The Cleveland Browns 2022 NFL season will be over in a little over 24 hours which puts the 2023 offseason as the primary focus very soon. We found out this week that DE Jadeveon Clowney is highly unlikely to return next year and is not expected to play in Week 18 either.
There is a lot that will happen between the end of the regular season and when free agency takes place. Following the opening of the league year, the NFL draft will also have a huge impact on teams.
Before that, the playoffs will take place, some coaches will be fired, some coaches will be retained and the structure of teams will be set.
For the Browns, figuring out how to use their cap space (they can have more than many believe) and their eight draft picks will be the key to their success in 2023. Most expect that will following the firing DC Joe Woods and, possibly, ST coordinator Mike Priefer.
While the 2022 season hasn’t ended, some teams have already started their process for the offseason. A number of teams have fired their coaches and, today, the New Orleans Saints and WR Michael Thomas agreed to a restructured contract. Thomas’ new contract gives him a signing bonus of almost $1 million now and structures his contract in a way that almost assures he is released this offseason:
This is the precursor to releasing Thomas with a post-June 1 designation, just as the Eagles did with Alshon Jeffrey. It allows the Saints to realize the cap savings from cutting Thomas before June 2, which will help them get under the cap. https://t.co/9pfQQdVxAi— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 7, 2023
While Cleveland has Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Njoku as their primary pass catchers, along with Nick Chubb in the backfield, they could be a landing spot for the former Ohio State Buckeye receiver.
With the Browns, Thomas would get a chance to play with a talented quarterback in Deshaun Watson, in a system that creates open space for receivers and could feast on 1 on 1 coverage due to Cooper’s presence and the team’s run game. Thomas wouldn’t have to overextend his snap count early as he returns from another lower leg injury (toe surgery) because of Cleveland’s talent base.
Given his injury history, he’s played just 10 games since the start of 2020, Thomas will likely end up with a one-year, incentive-laden deal as he hopes to reestablish his value in the league. GM Andrew Berry could be creative with a $6-8 million contract that includes incentives and void years to spread out the cap hit.
The talented receiver led the NFL in receptions (149) and receiving yards (1,725) in his last full season in the league (2019). He also led the NFL in receptions in 2018 with 125. Thomas has 35 touchdown receptions for his career, including three this season in the three games he played.
Thomas is also likely to be interested in joining the Los Angeles Rams (if Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford are back), whatever team Sean Payton coaches if he returns and wherever Tom Brady is playing next year. He’s likely to have a solid market and options next year. Returning to Ohio will be one of those.