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Browns free agency roundup (3/16/22)

Here are all the moves that Cleveland announced on the first day of free agency in the NFL.

NFL: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns and the NFL’s 31 other teams officially opened the 2022 league year on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

That also meant that teams could officially announce any trades or free agency signings that have been reported in recent days.

The Browns welcomed four new players to the roster, retained two of their own free agents, and said goodbye to a pair of players who signed with other teams.

Here is a rundown of everything the Browns announced on Wednesday.

Traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper

The Browns sent a 2022 fifth-round draft pick and swapped 2022 sixth-round picks with the Dallas Cowboys for wide receiver Amari Cooper.

In Cooper, the Browns are adding a wide receiver who just finished his third consecutive season with the Cowboys after starting his career with the Raiders. He had back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 receiving yards before slipping a bit in 2021 while missing two games, but still averaged 79 receptions for 1,056 yards and seven touchdown receptions the past three years.

A former first-round pick by the Raiders in 2015, Cooper has 517 receptions for 7,076 yards and 46 touchdowns in his NFL career.

Traded for linebacker Chase Winovich

The Browns sent linebacker Mack Wilson to the New England Patriots in exchange for linebacker Chase Winovich.

Winovich was a third-round selection by the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft. While he played 13 games last season, Winovich saw his playing time decrease from 594 defensive snaps (with nine starts) in 2020 to just 113 (with no starts) last season.

Winovich had 11 sacks with the Patriots, but none last season as he dealt with a hamstring injury. The Patriots used him primarily as a pass rusher as they did not like his work against the run.

Signed defensive tackle Taven Bryan

The Browns signed defensive tackle Taven Bryan to a reported one-year contract worth up to $5 million

A first-round selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2018 NFL Draft, Bryan never lived up to that high of a selection in five seasons with the Jaguars. He played in 63 games, making 17 starts, with 86 tackles, five-and-a-half sacks and 25 quarterback hits while being on the field for less than half of Jacksonville’s defensive snaps.

The 6-foot-5 and 291-pound Bryan has the size and strength to play in the middle of the defensive line, but coaches in Jacksonville struggled to find a role for a player with a “limited repertoire of pass-rush moves,” according to Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union.

Signed kick returner Jakeem Grant

The Browns signed kick returner Jakeem Grant for a reported three-year contract that is worth up to $13.8 million with incentives.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 NFL Draft, Grant earned a Pro Bowl nod last season after being traded to the Chicago Bears in October.

In 15 games between the Bears and the Dolphins, Grant returned 26 punts for 309 yards and a touchdown, while his average of 11.9 yards per return was third-best in the league. He added 23 kickoff returns for 539 yards, good for an average of 23.4 yards per return.

For his NFL career, Grant has returned 199 punts for 1,228 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 110 kickoff returns for 2,699 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On offense, he has 100 career receptions for 1,140 yards and seven touchdowns, along with 17 rushes for 76 yards and a score.

Re-signed linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and offensive tackle Chris Hubbard

The Browns agreed to a reported one-year deal worth $5 million with linebacker Anthony WalkerJr., and offensive tackle Chris Hubbard on a reported one-year deal with additional terms not yet disclosed.

Walker joined the Browns as a free agent in 2021 after playing his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He dealt with injuries that limited him to just 13 games and finished the season with 113 tackles and a sack.

A former starter at right tackle, Hubbard turned himself into a valuable backup player for the Browns. He suffered a season-ending elbow injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of last season, and his absence was certainly felt as the Browns dealt with injuries to starting tackles Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin all season.

Time to say goodbye

The Browns saw wide receiver Rashard Higgins and defensive back M.J. Stewart Jr. leave in free agency.

Higgins signed a reported one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. He spent six up-and-down seasons with the Browns, catching 137 passes for 1,890 yards and 12 touchdowns in 82 games in the regular season, while adding seven receptions for 116 yards in two playoff games.

Stewart is signing a reported two-year deal with the Houston Texans, a popular spot for former Browns players, after spending two seasons in Cleveland.

He played 29 games with the Browns, and posted 69 tackles, four tackles for loss, a quarterback hit, a sack, a pair of interceptions, seven pass breakups, and a forced fumble.