (23) than passing touchdowns (22), and he saw his completion percentage drop from 63.8 in his rookie year to 59.4 last season. He was one of the most disappointing players in the NFL last year because he was expected to make a big leap in production, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. joining the receiving corps.

Beckham turned out to be part of the problem as well. Beckham was never healthy last year, so he was an inconsistent performer as a result. Now, Jarvis Landry is the one who is injured, and there’s a chance he may not be ready for the season opener. However, there’s some cause for optimism, as Beckham is reportedly in great shape at the moment. The Browns also added Austin Hooper in free agency to serve as a huge upgrade over the middle of the field for Mayfield.

Of course, none of this would matter if the offensive line couldn’t pass protect properly, which was the primary reason Cleveland struggled in 2019. The front office made a foolish decision of heading into the year with Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard as their starting tackles, a strategy that failed miserably. Mayfield was constantly under siege, which is a major factor in his struggles. The Browns’ new front office recognized this and exerted lots of energy upgrading the position. They spent $42 million on Jack Conklin, who had been a tremendous blocker for the Titans over the past several seasons. The Browns weren’t done, opting to use the No. 10 overall pick on Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, an athletic lineman who will be a massive upgrade over Robinson.

With Wills and Conklin now on the front line, the only liability the Browns have there is at right guard with Wyatt Teller. Left guard Joel Bitonio is excellent, while center J.C. Tretter is only a slight notch below him.

Thanks to two upgrades on the offensive line, Cleveland’s run blocking will be so much better than it was in 2019. That’s a scary thought, as the unbelievably talented Nick Chubb eclipsed the century rushing mark seven times, a number that would’ve been higher if it weren’t for Kareem Hunt’s presence. Hunt played second fiddle to Chubb upon his return from suspension, but he served as a dynamic receiving threat out of the backfield.

2020 Cleveland Browns Defense:
Baker Mayfield was just part of the reason there was such a hype train with the Browns last year. The front office acquired a couple of big names on the defensive line to join Myles Garrett, who is one of the top edge rushers in the NFL. Cleveland traded for Olivier Vernon and also signed Sheldon Richardson.

Unlike Mayfield, neither disappointed. Olivier Vernon wasn’t quite the pass-rushing presence he was in the past – 3.5 sacks in 10 games – but he was very stout in run support. Richardson played similarly. With Vernon and Richardson aging, the Browns had to acquire another force to get after the quarterback, so they signed Adrian Clayborn away from the Falcons. Clayborn, 32 in July, is no longer the force he was once, but he can still be a solid contributor in a rotation. Meanwhile, third-round rookie Jordan Elliott could help behind Richardson and the run-stuffing Andrew Billings in the interior.

An even stronger defensive line should aid the Browns’ secondary. There were two young cornerbacks starting there last year, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Ward is excellent, while Williams showed plenty of promise in his rookie campaign. The problem there in 2019 was that both Ward and Williams were injured at the same time for several games in the first half of the season. Cleveland was torched by opposing passing attacks when both were absent.

With Ward and Williams gaining more experience, they should be better in 2020. The Browns were pleased with Williams, so they decided to add another LSU product to their secondary by spending a second-round pick on Grant Delpit. The former Tiger was seen as a potential opening-round prospect, but slipped because he struggled a bit in 2019. There’s a chance he may have been protecting himself in ironic fashion to avoid his draft stock from slipping, and if so, the Browns have gotten a steal. Delpit figures to start next to Karl Joseph, a former first-round pick who never lived up to expectations in Oakland.

The Browns opted for yet another LSU product in Round 3 when they selected Jacob Phillips. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to start right away, but he doesn’t have much competition. Linebacker is the weakness of the Browns’ defense, especially in the wake of Joe Schobert’s departure. B.J. Goodson and Mack Wilson both struggled last year, with Goodson doing so in Green Bay.

2020 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. Austin Seibert went 25-of-29 last season, but missed five extra points.

Cleveland had a middling punter last year with Jamie Gillan finishing 13th in net yardage.

The Browns were mixed on special teams last year, outgaining the opposition on kickoffs, but losing on punt returns.

Cleveland has an even schedule. For every game against the Redskins, Bengals and Jaguars, the Browns have to take on the Eagles, Cowboys and Ravens.

2020 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.

2020 Cleveland Browns Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2020 Cleveland Browns Analysis: The Browns were a massive disappointment last year. However, they’ve seemed to fix most of their problems. Their offensive line has improved tremendously, and Odell Beckham Jr. figures to be much healthier in 2020. They’ve also added some help to their defensive line and secondary. If Baker Mayfield can get back on track, the Browns could make the deep playoff run they were expected to experience last year.

