2023 NFL Offseason: Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns (Last Year: 7-10)

2023 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
QB Joshua Dobbs, WR Elijah Moore, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Jordan Akins, G Colby Gossett, G Wes Martin, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Maurice Hurst, DT Trysten Hill, CB Mike Ford, S Juan Thornhill, S Rodney McLeod.
Draft Picks:
WR Cedric Tillman, NT Siaki Ika, OT Dawand Jones, DE Isaiah McGuire, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, CB/S Cam Mitchell. Browns Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Kareem Hunt, RB D’Ernest Johnson, DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Chase Winovich, DT Taven Bryan, LB Deion Jones, S John Johnson.

2023 Cleveland Browns Offense:
When it was clear that Deshaun Watson wouldn’t be able to play for his new team after his 11-game suspension was announced, everyone assumed that Jacoby Brissett would be the downfall of the Browns’ 2022 campaign. Yet, somehow, Brissett performed better than Watson did last year. While Brissett completed 64 percent of his passes on a 7.1 YPA, with a 12:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Watson held a 58.2 completion rate, a 6.5 YPA, and a 7:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Watson is obviously more talented than Brissett, but it was clear that there was some serious rust after he hadn’t played for a couple of seasons. It’s possible that he could revert to 2020 form with an entire offseason to gel with his Cleveland teammates. It’ll also help Watson that he’ll have a terrific offensive line blocking for him. Right tackle Jack Conklin didn’t look quite right last year because he was coming off injury, but he should be much better now that he’s another season removed from it. He and Jedrick Willis figure to form a solid tackle duo in 2023.

While the tackle play will be good, the interior blocking will be much better. The Browns have one of the top guard duos in the NFL in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller. They’ll sandwich Ethan Pocic, who did a great job of taking over for an injured Nick Harris last year.

Watson will also have some talented receivers at his disposal. Amari Cooper will reprise his role as the No. 1 target. He was inconsistent last year, as was Donovan Peoples-Jones, but both should be better on a weekly basis if Watson can play like he did in 2020. Two newcomers to the receiving corps are Elijah Moore, who was obtained via trade from the Jets, and Cedric Tillman, who was chosen in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Moore is a gifted receiver, but he fell out of favor with the coaching staff in New York. He should perform well in the slot. Tillman is a big wideout who figures to be an end zone threat. Meanwhile, David Njoku will be looking to build on the career-best numbers he posted in 2022 (58 catches, 628 yards in 14 games).

Of course, Watson won’t be asked to do everything, as he’ll be able to lean on his potent rushing attack. Kareem Hunt is gone, but Nick Chubb still remains. With Hunt off the team, there’s a chance Chubb could lead the NFL in rushing. In fact, a 2,000-yard rushing season isn’t out of the question.

2023 Cleveland Browns Defense:
If Jacoby Brissett played better than anyone expected, why did the Browns fail to achieve a winning record? The answer is the defense. Cleveland’s stop unit was utterly dreadful last year. The team had the sixth-worst pressure rate in the NFL and struggled to stop the run. The team surrendered 28 or more points on six occasions.

The front office took measures to ensure that the defense would improve this season. One action was made to bolster the poor defensive interior, and that was the signing of Dalvin Tomlinson. The former Viking defensive tackle is a force in run support and can also rush the quarterback. He’ll be a massive upgrade at the position. The Vikings also obtained Maurice Hurst, who missed the entire 2022 season with torn biceps. He can generate some pressure on opposing passers. Meanwhile, third-round rookie Siaki Ika will help versus the run.

Speaking of the pass rush, the Browns acquired another Viking, Za’Darius Smith, via trade. Smith is an excellent edge rusher who collected 10 sacks for Minnesota last year. The elite Myles Garrett has been looking for a worthy bookend for a long time, and Smith might finally be the answer, albeit in the short term. With Garrett drawing so much attention, Smith could be in for a career year, which will only make Garrett better.

The Browns didn’t just focus on the defensive line, as they found some upgrades for the secondary. In fact, they have a brand new safety tandem. The big acquisition in this regard was Juan Thornhill, who was an excellent player for the Chiefs since entering the league in 2019. The other new safety is Rodney McLeod, who was able to overcome some injuries he had in Philadelphia and thrive with the Colts in 2022.

The new safeties will complement a talented group of cornerbacks well. Denzel Ward is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, though he’s coming off a down year because he dealt with a foot injury to begin the season. He will be joined once again by Greg Newsome and Martin Emerson to form a solid trio. Newsome, a former first-round pick, did well in the slot last year, while Emerson, a 2022 third-rounder, had a strong season across from Ward.

