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8 notes on the Browns’ initial 53-man roster

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A quick look at the Browns’ roster composition, and some more notes on WR Sammie Coates and the Broncos getting QB Brock Osweiler.

Erik Drost on Flickr

The Cleveland Browns named their initial 53-man roster on Saturday. Before anticipated waiver claims come in on Sunday, let’s analyze the team’s initial 53-man roster with 8 quick hitter thoughts.

Here are 8 quick hitters about the initial roster:

1. Comparing to Final Projection

I correctly predicted 46/53 (86.8%) of the roster spots in my final roster projection. That’s not the best level of accuracy, especially when you consider that I had the advantage of already knowing about the departures of CB Joe Haden, DE Desmond Bryant, and OG Cameron Erving. But one could also give me credit for projecting OT Rod Johnson to go on IR; that is a move that is expected to take place soon, which would bump me to 47/53 (88.7%).

Our of curiosity, I went back to see how well I did in each of my three final roster projections:

  • 1st projection: 39/53 (73.6%) - link
  • 2nd projection: 45/53 (84.9%) - link
  • 3rd projection: 46/53 (86.8%) - link

2. Who I Missed Out On

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp
MLB Kenneth Olugbode was one of the players I thought would make the 53-man roster.
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The players I thought were going to make the roster, but did not, were WR Rannell Hall, WR Jordan Leslie, TE J.P. Holtz, OG John Greco, DL Karter Schult, MLB Kenneth Olugbode, and K Cody Parkey.

I tried to be cute with the kicker situation by keeping both of them, while the team hoped to get a trade for Parkey. The Panthers actually kept two kickers on their final 53-man roster, doing exactly the strategy I took with one veteran and one rookie. Holtz was also a temporary addition in my mind; once I heard that FB Danny Vitale’s ankle injury wasn’t that bad, I regretted getting cute and adding Holtz on there.

Not including trades, the players I failed to predict making the roster WR Rashard Higgins, OT Zach Sterup, C Austin Reiter, DT Caleb Brantley, and S Kai Nacua.

3. Sashi Brown’s Stamp of Approval

This team is clearly a product of the Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson, and Paul DePodesta era. The team kept all ten of their draft picks in 2017 (with CB Howard Wilson staying via the PUP). 42 of the 53 players on the initial roster arrived on the roster in 2016 or later.

So, who are the 11 players still on the roster from prior to the current regime? RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Duke Johnson, TE Randall Telfer, LT Joe Thomas, OG Joel Bitonio, DL Jamie Meder, DL Nate Orchard, NT Danny Shelton, OLB Christian Kirksey, SS Ibraheim Campbell, LS Charley Hughlett.

4. Biggest Surprise

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns
The release of OG John Greco is one of the puzzling moves the club made.
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re just talking about the cuts from Friday and Saturday, then the biggest surprise definitely remains the release of OG John Greco. Cleveland seems pretty confident in their starting five, but after that, all of the positions are relatively suspect.

I thought OG Spencer Drango was having a rough camp after getting some starting experience a year ago. I’m guessing that OL Marcus Martin, a former 3rd round pick by the 49ers, ended up being preferred, but he doesn’t have a good track record. Add in the fact that Bitonio is coming off of another multiple-week injury, the trading of OL Cameron Erving, and the injury to OT Rod Johnson, and Greco seemed like a quality, cheap, and well-respected player to keep around.

5. Waiver Wire

We’ll be coming up with a separate article [UPDATE: That article has now been published] on possible waiver wire targets who could interest Cleveland, but this serves as a reminder that now the real fun starts for our front office. A payoff of having the worst record a year ago is that they get first dibs on all of the younger players who were cut.

One prime example? WR Austin Carr of the New England Patriots, an undrafted free agent who had a solid preseason and can work the slot. Fans are already clamoring for him, and Cleveland can have him or anyone else they want for free. It’s a luxury that the front office may never experience again.

Despite the initial 53-man roster being set, I could still easily see about six waiver claims. We know that OT Rod Johnson will create one vacancy (IR), so in my scenario, the team would need to cut five players who made the initial roster. The most likely cuts could be WR Rashard Higgins, OG Spencer Drango, OT Zach Sterup, MLB James Burgess, and S Kai Nacua. But it's also possible we still see a few other veterans cuts with veterans like DE Nate Orchard, S Calvin Pryor, or CB Marcus Burley.

The biggest positions of need via the waiver wire should be wide receiver, offensive line, and safety.

6. Practice Squad Possibilities

Of the players cut so far, WR Rannell Hall, OG Anthony Fabiano, DL Karter Schult, MLB Kenneth Olugbode, and CB Najee Murray are the five players I’d most like to see on the practice squad.

7. Brock Osweiler to the Broncos

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos
Brock Osweiler is headed back to Denver. He won’t throw a pass for Cleveland during the regular season, so he misses being on the QB jersey.
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Not many Denver Broncos fans seem pleased at the fact that their team is bringing QB Brock Osweiler back. However, from their team’s perspective, it’s a good move. He’s probably been most at home in that setting, with a front office that has believed in him the most. He’s expected to sign for less than $800,000 to make the veteran minimum.

Why doesn’t he sign for more? Because it doesn’t matter to him — there is offset language, so whatever he “makes” from Denver will simply be subtracted from the guaranteed amount that Cleveland owes him. He could just sit out the entire year and enjoy it, but then that hurts his potential earnings in 2018 and beyond (because he would’ve been out of football for a year).

Either way, I’m glad he’s no longer Cleveland’s problem, and I don’t care about all the money we “owe” him. The trade was made for that second-round draft from the Texans in 2018.

8. A Little More on Sammie Coates

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I’m OK with the Browns not keeping WR Rannell Hall and WR Jordan Leslie, because I really only expected three receivers to be safe to begin with: WR Corey Coleman, WR Kenny Britt, and WR Ricardo Louis. We know the tight ends will play a role on gameday, and RB Duke Johnson will see work in the slot too.

Making the receiver cuts even more understandable is the acquisition of WR Sammie Coates, who was acquired earlier in the day. Coates was on a tear at the start of last year. In his first five games, he had 19 catches for 421 yards and 2 touchdowns. His longest catches in each of his first 5 games were 42, 53, 41, 47, and 72 yards.

But at the end of his big Week 5 game, he suffered a broken finger. He tried to play through it, but only had 2 catches for 14 yards the rest of the year. It clearly affected him, and at a point, I think it started to affect him mentally. But his strength is his lightning-fast speed, which could play favor to QB DeShone Kizer if you remember what he did in the first preseason game.

Josina Anderson of ESPN talked to Coates after the trade was announced. Coates told her that he had his knee scoped 6-7 weeks ago, but he is 100% healthy now. He attributes missing half of camp and the Steelers’ depth at the position for him being traded.

We’ll have coverage of all the Browns’ waiver claims and practice squad additions today, so stay tuned!