So now that the season has concluded, there are obvious questions that need to be answered.
The biggest concern is about next year’s roster. What will it look like? Which players will remain and which will find meaningful employment elsewhere?
Welcome to DBN’s series, which we call “Stay or Go?”
This series will involve 12 writers who have been tasked to ask the hard questions regarding six Browns players, and debate on whether that athlete should be back - or not.
Stay or Go?
DE Chase Winovich
DBN Staff Writer
The Browns made a low-risk move in the offseason by acquiring Chase Winovich from the New England Patriots in exchange for linebacker Mack Wilson. Cleveland was hoping that Winovich would provide some pass-rushing depth behind starting defensive end Myles Garrett and serve as a bit of an insurance policy in case they did not re-sign defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney. But like many other things in 2022, the plan hit a few snags.
Winovich did not see any action on defense in Week 1, landed on injured reserve a week later, and was not seen again until the end of November. He ended up playing in six of the club’s final eight games and actually recorded a sack in Week 17 against Washington while playing about 25 snaps a game on defense.
Winovich’s game has been on a decline for two seasons now, but the Browns are back in a position this offseason where they still need depth at the defensive end. Clowney is certainly gone in free agency, and while Alex Wright flashed a bit at times, the Browns can’t be comfortable with just Wright and fellow rookie Isaiah Thomas as the only options opposite Garrett.
Likely the one scenario where the Browns would bring Winovich back is on a one-year, cheap-as-possible contract in the hopes that he can stay healthy and find a bit of the player who had 11 combined sacks in his first two seasons in the league.
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Chase Winovich was traded for by the Browns to be a serviceable third defensive end to effectively spell Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. While Winovich showed promise in New England, his play regressed in Cleveland. Spending most of the season on the sideline with injuries, the Browns saw their two rookie defensive ends get some valuable reps and experience throughout the season. The Browns’ entire defensive line will need to be re-evaluated and re-vamped this offseason for the Browns to be able to compete for the playoffs.
The Browns’ new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will have full autonomy over the defense and will likely want to choose his own players at the key positions. The Browns’ secondary and linebackers (when healthy) were not the biggest problem during the season. The defensive line providing little pressure in the passing and rushing attack seemed to be the Achilles heel for the defense. As such, the new defensive coordinator will be able to present a list of potential defensive ends that will fit his scheme. Should the Browns have acquired New England’s Jarrod Mayo for their defensive coordinator, then the Winovich reunion may be in play as Winovich had his two best seasons in New England. However, Mayo signed an extension with New England and the new defensive coordinator will come from elsewhere.
Signing a new defensive end will not come cheap as it is a premium position on defense. The salary cap may be a little tight and Cleveland will have to make some cuts. The two rookie defensive ends are on rookie contracts and Winovich is coming off of his rookie contract. The Browns will choose to keep the two cheaper options to free up money to sign a valuable defensive end.
The Browns need to find a more effective player than Winovich in order to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback. For these reasons, Cleveland will let Winovich find a new home this off-season.