No real changes were made to the linebacking corps, which is a good thing because Anthony Walker was an impending free agent who was expected to leave. Instead, the Browns re-signed him. Walker was sorely missed last year after suffering an injury in Week 3. His return will be enormous for the improvement of the defense as a whole. Cleveland will have a quality linebacking corps with Walker re-joining Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Sione Takitaki.

2023 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 last year, and yet he went just 24-of-32.

Corey Bojorquez finished 22nd in terms of net punting average last year.

Cleveland has a last-place schedule. Outside of some tough divisional opponents, the Browns only have to battle the 49ers and Jets. They get to take on the Cardinals, Rams, Colts, Texans, and Bears.

2023 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.

2023 Cleveland Browns Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2023 Cleveland Browns Analysis: The Browns made some great improvements to their defense this offseason. Assuming the new defenders live up to their potential, it’ll all be on Deshaun Watson’s shoulders. If Watson can revert to the great quarterback he was with the Texans in 2020, the Browns will have a chance to make a deep push into the playoffs. Conversely, if the Watson who struggled last year persists, Cleveland will likely finish last in the division.

Projection: 11-6 (Tied 3rd in AFC North)

2022 Projection: 9-8. 2022 Actual Result: 7-10.
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: A Grade

Goals Entering the 2023 NFL Draft: The Browns don’t pick until the middle of the third round, so it’ll be difficult for them to make significant upgrades to their roster. However, they have five picks across the third and fourth frames, so they’ll be able to bolster their depth. They should focus on the defense, which had severe issues getting off the field last year.

2023 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Like the Broncos, the Browns didn’t have a pick until the third round. However, they had many other selections at their disposal, so they didn’t need to move down like Denver did. Instead, they made the most of what they had, using the majority of their picks on terrific selections.

It’s hard to believe that Cedric Tillman and Siaki Ika fell to Cleveland in the third round. Tillman is a talented receiver who projects to be a solid No. 2 possession player, while Ika is a monstrous nose tackle. Ika fell because of injury concerns, but he was well worth the bargain toward the end of the third round. Dawand Jones was also a steal in the fourth frame.

The Browns continued to draft extremely well on Day 3, with terrific choices being made on Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Cam Mitchell, and Luke Wypler. All three picks scored an A- or higher. In fact, six of Cleveland’s seven draft choices were at least an A-. This was amazing drafting by the front office despite having no resources in the first two rounds.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

74. Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee – A Grade
I was really hoping for an offensive lineman, but another weapon for Deshaun Watson makes a ton of sense – especially this one. Cedric Tillman should have been chosen 20 or so selections earlier than this. Tillman is a huge receiver who will be a great weapon for Watson in the end zone.

98. Siaki Ika, NT, Baylor – A- Grade
Siaki Ika is someone I had in the first round long ago, but he fell because of injury concerns. He’s also a run-stuffer, so he made sense for the second frame anyway. Still, the Browns desperately needed someone to help stop the run, which was a big problem for them last year.

111. Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State – A+ Grade
The Colts brought in plenty of offensive linemen for top-30 visits, as they wanted depth and a successor for Jack Conklin. Dawand Jones is a massive offensive lineman who will blast open huge running lanes for Nick Chubb. He could have gone in the second round, so I love this value.

126. Isaiah McGuire, DE, Missouri – C+ Grade
The Browns needed to continue to bolster their defensive line, which was very weak last year outside of Myles Garrett. Isaiah McGuire is a powerful defensive lineman who could do well in Cleveland’s rotation. I had him going later though.

140. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA – A- Grade
With Jacoby Brissett gone, the Browns needed to develop a young quarterback just in case Deshaun Watson gets more massages. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a very mobile quarterback who provides some value in the fifth round.

142. Cam Mitchell, CB/S, Northwestern – A Grade
I had Cam Mitchell going in the third round, so I love this value. Cam Mitchell is a physical, versatile defensive back who can play all over the secondary. He’ll be needed versus the high-powered offenses in the AFC.

190. Luke Wypler, C, Ohio State – A+ Grade
What a steal! Luke Wypler should have been drafted on Day 2. The Browns showed interest in a bunch of centers during the pre-draft process, and I can’t imagine that they thought they’d land someone like Wypler in the sixth round.

Season Summary:
The Browns were not expected to reach the playoffs last year, given Deshaun Watson’s suspension. The hope was that they would be able to develop some players and get Watson into a rhythm once he returned to action. Watson, however, struggled when he was finally able to play.

