Week 1 kickoff at Arrowhead Stadium is quickly approaching. The Cleveland Browns, of course, will be taking on the defending AFC champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. Many fans will remember how close the Browns were to pulling off the upset over the Chiefs in the playoffs last year. They were a fourth down stop, and a score, away from going on to the AFC Championship Game.
However, last season was certainly a successful one. The Browns made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and won a playoff game for the first time since 1994. With all that being said, there were many improvements the front office needed to make to be a real Super Bowl contender.
Let’s check out how the Browns offseason, and if they are a real threat going forward.
2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland
After a great season, the city of Cleveland put on a show for the 2021 NFL Draft. Going into the draft the Browns, were looking to target defensive backs, linebackers and possibly another wide receiver. Luckily, Greg Newsome II fell to them, and the Browns couldn’t have been quicker making the pick. Newsome had a great year at Northwestern and received rave reviews from NFL Scouts. Adding him in the first round made the Browns draft good, but it would get even better soon after.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was looked at as a first-round selection by most scouts. However, he had some heart issues late in the draft process, so he slipped into the second. When he kept falling, the Browns general manager Andrew Berry knew he had to make his move. He traded up to draft the playmaker from Notre Dame. It was a huge get for the Browns front office, and JOK should contribute right away while playing linebacker and safety.
In the later rounds, the Browns took a shot on wide receiver Anthony Schwartz from Auburn, who has elite-level speed. They also looked to fill the gap caused by Sheldon Richardson’s release, drafting Tommy Togiai out of Ohio State.
Overall, the draft wasn’t as exciting in the later rounds, but the first two picks alone are enough to give the Browns a great grade from the 2021 NFL Draft.
Browns Grade: A
Cleveland Browns Free Agency
Everyone in the league knew that Cleveland would look to make its defense better through NFL Free Agency, as well as the NFL Draft. Well, the first signing of the Browns offseason was a huge one. Berry lured safety John Johnson III from the Rams. Johnson was the play-caller on the NFL’s top-ranked defense last year. However, Berry wasn’t done in LA. The Browns then went on to sign Troy Hill from under the nose of the Rams. Hill is an above average slot-cornerback who is originally from Youngstown, Ohio. With the secondary filled out, it was time to take a look at the front seven.
The Browns made two huge moves to improve the front seven. First, Berry signed linebacker Anthony Walker from the Indianapolis Colts. Walker has piled up 393 combined tackles during his four-year career in the NFL. However, the big signing was one that should have happened last year. The front office got the signature of Jadeveon Clowney. He is coming off an injury, but since he’s been in Cleveland, he’s looked ready to go. Unfortunately, the Browns had to cut Sheldon Richardson to clear cap space for Clowney. The move to cut Richardson didn’t sit well with some. That, on top of Clowney’s $10 million contract, is a bit of a negative, in my point of view. The Browns also added defensive tackles Malik Jackson and defensive end Takk McKinley.
Overall, the NFL Free Agency period was a good one for the Browns, but it wasn’t perfect.
Browns Grade: B+
Shockingly, No Off-Field Issues
Shockingly, other than the signings and the draft, the offseason has been pretty quiet. The Browns really haven’t had any off-field issues with players. Chief of Staff Callie Brownson was arrested and eventually charged with an OVI in late May. Other than that, the staff have had no issues as well. The only blip on the radar was back in February when rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and wide receiver Rashard Higgins were charged with speeding after they were caught “drag racing” by the police. With all this being said, there is still work to be done with some key players before the season.
Browns Grade: A+
After signing Myles Garrett to a huge contract extension last summer, it’s time to look at the roster moves that need to be made from the players in the 2018 NFL Draft. Obviously, the number one priority should be Baker Mayfield. His agent and the Browns front office have been in conversation about a deal, but Baker is in “no rush” to get one signed before the season.
After Mayfield, the Browns should focus on extending Denzel Ward, Wyatt Teller and Nick Chubb, in that order. Ward may not be as proven as the other players from the 2018 NFL Draft, but he plays a premier position and is well above average in coverage. Teller is quite a good story. He basically went from not seeing the field at all in 2019, to becoming one of the best guards in the league in 2020-2021. He’s an excellent run-blocker and his pass blocking is above the standard in the NFL.
Overall, the Browns really should focus on keeping their core offensive line guys under contract as long as possible. As for Nick Chubb, the common theme among running backs is that you shouldn’t pay big money for them. With Chubb, I disagree. He’s a top-three running back in the league, when healthy, and is also an excellent pass protector. Chubb is a huge reason why the Browns are contenders this year, so in the end it makes sense to pay the man.
Overall Browns Offseason Grade
After a long Browns offseason, Cleveland shocked many with how well they did. Signing a guy like John Johnson III away from LA would not have been possible with former Browns teams. While I don’t love the money thrown at Clowney, it’s still a huge signing. Overall, as a Browns fan, I think you should be happy with the entire offseason. No more quarterbacks going to clubs with a fake mustache on this Browns team.
Final Grade: A