If I were the GM

Time to look to the 2022 season. I’m happy that AB will be orchestrating the off season but as an academic exercise I’ve tried to put myself in his position and consider the Browns assets, liabilities and needs in order to be a better team next year. The obvious first consideration is Mayfield’s health and that is up to the doctors and Baker himself. My interest is to look beyond that obvious concern.


Everything in the NFL starts with the salary cap. The Browns currently have 40 players under contract and an available $37.5M additional cap space. If the Browns were to fill out the rest of the roster with minimum cap players there is about $25M remaining. Of course filling out the roster with replacement level players is not an improvement.

The next resource available to the Browns are draft choices. With a pick in every round and additional picks in the 3rd & 4th rounds the Browns are in decent shape. If we draft well at least seven of those draft choices should make the final roster.

The Browns have some promising players under futures contracts (Harvey, Froholdt, Stanton, Kelly, Taylor & Weaver) who might develop into roster positions. They also have some proven players as exclusive right free agents (Hance, Dunn & Bradley) who have been roster contributors. They also have contributing players (D. Johnson, Gustin, Carlson & McLaughlin) who are restricted free agents who can remain with the team if the Browns either give them qualifying offers or match free agent offers.

The team has to look at the current roster to see if there are players who are less valuable on the field than their cap impact. Some players, if released, do not help with the cap as their previous signing bonus is costed entirely against 2022 instead of being spread over the future years of the contract. Hooper would be an excellent example of a player with that type of contract. It makes releasing them a poor decision unless they have little to no value on the field. Of the rostered players who might be considered for release as "cap casualties" are Landry ($15M), Keenan ($6M), Janovich ($1.5M) and Wilson ($1M). I don’t know if the Browns will consider it but Hunt is also a potential casualty ($6.5M). These players can also be of benefit to the cap by being traded.

I decided to list signing free agents as a resource although the risk and cost often makes such signings a liability. If the Browns sign free agents I’d prefer them to select the cap casualties of other teams and late in the off season signings as those free agents do not count against the team in future compensatory pick calculations. The use of free agency requires a sufficient amount of cap space. This can somewhat be offset by using creative bonus amounts that spread the cost into future years. I think that most successful teams find a way to have a decent amount of cap space going into every off season. Spreading cap impact into future years can be a challenge in the future.

The Browns can negotiate contract extensions with players. Some are unrestricted free agents. Others will be free agents after this season. Extending a player before free agency is usually a more cap friendly solution than signing another team’s free agent.


Of the 16 potential free agents there are: Players who made little to no contribution (Switzer & Hubbard), players who are near the end of their effective careers (M. Jackson, Smith, Colquitt), rotational players who are of replacement level (Stewart, Walker, Higgins, Mullins, Odenghibo, Day, Lee), players of superior ability who have been full time starters in the league (McKinley, Njoku, Harrison) and finally an impact player (Clowney). These type of experienced players are vital to success. They are familiar with the team/system.

There are two street free agents who have little league experience but can sign with other teams as they desire (Moffatt & Dawson).

Finally the Browns have 2 key players who are eligible for extensions although they remain under control for another year. Ward is a key member of the defense and has earned an expensive extension. Mayfield’s extension is very much in doubt at this time and will probably be deferred until next year.

Team needs:

Wide Receiver: The Browns need more speed and greater depth. They will go into 2022 with Landry, DPJ and Schwartz. Needing better performance and at least 2 more players for the final roster this is a primary area of concern.

Defensive Line: The Browns have Garrett, Elliott and Togiai under contract. They can easily keep Gustin. They need at least 4 more players and one needs to be a starting quality DE and another needs to be a DT who can stuff the run.

Quarterback: Although Keenum can be retained for another year he is 33 years old and the Browns need to think about a younger QB to develop as a backup and potentially a challenge to Mayfield.

Depending upon which players are allowed to leave, are cut for cap reasons, are signed as free agents and those that are drafted the rest of the roster is solid.

As GM my plan would be the following:

Release Keenum & Janovich. Renegotiate with Landry to keep him for 2 more years at a more reasonable cap hit. If he won’t negotiate then release him as well.

Exercise exclusive free agency rights on Hance, Dunn & Bradley.

Make qualifying offers to the restricted free agents D. Johnson, Gustin & Carlson.

I would aggressively look to extend Njoku, Clowney and Stewart. Keeping them reduces needs in free agency and the draft such that we don’t have desperate positions of need. I believe that we have sufficient depth at safety that we can let Harrison go. Everyone else can be replaced either from the existing roster, the draft or inexpensive free agents. Unfortunately McDowell is an ERFA and probably will not be retained in light of his recent legal/mental health/other issues.

Negotiate an extension with Ward.

Add a young WR in free agency, preferably late in the process. Someone like Reynolds, Washington or Kirk might be available as the bigger names go early. I like Washington as he can be our version of Deebo Samuel.

Depending upon what happens to Landry we might need another young FA WR.

Sign a QB as a nominal challenge to Mayfield and/or backup. I’m thinking of QBs like Mariotta, Trubisky, Lock or Mullens.

Seek a trade of either Hunt or D. Johnson. Both players have shown themselves to be excellent compliments to Chubb but maybe we can’t afford two experienced backups.

Seek a trade of either Tretter, Hance or Dunn. We have excellent OL depth and can afford to roll a player to increase our draft capital or depth at another position. A lot of teams need quality OL help.

This draft should be deeper than most. If some teams make some rash picks in the top 12 (almost always happens) I’d look to trade down from #13 to add some more picks. As an example the Saints would yield an additional 3rd and 4rth round choices for dropping 5 spots.

Draft with regard for positional need early in 2022. We need a WR and DE badly. This draft looks to be deep in WRs and moderately deep in DEs. Not much talent in DTs and that position can often be filled in later rounds. It looks like a decent draft for OTs and we need one but, not until the other needs are addressed. The depth in CBs looks good but we shouldn’t need to use early picks on CB.

After the early rounds look to stock up on players who might develop into contributors in 2023. Unlikely to draft any that need to contribute in 2022.

Oh yeah….sign FA punter and place kicker.

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