2022 NFL Offseason: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns (Last Year: 8-9)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Deshaun Watson, QB Jacoby Brissett, WR Amari Cooper, WR Jakeem Grant, DE Chase Winovich, DT Taven Bryan.
Draft Picks:
CB Martin Emerson, DE Alex Wright, WR David Bell, DT Perrion Winfrey, K Cade York, RB Jerome Ford. Browns Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Baker Mayfield, QB Case Keenum, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Rashard Higgins, TE Austin Hooper, C J.C. Tretter, DE Takk McKinley, DT Malik Jackson, LB Mack Wilson, S M.J. Stewart.

2022 Cleveland Browns Offense:
The Browns appeared as though they were one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl last year. They were coming off a 2020 campaign in which they battled the Chiefs to the very end in the divisional round of the playoffs. They then had a huge lead over Kansas City in the 2021 opener before suffered a defeat because of a Patrick Mahomes comeback. Still, things looked great for the Browns, at least for seven days. That’s when Baker Mayfield hurt his shoulder. He then re-injured it several weeks later, and was never the same again. In fact, things ended so poorly for Mayfield that the Browns decided to give up on him, opting to trade for Deshaun Watson instead.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been a mistake to move on from Mayfield, but the Browns obtained a top-five quarterback in Watson. It’s unclear how long he’ll be suspended for his off-the-field transgressions, but if he plays for half or more of 2022, he’ll have Cleveland in playoff contention – assuming that Jacoby Brissett can successfully hold down the fort until the suspension expires. Conversely, the Browns don’t have much hope with Brissett at the helm for the entire year.

It’s amazing that Watson was so great in Houston, given how bad the Texans’ offensive line was. Watson seldom had any pass protection, but that won’t be the case in Cleveland. Four of the five blockers from last year will be back, including both tackles and both guards. However, there’s concern with the former position. Jedrick Wills and Jack Conklin would form a terrific tackle tandem under normal circumstances, but Conklin is coming off a torn patella tendon, which is a devastating injury for football players. He may never be the same player again. Chris Hubbard is a fine backup, so he can hold down the fort until Conklin is ready to play.

Meanwhile, the two guards, Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, figure to once again be one of the league’s best duos. What’s unclear is how new center Nick Harris will perform. A fifth-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, Harris will replace the departed J.C. Tretter. The Browns like Harris, who performed well in his single start last year.

Unless Harris is horrible and there are other injuries up front, the Browns will continue to block extremely well for their talented running backs. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are exceptional runners, and D’Ernest Johnson even proved that he could handle the workload when he stepped in as the starter in a Thursday night affair last year.

There are more questions with the other skill-position players. This does not include Amari Cooper, whom the Browns acquired this spring. Cooper will replace Jarvis Landry as the team’s No. 1 receiver, and he figures to be an upgrade. The other receivers may not be very productive, however. Donovan Peoples-Jones is a highly inconsistent player, while third-round rookie David Bell slid in the 2022 NFL Draft because teams were worried about his ability to separate. There’s also 2021 third-round pick Anthony Schwartz, but he caught only 10 passes last year. The highly overpaid David Njoku figures to contribute as well, but he’s also inconsistent.

2022 Cleveland Browns Defense:
It’s surprising that the Browns had the 11th-worst pressure rate in the NFL last year, given that Myles Garrett was a part of their defensive line. Arguably the best defensive player in the NFL – though probably third after Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt – Garrett has produced double-digit sacks in every single season after his rookie campaign. He collected 16 sacks last year, while Jadeveon Clowney chipped in with nine.

Still, the Browns couldn’t get any heat on opposing quarterbacks otherwise, so they had to add more talent to the position. They obtained Chase Winovich, formerly of the Patriots, and then they spent a third-round pick on Alex Wright. It’s unclear if this will be enough to improve Cleveland’s pass rush, but the improved depth certainly won’t hurt.

Cleveland also acquired some help in the interior of the defensive line, snatching Perrion Winfrey in the fourth round. Winfrey was seen by some as a second-round prospect, but he fell to the fourth frame because of off-the-field issues. If Winfrey can remain clean, the Browns will have obtained a potential starter on the third day of the NFL Draft. Winfrey may not have much trouble breaking through because the two defensive tackles in front of him, Taven Bryan and Jordan Elliott, are pedestrian players who have accomplished nothing in the NFL.

The Browns have a talented secondary, so if the pass rush can improve, it’ll make it extremely difficult for opposing teams to throw against them. Denzel Ward is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, while Greg Newsome enjoyed a solid rookie campaign. Newsome can play outside and in the slot, and he may spend time in the latter position when the Browns are in nickel. If so, Greedy Williams, a former second-round pick, will play outside. Williams has talent, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the most part.

