Winning in the offseason does not always equate to winning when it matters, but it can go a long way for a team.
That is the hope for the Cleveland Browns, who have been making headlines since the start of the league year in March.
The moves that general manager John Dorsey made in support of first-time head coach Freddie Kitchens - most notably the trade for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. - have earned the Browns a top grade from Ryan Wilson at CBS Sports.
Wilson took a look at the offseason transactions made by the Browns and their fellow teams in the AFC North Division, and while he handed a C+ to the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, and a C- to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns walked out with an A on their report card:
Here’s all you need to know: Baker Mayfield made his first start in Week 4 and proceeded to go 1-4. Coach Hue Jackson was fired and Mayfield and the Browns finished 5-3. Over that span Mayfield threw 19 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions and looked every bit the franchise quarterback the Browns had been searching two decades for.
Jackson has been replaced by Freddie Kitchens, who served as Mayfield’s offensive coordinator over the final half of the ‘18 season. Kitchens has no previous NFL head-coaching experience but he has one of the NFL’s best rosters -- on both sides of the ball -- at his disposal. Mayfield is poised to improve on his impressive rookie campaign and in addition to Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and David Njoku, Cleveland traded for Odell Freakin’ Beckham. If that wasn’t enough, GM John Dorsey added running back Kareem Hunt, who will be suspended the first eight games of the season. When he’s reinstated, he’ll make an already strong backfield even stronger, joining 2018 second-rounder Nick Chubb.
The biggest stumbling block to a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 lays with the offensive line. The Browns could’ve addressed left tackle with the No. 17 pick, but they shipped it -- and Jabrill Peppers -- to the Giants for Beckham. It was a more than reasonable swap, for sure, but left tackle Greg Robinson will need to play much better than he did a season ago.
On defense, the team bolstered the defensive line by signing Sheldon Richardson, adding Takitaki and Wilson -- two playmaking, athletic linebackers -- in the draft, and somehow landed the draft’s most athletic cornerback, Greedy Williams, in Round 2.
There’s a reason the Browns -- not the Steelers or Ravens -- have the best Super Bowl odds (16-to-1) of any team in the division.
It is a bit odd that Wilson makes no mention of the loss of right guard Kevin Zeitler and the possible repercussions of that move, but otherwise hits all the high points.
While the grades ultimately mean little, they do reflect how Dorsey has worked hard to close the talent gap between the Browns and the other teams in the division. (They also will not help Dorsey’s efforts to quiet the growing hype about the Browns.)
Dorsey has done a good job setting up the Browns as “winners” in the offseason, now it is up to Kitchens and the players to turn the team into actual winners come this fall.