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

2019 Projection: 10-6. 2019 Actual Result: 7-8-1.
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: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2020 NFL Draft: The Browns were the most disappointing team in the NFL for most people last year, but their struggles weren’t a surprise to those who paid attention to how bad their offensive line was. They must fix their blocking even though they’ve already added Jack Conklin, as two new linemen will need to be acquired. Cleveland must also address its poor linebacking corps.

2020 NFL Draft Accomplishments: There was some nonsense reported prior to the 2020 NFL Draft about the Browns loving Ezra Cleveland. I was so fearful the Browns would be so smitten with Cleveland that I slotted him to them in the video mock draft at No. 10 overall. Fortunately, this turned out to be bogus, as the Browns made the right move and selected a player some teams viewed as the top tackle in the class, Jedrick Wills.

The Wills selection was the first of three consecutive “A” grades the Browns earned to kick off the 2020 NFL Draft. They scored high marks with Grant Delpit and Jordan Elliott, both of whom were steals in the second and third rounds, respectively. In fact, the only choice the Browns made that earned worse than a “B” was Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth frame.

The Browns appear to have done a great job in this first draft of their brand new regime. They improved their offensive line with Wills and potentially Nick Harris, and they added some key pieces to the middle of their defense, which they sorely needed to do. New general manager Andrew Berry should be commended for his first draft.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

10. Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama – A Grade
I’ve seen several people suggest that Jedrick Wills clashes with Jack Conklin because they both played right tackle last year for Alabama and the Titans, respectively, but Wills is a natural left tackle; he simply played on the right side because Tua Tagovailoa was left-handed. With that in mind, I love this pick. The Browns made a huge mistake last year when they went into the year with Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard as their tackles. Their blocking is so much better now.

44. Grant Delpit, S, LSU – A Grade
The Browns did a nice job of moving down three spots and picking up a fifth-round pick for a player they easily could’ve drafted at No. 41 – or earlier. Grant Delpit was a first-round prospect a year ago, but struggled in 2019. However, we heard that Delpit disappointed because he was protecting himself for the NFL, which is understandable. This made Delpit a nice buy-low target, so the Browns are filling a need with a talented player.

88. Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri – A Grade
I’m shocked Jordan Elliott dropped to the middle of Round 3. I’m sure the Browns were shocked as well, but they’ll take it. Cleveland needed to find some help in the interior of the trenches, and it’s getting a legitimate second-round prospect to provide aid in that spot. I had Elliott slotted at No. 62 overall in my final mock draft.

97. Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU – B Grade
The Browns had a weak linebacking corps that had to be upgraded in the wake of Joe Schobert’s departure. Jacob Phillips will be able to play two downs for the Browns and help stop the run, but I’m not confident in his ability in coverage. Still, this is a fine pick toward the end of Round 3.

115. Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic – B Grade
The Browns want to run two-tight end sets, so it makes sense for them to obtain another player at the position to go along with Austin Hooper. Harrison Bryant is a pass-catching H-back who could end up being a nice weapon for Baker Mayfield.

160. Nick Harris, C, Washington – A Grade
Nick Harris lacks length, but most interior offensive linemen do, so that’s not a huge deal. Harris is a solid player I thought could’ve gone in the third round, so the Browns are getting solid value at this spot.

187. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan – D Grade
I’ve seen some people freaking out on Twitter about why Donovan Peoples-Jones hasn’t been drafted yet, and I’m wondering why because I never placed him in a mock draft. Peoples-Jones is just an athlete. He’s a horrific football player. He shouldn’t have been drafted.


Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
People had high hopes for the Browns entering 2019. Some even though they’d reach the Super Bowl. They won just six games, however, thanks to disappointing quarterbacking and terrible coaching. Freddie Kitchens is gone, so there’s some good news for the near future.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign DE Adrian Clayborn
  • Browns sign S Andrew Sendejo
  • Browns sign CB Kevin Johnson
  • Browns sign DT Andrew Billings
  • Browns sign S Karl Joseph
  • Browns sign LB B.J. Goodson
  • Browns acquire FB Andy Janovich from Broncos
  • Browns sign QB Case Keenum
  • Browns sign OT Jack Conklin

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Offensive Tackles: Aside from poor coaching, Baker Mayfield was hurt most by his poor offensive line play. Cleveland’s tackles were terrible this past season. Signed Jack Conklin

    2. Guard: Here’s another position on the offensive line that was a major weakness in 2019. The Browns made a huge mistake by trading away Kevin Zeitler.

    3. Two Linebackers: While the weakness of the offense is the blocking, the worst part about the defense was the linebacking corps. Help would be needed alongside Joe Schobert if Schobert weren’t an impending free agent. Signed B.J. Goodson

    4. Defensive End: Olivier Vernon is an impending free agent, so he’ll need to be replaced if he departs. Signed Adrian Clayborn

    5. Safety: The Browns have some free agents-to-be at safety (Juston Burris, Damarious Randall). Signed Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo

    6. Wide Receiver Depth: Cleveland cycled through its third receivers the entire year. A better tertiary option is needed.