Cleveland also has a very dynamic player at safety, as John Johnson is one of the better players at his position. It’s unclear who will start next to him, as Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit will compete for that job. Both are fairly mediocre defensive backs, but perhaps one of them will step up in 2022.

Last but not least, the linebacking corps was much better last year than it had been in previous seasons. A major reason for this was the play of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. A second-round pick in 2021, Owusu-Koramoah didn’t play much to begin his rookie campaign, but saw lots of playing time down the stretch. He figures to be better in his second season, and he’ll start alongside Anthony Walker, a superb coverage linebacker. Sione Takitaki will do a fine job on running downs.

2022 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. They spent a fourth-round pick on Cade York.

Cleveland had a mediocre punter last year, with Corey Bojorquez finishing in the middle of the pack in terms of net average.

The Browns weren’t good on special teams last season, which is why they signed Jakeem Grant.

Cleveland has a last-place schedule. It begins the year against the Panthers, Jets, Steelers and Falcons, so it can weather the storm if Deshaun Watson is suspended.

2022 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.

2022 Cleveland Browns Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Cleveland Browns Analysis: The Browns’ 2022 outlook depends on Deshaun Watson’s potential suspension. If he’s out for half the year, it might be difficult for the Browns to make the playoffs because of all the fierce competition in the conference. Watson being available for most or all of 2022 would have Cleveland in Super Bowl contention, but it seems as though the Browns will have to wait until 2023 to experience this.

Projection: 9-8 (3rd in AFC North)

2021 Projection: 12-5. 2021 Actual Result: 8-9.
2020 Projection: 10-6. 2020 Actual Result: 11-5.
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: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Browns don’t have a first-round pick as a result of the Deshaun Watson trade. However, they still have three picks in the top 100. They can use at least one of those to bolster their weak receiving corps. The defensive line needs some help as well.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I wrote that the Browns’ second-day picks felt like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first pick, Martin Emerson, didn’t fill a need at cornerback, but provided value. The second selection, Alex Wright, fill a need for a pass rusher, but he was a reach. Cleveland’s final choice on Day 2 was just right. David Bell was just taken in the right spot and may fill a need if he can separate, which is a big question mark for him.

I was expecting the Browns to use two significant draft choices on receivers to help Watson, but that never happened. Bell is the only viable receiver they added to their roster, so Watson won’t have much to throw to beyond Amari Cooper. At the very least, the Browns addressed their defensive line well. On top of Wright, they added Perrion Winfrey, who was a steal in the fourth round.

Unfortunately for the Browns, they squandered some other draft picks, opting to use a fourth-round selection on a kicker and then taking yet another running back with the next pick, which seems like a waste. As you can tell, I wasn’t a big fan of what Cleveland accomplished.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

68. Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State – C- Grade
The Browns are deep at cornerback, so I don’t understand this selection. I like that the Browns moved down, but they had huge holes at receiver and defensive line. Surely, they could’ve found someone who made more sense than Martin Emerson. I like Emerson a bit as a tall corner with good length, but this fit isn’t great.

78. Alex Wright, DE/OLB, UAB – C- Grade
This is the opposite of the Browns’ first pick. With Martin Emerson, they didn’t fill a need, but got decent value. Now with Alex Wright, they’re filling a need on the edge, but are getting poor value, as Alex Wright was a fifth-round prospect. Cleveland’s draft feels like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

99. David Bell, WR, Purdue – B Grade
Once upon a time, people were telling me that David Bell belonged in the first round. I stopped getting those e-mails eventually, as N’Keal Harry comparisons surfaced. I’m not convinced David Bell can separate, but I like the gamble here in the third round rather than the initial frame. Bell could fill a need if people are wrong about his separation issues.

108. Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma – A+ Grade
I slotted Perrion Winfrey to the Browns in the re-draft because it made so much sense. Cleveland needed defensive line help, and Winfrey is someone I had in the second round. This is a major steal for the Browns, as they’re getting someone who dominated in the trenches at Oklahoma.

124. Cade York, K, LSU – O’BRIEN Grade
Ugh, come on. I know the Browns had kicker woes, but kickers can be found on the street. Seriously, just walk down the street and ask people to try out for kicker, and you’ll find a half-decent one. There’s no need to waste a significant pick on one.

156. Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati – C Grade
Jerome Ford doesn’t fill a need at all for the Browns, who are extremely deep at running back. With so few picks, I don’t think the Browns could afford to make selections like this, though I don’t hate the prospect. Jerome Ford figures to be a solid receiver out of the backfield in the NFL.

202. Mike Woods, WR, Oklahoma – C Grade
Mike Woods was not a big producer at Oklahoma, and I didn’t have him on my radar as a draftable prospect. He would’ve been a fine UDFA, but I don’t know why the Browns drafted him over Justyn Ross, for example.

