Browns offseason guide 2020: Key free agents, team needs, targets, salary cap & draft picks
With a new general manager in Andrew Berry and a new coach in Kevin Stefanski, the Browns have another new look as they try to turn the corner from a rebuilding team to a contending team once again in 2020.
That fresh brain trust inherits a talented young roster, but one that still has several weaknesses to be addressed while adjusting to new philosophies. Last year, the Browns fell to 6-10 after the promise of a 7-8-1 season. This year, they are hoping another course correction will get them back on the breakthrough track.
Here we take a deep dive into the Browns’ to-do list through free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft.
NFL FREE AGENCY 2020: Ranking top 50 players
Browns’ top priority: Build a better foundation
Cleveland has amassed some good offensive skill around third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield. The collection of Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and David Njoku suggests the Browns should be more explosive and efficient.
Defensively, they have two ballhawks with dynamic potential in cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. But their offensive line screams for big change, and their defensive front seven, beyond a returning Myles Garrett, needs to be cleaned up with more personnel losses ahead.
The Browns didn’t protect Mayfield well last season (40 sacks), and Chubb made their run blocking look better than it was. On the other side, they couldn’t stop the run, limiting their ability to make big plays with the pass rush or in coverage.
There was more style on paper than substance in practice last season in Cleveland, which is why the Browns could not execute well enough to improve their record. With recent offseason approaches, they’ve tried both going the “Moneyball” route with limited spending and going big with splurging. They will serve themselves best by being more calculated in their moves, getting the ideal combination of quantity and quality.
Browns free agents 2020
Here is a look at the Browns’ key unrestricted, unsigned players for next season:
The Browns aren’t too interested (nor should they be) in keeping much from this group, with the exception of the versatile Higgins to flank Beckham and Landry.
Robinson is an easy pass given his recent off-field trouble and general ineffectiveness. Schobert has made a lot of plays for them as a leader, but he will want to move on in free agency.
Browns salary cap
The Browns have more than $60 million under the cap available, putting them in the top quarter of NFL teams in terms of spending flexibility. They will save a lot more money ($15.5 million) with the impending cut of defensive end Olivier Vernon.
Cleveland is in great shape to make more shrewd financial decisions under Berry.
Browns team needs
Browns free agency targets
The Browns have been attached to two names that would be great to address positions of need. At tackle, Jack Conklin would be a massive upgrade over Hubbard. At safety, Anthony Harris is the prize to watch with the Broncos set to tag Justin Simmons.
If the Browns can’t get in on Conklin, then they need to turn their attention to Brandon Scherff to upgrade from Teller. For inside linebacker, Cory Littleton isn’t a bad investment should the Browns want to go the veteran route to replace Schobert. With Woods coming over from the 49ers, defensive end Arik Armstead and safety Jimmie Ward are two more defensive assets to track.
The Browns also are in the market for a veteran backup to Mayfield with Stanton not being retained. The rumors have swirled most around Case Keenum, but going cheaper and more pure backup with Chase Daniel is the better plan.
Browns draft picks 2020
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2020:
Browns boost pass protection with a big tackle
The Browns have the standard issue of seven picks, with an extra third-rounder (from moving Duke Johnson Jr.) but no fifth-rounder.because of their trade with the Bills for Teller. Sporting News’ latest mock draft still has them taking the best offensive tackle available, which lines up well with their initial selection number. They should be happy to land Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton or Georgia’s Andrew Thomas to round out the top 10.
Expect the Browns to tap into the deep wide receiver class for a speedy field-stretcher type and also get a tight end who can complement tight end Njoku, both possibly on Day 2. Otherwise, their draft will be focused on boosting defensive line and secondary depth.
Stefanski (Vikings) and Barry (Eagles) come from teams with which deep and sturdy lines were the focus, and the results were trips to the playoffs. They bring over much-needed winning mentalities and an understanding of the makeup necessary to get there.
The Browns have had reasons for optimism in the recent past, but with those two hires, they seemingly have learned from their mistakes — at least enough to avoid the same errors in 2020.
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