Like every team in the league, the Browns will search every nook for good players. GM Andrew Berry is very good at looking under rocks for talent.
The USFL’s championship game is Sunday, July 3 at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern). The new launch of this developmental league appears to be a success. Hopefully, all franchises will return to their home cities and stadiums for 2023 and begin the journey of developing deep fan bases.
Former Cleveland offensive coordinator Todd Haley and now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits realizes that a league such as this can be a perfect breeding ground for players to develop their skill set and gain some extra tape for NFL eyes.
“There’s a decent group of players on this team that I think should have an opportunity to compete at the NFL level,” Haley said. “Or at least get into camps and have an opportunity to make teams. That’s what this is about, just keeping that dream alive of playing the sport they love.”
Dotted among the rosters in this eight-team league are many players who have proven they have the ability to come in and compete for a roster spot and eventually play in the NFL. The Browns still have holes to fill and quality depth to address.
You may recall that RB D’Ernest Johnson was signed from the AAF, and that happy story is ongoing.
Here’s a few USFL players Berry and the Browns should look at:
CB Channing Stribling (6’-2”, 180 pounds)
You can’t have too many good cornerbacks. That is still a true enough statement. Signing Stribling would be bringing the 27-year old back home.
He was originally signed by the Browns after going undrafted in 2017 and was a final cut-down player. He found the practice squad (PS) and several weeks later was released. From there he found the PS of three other NFL clubs plus one in the CFL. Stribling played well for Memphis in the AAF and Seattle of the XFL, both of which had their maiden seasons end early. With the USFL Philadelphia Stars, Stribling has been one of the league’s brightest stars.
Stribling was a menace in the defensive backfield and led the league in two defensive categories: interceptions (7) and pass defenses (11). Not the fastest with a 4.6 time in the 40, Stribling was a ball hawk. He had the knack to bait opposing quarterbacks and then was aggressive with breaks on the ball.
He is beyond his developmental stage. Wherever Stribling ends up will have an experienced player who can come in immediately and compete. For the Browns, that would be the slot cornerback position versus Greg Newsome or the nickel which is perceived to become this year’s top draft pick Martin Emerson, Jr.
Stribling plays for Philadelphia, which is in the championship game so keep an eye out for his #8 jersey. He was named to the 2022 All-USFL team.
TE Sal Cannella (6’-5”, 230 pounds)
Cannella was a standout with Auburn and was known more for his blocking abilities. But this guy is a pass-catching machine with blocking a huge plus. Traditionally, all Auburn tight ends are built to assist the run game only.
Early on, Cannella led the league in receiving yards for the offensive-minded New Orleans Breakers. His catch radius is huge with long arms and the ability to gain valuable yardage after the catch.
David Njoku is the undisputed starter with Harrison Bryant as his primary backup for Cleveland. Cannella would play more the “F” tight end and is more a larger receiver than an actual tight end. Write this down: his receiving skills are top shelf. He made the 2022 All-USFL team and would become a salary steal. If brought to training camp, Cannella would have to learn the offense quickly and then could display his talents with a strong showing in the preseason.
Cannella’s playing time from the Breakers to the Browns could prove a valuable asset. When you watch tape of him, he plays a lot like Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams.
WR KaVontae Turpin (5’-9”, 155 pounds)
Yes, the Browns already have a short player who is very light and runs like the wind in Jakeem Grant.
Turpin runs a 4.31. He was the USFL’s version of Tyreek Hill. Turpin went undrafted in 2019 after a stellar career at TCU. He played one season in the European League of Football before signing with the New Jersey Generals who went 9-1-0 during the season but lost in the playoffs.
He led the league in receiving yards (540) and second in receptions (44) with four touchdowns. Not only did he make the 2022 All-USFL team, but was named 2022 USFL MVP. He is an exceptional playmaker who has the versatility the Browns covet. He is dangerous on the jet sweep and can outrun just about everyone on the field. Turpin averaged 12.4 yards per reception and has the natural ability to make plays.
DE DeMarquis Gates (6’-2”, 230 pounds)
Gates is a sensational pass rusher. He possesses natural swim moves and just gets after the quarterback.
He was signed by the Browns after going undrafted in 2018 but was waived just prior to training camp. He was a linebacker while at Ole Miss. There he was known for his tackling skills as he had 282 tackles in 49 games, including 114 his senior season. He was on the Dick Butkus Award watch list. Professionally, Gates has been signed by three NFL clubs, one team in the CFL, XFL, and AAF, and finally with Birmingham in the USFL.
Gates led the USFL in sacks with 6.5, but gives constant pressure regardless of if he is the one making the tackle. Yes, he is lean and yes, he doesn’t have the girth to take on the massive offensive tackles in the NFL. But Gates has a non-stop motor with speed. Plainly put: he is a hitter.
Gates is playing in the championship game, so judge for yourself with #47.
OT Terry Poole (6’-5”, 323 pounds)
The Browns need quality depth at the tackle position. Poole checks every box. The past two years, the biggest issue with the offense has been the health of the offensive line. Cleveland is known for having one of the best lines in the league, but only when the starters are playing. The backup position has been a huge red flag.
Poole is a former fourth round pick of the Seattle Seahawks (2015) but a back injury in training camp sent him to IR in his second season. After his rehab, he was waived. He had PS stints with Miami and Houston, and played in the AAF, XFL plus two CFL clubs before signing with New Jersey of the USFL. After a stellar year, he was named to the 2022 All-USFL team.
Poole has versatility, but his calling is at the tackle position. He is a big man with a long reach and surprising quickness. He is a run blocking demon, one of the traits Cleveland must have in an offensive lineman. Very good toughness who will lock onto defenders with ease.
Chris Hubbard is the Browns current swing tackle, but has had a season-ending injury the past two seasons. Cleveland drafted James Hudson to be groomed as a backup tackle and he just may fill that role, but last year struggled when called upon. Poole would fill the role and has had a full season in the USFL to provide that spark with proven seasoning.