Offseason Moves:
  • Browns sign S Rodney McLeod
  • Browns sign G Wes Martin
  • Browns sign WR Marquise Goodwin
  • Browns acquire WR Elijah Moore from Jets for pick swap
  • Browns sign QB Joshua Dobbs
  • Browns sign CB Mike Ford
  • Browns sign TE Jordan Akins
  • Browns sign DT Trysten Hill
  • Browns sign DT Maurice Hurst
  • Browns sign S Juan Thornhill
  • Browns sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Browns sign DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Defensive Tackles: Cleveland was woeful to the run last year. The interior of the defensive line must be completely retooled. Signed Dalvin Tomlinson and Maurice Hurst and Trysten Hill

    2. Defensive End: Aside from Myles Garrett, the Browns struggled to get to the quarterback last year. Adding a potent edge rusher to bookend Garrett would go a long way in upgrading the defense. Signed Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

    3. Linebacker: Anthony Walker is an impending free agent. He was sorely missed when he got hurt in Week 3 last year. Re-signed Anthony Walker

    4. Wide Receiver Depth: The Browns could stand to add a better third receiver after Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Traded for Elijah Moore; signed Marquise Goodwin

    5. Running Back Depth: Both Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson are impending free agents. One will need to be re-signed.

    6. Backup Quarterback: Jacoby Brissett is set to hit free agency. A better backup will be needed behind Deshaun Watson. Signed Joshua Dobbs

    7. Kicker: Cade York struggled in his rookie year. The Browns may want to add some competition for him.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2023 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Vikings. Age: 29.
      Signed with Browns (4 years, $57 million)

      Dalvin Tomlinson is a stellar defensive tackle who can generate great pressure and also play the run very well.

    2. Juan Thornhill, S, Chiefs. Age: 27.
      Signed with Browns (3 years, $21 million)

      Juan Thornhill tends to miss more tackles than average, but he’s great in coverage.

    3. Rodney McLeod, S, Colts. Age: 33.
      Signed with Browns

      Rodney McLeod is coming off a great year after some injury-plagued seasons. He could continue to perform on a high note, but his age (33) is becoming a concern.

    4. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB, Texans. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns
    5. Trysten Hill, DT, Cardinals. Age: 25. — Signed with Browns
    6. Marquise Goodwin, WR, Seahawks. Age: 32. — Signed with Browns
    7. Jordan Akins, TE, Texans. Age: 31. — Signed with Browns
    8. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Titans. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns (1 year)
    9. Mike Ford, CB, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns
    10. Colby Gossett, G, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Browns
    11. Wes Martin, G, Redskins. Age: 27. — Signed with Browns

    Cleveland Browns Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Ethan Pocic, C, Browns. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Browns (3 years, $18 million)

      Ethan Pocic had a rough start to his career, but he developed nicely and was dominant last year until suffering an injury. He was sorely missed when he was sidelined.

    2. Anthony Walker, LB, Browns. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Browns (1 year)

      Want to know why Cleveland’s defense was so bad last year? Anthony Walker suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. He was sorely missed as a terrific coverage linebacker.

    3. Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns. Age: 28.
      It’s a shame that Kareem Hunt had his best years wasted behind Nick Chubb. He can be one of the top producers at the position if he’s able to handle a full workload.

    4. John Johnson, S, Browns. Age: 27.
      John Johnson is coming off a down year with plenty of missed tackles, but he’s young enough to rebound and perform on a high level again.

    5. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Browns. Age: 30.
      Signed with Redskins (1 year, $10 million)

      Jacoby Brissett was thought of as a liability to start the year, but he proved to be a strength for the Browns in 2022. He completed 64 percent of his passes while maintaining a 7.1 YPA.

    6. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Browns. Age: 30.
      There was some drama with Jadeveon Clowney being sent home by the team in the finale. Clowney is talented, but he’s just been a mediocre-at-best producer.

    7. D’Ernest Johnson, RB, Browns. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jaguars

      D’Ernest Johnson has been buried on Cleveland’s depth chart, but he has shown that he can be an effective runner when given the chance.

    8. Taven Bryan, DE/DT, Browns. Age: 27. — Signed with Colts (1 year)
    9. Deion Jones, LB, Browns. Age: 28.
    10. Chase Winovich, DE, Browns. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans
    11. Pharaoh Brown, TE, Browns. Age: 29.
    12. Chris Hubbard, OT, Browns. Age: 32.
    13. Ronnie Harrison, S, Browns. Age: 26.
    14. Greedy Williams, CB, Browns. Age: 25. — Signed with Eagles
    15. Stephen Weatherly, DE, Browns. Age: 29.
    16. Jordan Kunaszyk, LB, Browns. Age: 29.
    17. Jermaine Carter, LB, Browns. Age: 28.
    18. Reggie Ragland, LB, Browns. Age: 29.
    19. Jesse James, TE, Browns. Age: 29. — Signed with Saints

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
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