Before Baker Mayfield was on another team.
Before Deshaun Watson was even on the radar.
Before free agency and the NFL draft.
Going into this offseason, the Cleveland Browns had five pressing needs outside of whatever anyone thought about the quarterback position. Those needs were very easy to define (in no particular order):
- Special Teams
Five needs that were so important and became more difficult to fill after the Watson trade stripped the team of a couple of 2022 draft picks and significant cap space starting in 2023.
Five weeks into the 2022 NFL season and the problems on the defensive side are huge and the limitations with Jacoby Brissett are obvious. So how did GM Andrew Berry do in filling the team’s needs, at least through the first five games of this season?
The addition of Amari Cooper has paid off especially given how little draft capital was given up to acquire him. Donovan Peoples-Jones has looked good despite limited chances to make plays.
The third receiver role hasn’t really been fleshed out yet but, with Brissett rarely going beyond the top two receivers and the top tight end, hasn’t been much of an issue. Rookie David Bell missed a lot of the preseason while Anthony Schwartz and Demetric Felton have only had five total targets all season.
Need Filled? Yes.
With Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell no longer on the team, Berry brought in Taven Bryan and drafted Perrion Winfrey in the fourth round. Those two along with holdovers Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai have been abysmal overall this season.
This is the easiest one to answer of all five.
Need Filled? Not even close.
Perhaps one of the more difficult one to answer is the defensive end position. Berry brought back Jadeveon Clowney but an injury kept him off the field for two games. Trading Mack Wilson for Chase Winovich seemed like a steal at the time but the newest defensive end has played in just two games with one tackle.
In the draft, developmental edge rusher Alex Wright was a solid pick in the third round but has been forced into playing more than the team may have wanted while late-round selection Isaiah Thomas has played more than most would expect from a seventh-round pick.
Late addition free agent Isaac Rochell has shown his limitations and why he stayed on the market for a while.
Need Filled? So, the effort was there and the decisions seemed solid but, due to injuries, the production hasn’t been there. Perhaps a cop-out answer but... partially filled.
A very unique situation on the team where David Njoku has become a breakout star while Harrison Bryant has regressed and there is no third tight end showing up on the roster unless Pharaoh Brown sees a resurgence.
In the end, Njoku becoming among the top tier in the league makes all the other worries about tight end far less important. Would it be nice if Bryant showed more this season? Sure. Will it be helpful when offensive lineman Michael Dunn isn’t moonlighting as the team’s third tight end? Of course.
Need Filled? Njoku is great so far so the answer is yes.
We lumped special teams together this offseason because the entire unit, outside of long snapper where Charley Hughlett keeps performing well, needed upgrading. So far, only punter Corey Bojorquez has really solidified his position. Cade York had some exciting times in preseason and in Week 1 but his inconsistency is starting to really raise concern.
It is the return game that doesn’t have much to show for it. Jakeem Grant was brought in to take care of that problem but his season-ending injury brought back the same lack of options for the Browns. Chester Rogers was brought in on the practice squad to solve the problem but will have to be elevated to the active roster soon for him to be able to keep returning kicks for the team.
Need Filled? One out of three, through five weeks, is an easy no. York can turn it around but it looks like average is the best-case scenario in the return game.
So how did Berry do? Out of the five identified needs going into the offseason, the wide receiver and tight end positions have been filled well despite some depth concerns still. The defensive end spot is a mixture while defensive tackle and special teams are still gaping holes hoping to find solutions.
Thankfully, this evaluation is just five games into a 17-game season. In a few weeks, perhaps we will be able to add defensive end as a strong yes and special teams as a yes if York stabilizes.
For now, Berry’s offseason results are lacking. The return of Watson later this season could help overcome some of those things but we won’t know until we get there.
Are you surprised that their offseason needs are still identifiable needs for the Browns?