223. Isaiah Thomas, DE/OLB, Oklahoma – B+ Grade
Isaiah Thomas was someone I toggled between the sixth and seventh rounds, but didn’t make the final cut in the mock. The Browns need edge-rushing help, so perhaps Thomas will be able to contribute at some point.

246. Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech – B+ Grade
I mocked Dawson Deaton at 250 rather than 246, but I like this pick for the Browns because they really needed insurance at center. They lost J.C. Tretter, so they needed someone to compete with Nick Harris for the job.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
When the Chiefs and Browns battled in Week 1, many considered the game to be an AFC Championship preview. However, Baker Mayfield hurt his shoulder the following week, and Cleveland’s offense was never the same after that.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign P Corey Bojorquez
  • Browns sign C Ethan Pocic
  • Bills acquire QB Case Keenum from Browns for draft pick
  • Browns sign QB Jacoby Brissett
  • Browns acquire QB Deshaun Watson from Texans for draft picks
  • Browns sign WR Jakeem Grant
  • Browns acquire DE Chase Winovich from Patriots for LB Mack Wilson
  • Browns sign DT Taven Bryan
  • Browns acquire WR Amari Cooper from Cowboys for draft picks

    Team Needs:
    1. Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t pan out in Cleveland. He’s gone, along with Jarvis Landry, so the Browns need two receivers to help Baker Mayfield. Traded Amari Cooper; signed Jakeem Grant

    2. Defensive Tackle: Cleveland’s defensive line regressed greatly in 2021. The team struggled to put pressure on the quarterback, and the greatest weakness is in the interior. Signed Taven Bryan

    3. Defensive End: The Browns also must find an upgrade on the edge, especially with Jadeveon Clowney hitting free agency. Re-signed Jadeveon Clowney; traded for Chase Winovich

    4. Offensive Tackle Depth: There’s a chance Jack Conklin won’t be ready for the season opener, so the Browns better have a quality backup ready to start.

    5. Kicker: Cleveland endured major kicking woes this past season.

    6. Punter: The Browns also had a weak punting unit. Signed Corey Bojorquez

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Jakeem Grant, WR/KR, Bears. Age: 29.
      Signed with Browns (3 years, $13.8 million)

      Jakeem Grant doesn’t do much as a receiver, but he’s a dynamic kick returner.

    2. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Dolphins. Age: 29.
      Signed with Browns (1 year)

      Jacoby Brissett was considered one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL heading into 2021. Perhaps that’s still the case, but Brissett struggled in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, maintaining a poor 5.7 YPA. That said, the horrendous offensive line played a part.

    3. Taven Bryan, DE/DT, Jaguars. Age: 26. — Signed with Browns (1 year)

    Cleveland Browns Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. J.C. Tretter, C, Browns. Age: 31.
      It’s unclear why the Browns released J.C. Tretter. He’s still one of the better centers in the NFL. Tretter just turned 31, but centers can play at a high level well into their mid-30s.

    2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Browns. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Browns (1 year, $11 million)

      Jadeveon Clowney rebounded from a down 2020 campaign, logging nine sacks in 2021. He also stopped the run well. Clowney tends to be very inconsistent.

    3. Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns. Age: 29.
      Signed with Saints (1 year, $6 million)

      Jarvis Landry is a bit overrated for how big of a name he is. Still, he’s a talented slot receiver who can serve as a capable second option. The one downside is that Landry turns 30 during the 2022 season.

    4. Anthony Walker, LB, Browns. Age: 27.
      Re-signed with Browns (1 year, $5 million)

      Anthony Walker can do a better job of tackling, but he is pretty solid in coverage.

    5. Ronnie Harrison, S, Browns. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Browns

      Ronnie Harrison is a sure-tackling defensive back who can play in the slot in addition to his natural safety position.

    6. David Njoku, TE, Browns. Age: 26.
      Franchised by Browns

      David Njoku finally showed signs of life last year after disappointing as a rookie, often outplaying Austin Hooper.

    7. Austin Hooper, TE, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Titans (1 year, $6 million)

      Austin Hooper was a colossal bust for the Browns. Perhaps he can rebound to the form he had with Atlanta.

    8. Malik Jackson, DT, Browns. Age: 32.
    9. Takk McKinley, DE/OLB, Browns. Age: 26.
    10. M.J. Stewart, S, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Texans
    11. Rashard Higgins, WR, Browns. Age: 27. — Signed with Panthers
    12. Malcolm Smith, LB, Browns. Age: 33.
    13. Sheldon Day, DT, Browns. Age: 28. — Re-signed with Browns
    14. Chris Hubbard, OT, Browns. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Browns (1 year)
    15. Nick Mullens, QB, Browns. Age: 27.
    16. Elijah Lee, LB, Browns. Age: 26. — Signed with Chiefs
    17. Dustin Colquitt, P, Browns. Age: 40.
    18. Adrian Colbert, S, Browns. Age: 28.

    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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