After a successful offseason, the Cleveland Browns are set to start training camp. Fans are hopeful that this will be the season that ends the 17 year playoff drought and the start of a dynasty. With all that being said, here are my top 10 additions to the team roster:
10. K Austin Seibert
Last season was possibly the worst season for kickers in NFL history. More extra points and field goals were missed than in previous seasons, and there were more kickers consistently on the injury list. That in itself showed the importance and value of a good kicker in the game.
Browns have not had an established starting kicker since they let Phil Dawson (who is currently a free agent) go in 2013. Four of the Browns losses last season were by 3 points or less. Obviously, the Browns entered the offseason trying to find a long term answer for the position.
Austin Seibert had much success at Oklahoma, but just because the Browns used a draft pick on him does not hand him the job. He will have to battle it out against last season’s starter Greg Joseph, who came in mid-season after Zane Gonzalez was cut. Seibert has great kicking accuracy, and holds the college football record for most extra points and field goal attempts. Only time will tell if Seibert can be a new fan favorite in Cleveland.
9. S Morgan Burnett
Browns had a hole at safety after trading Jabrill Peppers to the Giants. Since then they have added plenty of options. They traded for Eric Murray from the Cheifs, they drafted Sheldrick Redwine out of Miami, and Jermaine Whitehead turned some heads at mini camp. But let’s not forget about a key veteran they added in free agency in Morgan Burnett.
In case you don’t know the story, Burnett started for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season and decided he didn’t want to deal with the team’s locker room issues any longer. He demanded a trade but ended up getting waived instead. As a result, he signed a three year deal with the good guys in Cleveland! Mainly because he was familiar with the front office that drafted him in Green Bay.
As of right now, it is a toss up who starts opposite of Damarius Randall. But Burnett brings experience and leadership that can help the Browns on the defensive side of the ball. If he does indeed make the week 1 roster, he may have an important role on the team.
8. DT Sheldon Richardson
Browns needed to add some power next to Larry Ogunjobi, and they did just that. Richardson is joining the Browns after a solid season with the Minnesota Vikings where he registered 48 total tackles including 4.5 sacks. Browns defensive line was inconsistent blocking up the middle last season. Hopefully adding Richardson will change that.
7. LB Mack Wilson
I must warn you, I’m being very bias with this one. Wilson was one of my favorite players in the draft. When the Browns selected Sione Takitaki in the 3rd round, I thought for sure Wilson was not in the Browns’ plans. As luck would have it, he slipped to the 5th round where Cleveland selected him.
Wilson may not do much early in the regular season but in due time he will be a fan favorite. Above average speed and field awareness for a linebacker his size. He stood out among rookies in minicamp. Hopefully my expectations are right and fans get to see what I’ve been preaching about since the draft.
6. TE Demetrius Harris
Possibly the most underrated acquisition this offseason. Browns hands down have one of the best receiving groups in the league, and Harris could be a secret weapon for Baker. In Kansas City, he was mainly used for the red zone where he caught 3 touchdowns last season. But in Freddie Kitchens offensive scheme it will be easy to assume he could take on a bigger role. Possibly similar to what Darren Fells did last season. At 6’7 with better speed and hands than most tight ends, it’s obvious why Harris would be favorable target down the stretch.
5. CB Greedy Williams
Browns 1st pick in the draft did not come until the 2nd round due to the Odell Beckham trade. John Dorsey hit a home run drafting Denzel Ward with the 4th overall pick in the 2018 draft. He was determined to find a long term starter on the opposite end of Ward. With many cornerbacks already taken in the first 2 rounds, Williams somehow slipped to the Browns on the 46th overall pick.
Williams was an All-SEC player with 71 tackles, 8 interceptions, and 28 pass deflections in the 2 seasons he started in LSU. He played all 24 games.
It is still up in the air if Williams earns a starting spot right out of the gate. With Terrance Mitchell and T.J. Carrie also in the mix, coaching staff may lean towards starting the season off with more experienced players. However, if he has fantastic camp and preseason, he could convince the team to start him week one just like Ward did last season.
4. DE Oliver Vernon
Browns needed to give Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi some more help on the defensive line. They gave them a big boost adding Vernon in the mix. He is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he had 23 tackles 7 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.
Vernon was overshadowed by the Odell Beckham hype, but provides an extremely important part to the team’s success. Browns defense was inconsistent pressuring opposing quarterbacks last season. They’re coverage squad was worn down as a result. With Vernon on the opposite side of Garrett, it should create a nightmare for offensive lines.
3. RB Kareem Hunt
Even though Browns fell short of making the playoffs, they made headlines last January when they signed troubled running back Kareem Hunt. Every football fan knows the story. Hunt was having a memorable season with the Kansas City Chiefs, when videos surfaced of him committing violent actions towards a woman. As a result, Chiefs decided to part ways with their young star leaving his career in question. Lucky for him, the guy who drafted him was willing to give him a second chance with his new team.