    7. Defensive Tackle Depth: There’s not much behind Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi. Signed Andrew Billings

    8. Backup Quarterback: The Browns should bring in a wise, veteran quarterback who can help Baker Mayfield develop. Signed Case Keenum

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2020 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Jack Conklin, OT, Titans. Age: 26.
      Signed with Browns (3 years, $42 million)

      Jack Conklin bounced back from an injury-ravaged 2018 campaign to become one of the league’s better right tackles in 2019. He can improve upon his pass protection, but he’s a dominant run blocker.

    2. Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons. Age: 25.
      Signed with Browns (4 years, $44 million)

      Austin Hooper is a highly athletic tight end who has improved exponentially in each of his four NFL seasons. He won’t even turn 26 until October, so the sky is the limit for him.

    3. Andrew Billings, DT, Bengals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Browns (1 year, $3 million)

      Andrew Billings has been a stout nose tackle for the Bengals over the past couple of years. He’s only 25, so he still has plenty of room for growth.

    4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons. Age: 32.
      Signed with Browns

      Adrian Clayborn saw his sack total drop from 9.5 in 2017 to 6.5 over the past two seasons, but he still did a good job of pressuring quarterbacks last year. Unfortunately, he’ll turn 32 this summer, which could mean regression is coming soon.

    5. Kevin Johnson, CB, Bills. Age: 28.
      Signed with Browns (1 year, $3.5 million)

      Kevin Johnson played well in the slot for the Bills this past season. He missed a bit too many tackles, but he covered slot receivers very well.

    6. Case Keenum, QB, Redskins. Age: 32.
      Signed with Browns (3 years, $18 million)

      Case Keenum played well at times with the Redskins. He’s a high-end backup quarterback who can piece together some wins if he has to start for several weeks.

    7. B.J. Goodson, LB, Packers. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns (1 year)

    Cleveland Browns Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Kareem Hunt (RFA), RB, Browns. Age: 25.
      Tendered by Browns (2nd round)

      Kareem Hunt is a supreme talent as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He has a checkered off-the-field history, but seems to have turned a new leaf.

    2. Joe Schobert, LB, Browns. Age: 26.
      Signed with Jaguars (5 years, $53.75 million)

      Joe Schobert played very well at times last year, even winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week at one point. He’s a do-it-all linebacker who won’t turn 27 until November.

    3. Olivier Vernon, DE, Browns. Age: 29.
      Olivier Vernon recorded 3.5 sacks in 10 games last year, so he isn’t the same player he once was. Vernon turns 30 in October, but is still capable of playing the run extremely well.

    4. Damarious Randall, S, Browns. Age: 28.
      Signed with Raiders (1 year)

      Damarious Randall is a well-rounded, solid safety. He missed a game late in the year due to a coaching decision, so that must be investigated before a team signs him.

    5. Juston Burris, S, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Panthers (2 years, $8 million)

      Juston Burris stepped up in the wake of Morgan Burnett’s injury. He played well to close out the year, so he deserves a shot to compete as a starter somewhere.

    6. Christian Kirksey, LB, Browns. Age: 28.
      Signed with Packers (2 years, $16 million)

      Christian Kirksey was a bright, rising star several years ago. The Browns certainly thought so when they gave him a 5-year, $38.7 million contract. However, Kirksey has been a major disappointment since. Injuries have played a part – he played in just nine games over the past two seasons – but he hasn’t played well when on the field either. Perhaps Kirksey can rebound, but he’ll likely need to settle for a 1-year “prove it” deal in the meantime.

    7. Morgan Burnett, S, Browns. Age: 31.
      Morgan Burnett is still a sound tackler, but his coverage skills have declined in recent years. The 31-year-old hasn’t played a full season since 2012, and he missed half the year in 2019.

    8. Greg Robinson, OT, Browns. Age: 27.
      Greg Robinson has immense talent, being the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he has never lived up to his potential.

    9. Bryan Cox (RFA), DE, Browns. Age: 26.
    10. Justin McCray (RFA), G, Browns. Age: 28. — Signed with Falcons
    11. T.J. Carrie, CB, Browns. Age: 30. — Signed with Colts (1 year)
    12. Eric Murray, S, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Texans (3 years, $20.25 million)
    13. Ricky Seals-Jones (RFA), TE, Browns. Age: 25.
    14. Eric Kush, G, Browns. Age: 30. — Signed with Raiders
    15. Rashard Higgins, WR, Browns. Age: 25.
    16. Demetrius Harris, TE, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Bears
    17. Drew Stanton, QB, Browns. Age: 36.
    18. Adarius Taylor, LB, Browns. Age: 29.

    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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