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Cleveland Browns: Pre-free agency needs

Browns

Season Overview

As you can imagine… this was a very easy list of needs to come up with. When you have won one game out of 32 opportunities in the last two seasons, you need help at every position. The most talented position is currently filled with a 33-year-old who played seven games this season and because it is so obvious, I will NOT be adding the need of quarterback on this list. Despite the fact that the Browns have the highest number of draft picks this season, they still can-not fulfill all of their needs in the draft, so we may see them try to sign a few young pieces. There are several stats as a team that are frightening per the graph below (ESPN).

 

Turnover Differential-2832nd in the NFL
Points per game14.6 ppg32nd in the NFL
Points Allowed PG25.6 ppg31st in the NFL
Interceptions731st in the NFL
Opponent Completion %68.6%32nd in the NFL

 

Yet, after studying their 16 games this season there are a few bright spots on this team that Browns’ fans should be excited about including Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, the left side of the offensive line and Josh Gordon (if he can stay on the field). At the start of the season, Cleveland will have four offensive lineman who are in the top 15 of their respective positions in the league. The Browns were also 10th in rushing defense which should have helped their pass defense, but it was still one of the worst in the league. Even though they have these pieces, they will have to draft the best available player rather than specific position players.

Assets

Coming into the new season, the Browns will have over $110 million in cap space and are only losing one starter to free agency (Isiah Crowell). On top of the mountain of cap space, they also have 12 draft picks. Four of these picks are in the top 35 picks and eight in the first four rounds.

Biggest Need (Other than QB) – Wide Receiver

Cleveland Browns needs
Credit: Akron Beacon-Journal

When the best wide receiver on your team has played 10 games since the start of the 2014 season, you might have an issue. According to profootballfocus.com, other than Josh Gordon, the three receivers who received the most snaps are ranked 102, 110 and 114 respectively. Having such a drought at this position makes the evaluation of the quarterback much more difficult, which they have had to try and do for years. In other words, other than Josh Gordon, the other three receivers they have are not graded within the abilities of a #1, #2 or #3 receiver.

These Browns receivers were tied for 8th in the league with 21 drops this season (Washington Post) and 28th in receiving touchdowns with 15 touchdowns on the season (NFL.com). So, in order to efficiently grade the quarterbacks that they have, the Browns will need to give them competent weapons to compete against the elite defense within the division and the rest of the National Football League.

 

Second Biggest Need – Outside Linebacker

Despite being having a top-ten run defense, the linebacker position is the weakest part of this defense. Each of their outside linebackers are given the poor grade from profootballfocus.com and rated at 52, 66 and 82. The grade for each of these linebackers are this high because of their rush defense ability, but the lack of lateral speed and coverage ability creates mismatches against athletic tight ends and wide receivers. Particularly disappointing this season was Jamie Collins who is earning a base salary of over $10,000,000 a year and was still rated above 50th in pass rush defense, despite him being brought to the team for that same reason.

Though the outside linebacker position is very weak, the inside linebacker is a strength. Joe Schobert started as the middle linebacker this season and made his way to the pro bowl (the only win for him on the season) with 144 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception.

 Third Biggest Need – Right Tackle

 

Credit: Akron Beacon Journal

Cleveland currently pays over $44,000,000 a year on their offensive line and they have a highly rated offensive line starting from the right guard position to the left tackle. However, the right tackle position was much lower in quality than the rest of the line and Shon Coleman was the primary right tackle in 2017. Coleman was rated the 51st best tackle in the NFL this season and after performance fall off when compared to his limited snaps in the 2016 season. Though having a below average right tackle can hinder what an offense can do and because the rest of the line is very talented, new offensive coordinator Todd Haley can scheme his offense around this hole. It is worth saying, though Coleman is not a great player, he is still competent but he’s below average.

 

Wrap-Up

The Browns are in a great position to overhaul their roster with 12 draft picks and the second-most cap space in the NFL. With new general manager John Dorsey in charge, there is hope for Browns’ fans, but I know they are sick of hearing about hope – they just want results.

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