Hunt will start the season off with an 8 game suspension due to his actions. That will make it about a full year since he last took the field. Since his signing he has pushed himself to better himself. One more bad slip could cost him his career.
This is a low risk, high reward situation for Cleveland. They’re not paying him money players of his caliber get and they have another star studded back in Nick Chubb. Best case scenario, after the suspension Hunt helps lead his hometown team to a playoff run. Worst case scenario, he is rusty and not to his peak in ability in which Chubb would take over. There is also a chance it could be Josh Gordon all over again and another fine player destroys everything he worked for.
But I would like a happy ending here and I believe in grace. The organization has his back and there is no doubt he wants to join the hype with his city. The positives are he is working hard on himself and he’s healthy. Any team in the league would benefit to have his talent.
2. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
I know, you’re probably shocked he’s not number 1, but I’ll get to that. A few seasons ago the Browns didn’t have a consistent realiable wide receiver. The first trade John Dorsey did as general manager was trade for Jarvis Laundry. He then drafted Antonio Callaway and the team continued to use Rashard Higgins as the second receiver. Even though things looked better on the field, Dorsey knew Baker Mayfield would need more weapons if the offense was going to succeed. Last March, Dorsey put all his chips in and acquired one of the top receivers in the league.
Along with all the hype, there are also plenty of questions surrounding Beckham’s new situation. Here are things football fans have to remember:
1. He knows his teammates. Landry is a close friend and he has been hanging around Mayfield since before he was traded. Before he was a Cleveland Brown he was aware that the team was building something special. The new leadership and direction will help him mentally, on and off the field.
2. Despite some of the drama in New York, he did not give up. We have seen superstars before when things get messy in an organization. They refuse to play, they whine to the media, and they demand trades. Beckham was the exact opposite. He tried to make it work. The hustle on every play, trying to connect with players and coaches, and do whatever he could to improve the direction of the team. He signed long term to be a Giant for his career and lead the team to their next super bowl victory. Fortunately for the Browns, Giants had other ideas.
3. Beckham is about winning and only winning! This is a guy who still hasn’t let go of the junior high basketball championship he lost. It’s win or go home, which is the attitude every successful NFL franchise has to have. The only thing on his mind is winning Cleveland a super bowl. The biggest star athlete since LeBron James returned in 2014. Can OBJ do the same thing James did in 2016?!
1. Coach Freddie Kitchens
I know he isn’t technically a acquisition and he doesn’t play on the field. But given the circumstances, this team needed a head coach more than anything else. Look at every successful winning team in the history of pro football. What did they all have in common? A leader on the sidelines.
A former All-Pro Browns player once told me that the team’s main problem for over a decade was that there were no “football guys” running the team. He was exactly right. They had tried business executives, men knowledgeable about the game, but never anyone who breathed it. When Jimmy Haslam hired John Dorsey, not only was it his first good move but that was the first time since 2002 the team had a front office run by a football guy.
Dorsey had played the game and was head of scouting and player personnel on successful teams. Bottomline, he is a football guy. He knows talent when he sees it and he knows what it takes to create a winning organization.
It took the Browns 30 different starting quarterbacks to find their franchise quarterback. Why? There are many reasons, but what made Baker Mayfield different from all the others? His accuracy? His throws outside the pocket? His vision? All of those really do stand out compared to the others, but there is one thing in particular: he’s a football guy.
Mayfield isn’t just good at throwing a football and reading defenses. He is a leader that helps improve his teammates around him along with himself. He knows the game and what it takes to win. There are skilled quarterbacks that can win you games and lose focus when it matters the most. Then there are quarterbacks that lead dynasties.
Browns are on their 6th new head coach the past decade and 9th since the 1999 revival (not including interims). That is a terrible stretch. No stability. Even though those men loved the game, they were not cut out to be head coaches. Pat Shurmur is the only one out of that group that is currently a head coach somewhere else, but is only entering his second season with the team. Romeo Crennel did get a second chance at head coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs but it was worse than his stint with the Browns.
Freddie Kitchens successful coaching career goes beyond his offensive coordinator duties from last season. He learned under the likes of Nick Saban, Bill Parcel, and Bruce Arians. He worked with many successful assistant coaches as well. When the Browns hired him they were the only team that did not struggle to fill their coaching staff. Many coaches left great situations to join Kitchens. Why? They know him and believe in him. They were also on board with the direction of the front office.
Browns needed a football guy on the sidelines and in the locker room. They got that with hiring Freddie Kitchens. One step closer to bringing back a winning football franchise in Cleveland.