UPDATE: On Sunday, the Browns claimed 5 players off waivers. Find out about all of them here.
The Cleveland Browns are in the enviable position of having first dibs on any and all players on the waiver wire they so choose. If you are unclear on it, think of it this way: if there were 53 players who Cleveland wanted to claim, they could claim 53 players and be guaranteed every single one of them, regardless of what the other 31 teams in the NFL did.
Of course, we won’t see that many waiver claims, but for a team that already appears on the rise, this is a golden opportunity for Sashi Brown and company to strengthen the back-end of their roster with more quality depth. And the talent pool out there could be greater than ever, per Adam Schefter of ESPN:
One personnel director just predicted that he believes Sunday will see "a record amount of waiver claims." So final rosters are not final.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 2, 2017
So, which players could be of interest to Cleveland? Let’s take a look at some of the hot names out there.
WR Austin Carr
I have to make an obligatory, “Get that weak stuff outta here!” reference. The name is already a legend for the Cavaliers, but I promise you that the football Austin Carr is very different. An undrafted free agent for the New England Patriots this year, he worked the slot and was highly-touted.
According to Pro Football Focus, Carr (6-1, 195 lbs) had the most catches (14) this preseason without a drop. This preseason, those 14 catches went for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns. Here is one of those touchdown grabs:
Patriots rookie WR Austin Carr continues to impress for the Patriots. 14 yard TD here from Jacoby Brissett. pic.twitter.com/lmnbYeSTva— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) September 1, 2017
ESPN's Darren Rovell tweeted a few days ago that "NFL scouts should be embarrassed that Austin Carr went undrafted." Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network said, "Many Pats fans here are surprised that Carr was waived, and I'm in the same boat. Impressive preseason and looked good in camp when I was there."
WR Kasen Williams
When Hue Jackson was still with the Bengals, the team tried to sign Kasen Williams (6-1, 219 lbs) as an undrafted free agent. However, he failed a physical and ended up in Seattle instead. He's been a practice squad type player the past two years, but it was believed that he came on strong this preseason, even getting some first-team reps with Seattle's offense.
This preseason, Williams caught 9 passes for 208 yards and 1 touchdown. Here are two catches he had in the preseason finale (clip 1, clip 2). Here is a great one-hand stab he had against CB Xavier Rhodes of the Vikings:
OL Michael Schofield
A 3rd round pick in 2014 by the Denver Broncos, Michael Schofield (6-6, 310 lbs) was one of the surprise cuts this weekend (can you imagine the Prison Break references we could make for him?). He started 29 games with Denver. 13 of those starts came in 2015, when he was a right tackle. He also played left tackle in Super Bowl 50. Last year, he transitioned to right guard, started all 16 games, and “flourished,” according to our Broncos affiliate.
Offseason moves by Denver turned Schofield into a key rotational player heading into camp. He reportedly asked to be traded when he felt he didn’t have a place on the roster, so the team parted ways with him. I don’t know if that attitude would be welcome in Cleveland, but his age would make him a much younger replacement for John Greco, at least for this year. Oddly, while a poll on our affiliate indicates that cutting Schofield was the right move, the comments seem to indicate otherwise.
CB Pierre Desir
Could we see the former Browns cornerback return to Cleveland? We all know he was a 4th round pick by the club in 2014 and a high-character family man. He was with Hue Jackson’s Browns in camp in 2016, but didn’t make the roster. He played sparingly in San Diego last year before getting a shot with the Seahawks this offseason. Switch flipped. Desir was the top-ranked cornerback this preseason according to Pro Football Focus, and here’s a note that had on him the other day:
Desir had a great preseason, allowing only four catches in coverage on 17 targets. Perhaps more impressive is he allowed only 4 yards after the catch through the four games.
Here’s an example of him using his length to defend a pass (out of bounds) against the Chiefs in the end zone. Cleveland isn’t in desperate need at cornerback, but there might be more intrigue in a guy like Desir maturing than the likes of Marcus Burley or Darius Hillary.
I'm still all-aboard the Pierre Desir hive. Had a good showing in extended time yesterday. pic.twitter.com/c6pEUDKjCB— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) August 26, 2017
- RB Matt Jones (6-2, 232 lbs) - Despite his fumbling issues, he was having a great start to the season last year for Washington before falling out of favor. Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan just classified Jones “the most criminally underrated RB in the NFL.”
- WR Malachi Dupree (6-2, 196 lbs) - Spent camp with the Green Bay Packers (7th round pick). He was one of the players who Cleveland brought on a visit to Berea this year.
- WR Robert Davis (6-3, 217 lbs) - Good combination of size and blocking ability, being a 6th round pick by the Redskins this year. Here’s a look at one of his blocks.
- OT Max Rich (6-7, 315 lbs) - Backup tackle who was with the New England Patriots (undrafted).
- OL Adam Pankey (6-5, 324 lbs) - Played guard and tackle for the Packers (undrafted), but was viewed as a good developmental prospect who was winning one-on-one battles in camp.
- OT Dillon Gordon (6-4, 322 lbs) - An undrafted free agent (2016) by the Eagles, he played tight end in college and transitioned to tackle. He was a guy who fans wanted to see make the roster, and he was also getting some work at fullback for the club, something that could help if Danny Vitale (ankle) is out Week 1.
- OL Dorian Johnson (6-5, 315 lbs) - A 4th round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. While he couldn’t play OG for the Browns right away due to his struggles, the team could be interested in seeing if they can develop him.
- MLB Joshua Perry (6-4, 253 lbs) - The Ohio State product was a surprise cut by the Los Angeles Chargers (4th round pick in 2016). He had 22 tackles last year, but is currently dealing with a concussion.
- MLB Scooby Wright (6-0, 240 lbs) - Another former Brown who was with the Arizona Cardinals this camp, he received positive reviews and finished the preseason with 18 tackles.
- OLB Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 249 lbs) - A 3rd round pick by the Raiders in 2016, he only had 9 tackles a year ago and was considered a disappointment. I’m not sure Gregg Williams would be interested in trying to revive a guy’s career without the benefit of an offseason, but he’s still a big name to list.
- S Anthony Cioffi (6-0, 205 lbs) - An undrafted free agent out of Rutgers, Cioffi had a solid camp for the Oakland Raiders, but the team only kept four safeties. It’s hard to see Cleveland swapping one undrafted guy for another (Kai Nacua), but you never know.
Who Would You Like to See?
Last year, Cleveland claimed the following five players off waivers: RB George Atkinson, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB Marcus Burley, DE Tyrone Holmes, and LB Corey Lemonier. Three of them are still with the team, and Boddy-Calhoun in particular appears to have been a real gem.
Let us know which players you’d like to see the Browns claim off waivers this year. We should know by 12:00 PM ET on Sunday who Cleveland is claiming. Because they have first dibs, though, we might hear news about their pickups sooner than that. Use this as an open thread to initially discuss all of Sunday’s options.