5 Offseason Keys for the Cleveland Browns

5 Offseason Keys for the Cleveland Browns

by February 5, 2019 0 comments

The 2018 Cleveland Browns were a completely different story for fans who are accustomed to misery and hopelessness every time they turn on a game.

After a 1-15 season followed by 0-16 in the two seasons prior, the Browns looked like more of the same would continue. However, a mid-season coaching change, which included firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, helped spark the team in the last half of the season, going 5-3 in that span.

Led by interim head coach Gregg Williams and new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, the Browns showed vast improvements and look like they have their quarterback of the future with Baker Mayfield. Gregg Williams was let go, but Freddie Kitchens was promoted to be the next head coach. There are no doubt Browns fans are excited heading into 2019, but before the next season comes around, here are the five steps Browns fans should look at with the offseason underway.

Player Releases

The Browns have a lot of talented players, but also some players that could cost a lot of money to keep and have either declined in performance or who have not lived up to expectations.

On offense, right tackle Chris Hubbard played all sixteen games, but was a below-average starter and was often the weak link of the offensive line, even later in the season. According to Spotrac, the Browns could save $4.1 million by releasing him this offseason and could upgrade that position internally, through free agency or the draft.

Another small move that could be made is releasing tight end Seth Devalve. Heading into his 4th season, Devalve has had trouble staying healthy and makes little impact on the field.

On defense, the Browns have a few more tough decisions to make, specifically at linebacker. Both Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey had subpar seasons, despite Collins’ seemingly good stats.

According to Spotrac, the Browns can release Collins this offseason and save $9.25 million on their cap, while getting rid of Kirksey would actually cost the Browns $2.4 million unless they can trade him. The Browns can’t afford to let both go, so it will be interesting to see whether both will be back in 2019 or not.

Player Extensions

While there are only two notable players the Browns will seemingly extend this offseason, it is a major priority for the Browns to get these deals done and move onto the next phase of the offseason.

Demarious Randall was acquired last offseason from the Green Bay Packers and excelled at free safety. While his interception numbers dwindled as the season went on, his impact in the secondary gave all the new cornerbacks and safety Jabril Peppers more confidence and became the leader of that unit. While he has one more year left on his rookie contract, the Browns should waste no time in locking Randall up long term.

Joe Schobert is the other player deserving of an extension. Like Randall, he became the leader of his unit and to many Browns fans, the quarterback of the defense. His impact was huge in the middle of the field and after a Pro Bowl season in 2017, Schobert proved that season was no fluke. The Browns should extend him and not think twice about it.

Free Agency Acquisitions

The Browns go into the 2019 offseason with nearly $79 million in cap room, not including the potential cuts or trades discussed earlier. After the second half surge, Browns fans might think this is the time to spend big in free agency and get a splash signing.

However, general manager John Dorsey comes from the Green Bay Packers tree of scouting, meaning drafting and retaining players is the bigger priority. This isn’t to say that if a marquee free agent expresses interest in the Browns, Dorsey wouldn’t explore it.

What this means is, don’t expect the Browns to sign multiple big-time free agents. The Browns could sign one or two, but many of the deep groups in free agency are also deep in the draft, so the question is, does Dorsey want to pay a premium on an established player or draft one at a cheaper price and trust the coaching staff to develop them? Only time will tell, but Browns fans can go into free agency now with the hope that top players would sign.

Draft Needs

As stated previously, the positions of need for the Browns will be available in both free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft. This part of the process is John Dorsey’s bread and butter, as there could be countless examples used of his draft picks hitting in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Green Bay.

The Browns need another interior defensive linemen next to Larry Ogunjobi, but also just need depth in general on the defensive line. The linebackers could get more athletic to guard better in space, and it never hurts to have too many quality players in the secondary.

On offense, the Browns have a strong interior offensive line but could use improvements at offensive tackle. Finally, while the wide receiving corp improved throughout the season with Baker Mayfield, a big weapon on the outside could be the last piece Mayfield needs to make this Browns offense truly electrifying.

Coaching Staff Cohesion

It’s no secret that since the inception of the new Browns in 1999, many coaching staffs have lacked cohesion and chemistry. That continued the first half of this past season until Gregg Williams and Freddie Kitchens helped take control and create a positive culture for players and coaches.

Now Freddie Kitchens is a first-time head coach but has done a tremendous job putting a staff together when it comes to accolades and accomplishments. Todd Monken was hired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be the Browns offensive coordinator, but will not call plays, as Kitchens will continue to have final say.

With that being said, Monken will have a significant influence on game planning and working with Kitchens to call plays. Monken came from an offense where he threw the ball heavily, whereas Kitchens is a former running backs coach and ran the ball often on early downs.

It will be interesting to see how these two schools of thought mesh and if Monken continues being ok with not calling plays, which he did in Tampa Bay. The difference in styles could help the Browns create an explosive offense, but the two coaches have to be on the same page.

Defensively, Steve Wilks came over from the Arizona Cardinals after being fired as head coach. While he struggled to be a head coach, he was an excellent defensive coordinator in Carolina under Ron Rivera and comes from the Tony Dungy coaching tree. Expect the Browns to play a lot of zone coverage and not have so many exotic blitzes from secondary players like the Gregg Williams defense.

In all, time will tell if the Browns will keep trending in a positive direction or if they hit some rocky roads along the way. With that being said, if the Browns can hit each of these five goals, Browns fans might go into 2019 training camp with the highest expectations the team has had since 2008 after a 10-6 finish in 2007. Training camp is still nearly six months away though, so in the meantime, the Browns have a lot of work to do.

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