When the Cleveland Browns 2022 NFL season ended it was clear what the team needed. First, QB Deshaun Watson needed to get back to the player he was a couple of years ago or, most likely, none of it matters.
After that, there were very clear upgrades needed starting on the defensive side of the ball but not limited there:
- Joe Woods needed to be let go
- Mike Priefer should probably follow Woods out the door
- John Johnson III was a good player but was miscast as a free safety next to Grant Delpit
- The defensive tackle group needed multiple players brought in
- Jadeveon Clowney needed to be replaced with a starting-level edge rusher
- Linebackers needed to get healthy or get upgraded
- A second tight end was needed
- A starting center was needed either the return of Ethan Pocic, using a draft pick or a healthy Nick Harris
- Speed and quickness at wide receiver needed to be valued
- Special teams units needed an upgrade
As 2023 NFL free agency hits what seems to be a bit of a pause at the moment, it is interesting to see that GM Andrew Berry has addressed every single weak link noted above. While fans may point to a lack of depth at certain positions, no team has quality players at every position on the 53-man roster. Young, developing players and veteran leaders often litter rosters.
Checking the scorecard based on the 10 needs noted above:
- Woods is out, Jim Schwartz is in
- Priefer is out, Bubba Ventrone is in
- JJ3 is out, Juan Thornhill is in
- Dalvin Tomlinson, Trysten Hill and Maurice Hurst filled the defensive tackle depth chart
- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo replaces Clowney, fitting the wide-9 system very well
- Anthony Walker, Sione Takitaki and Jordan Kunaszyk returned, Matthew Adams was added
- Jordan Akins who had a good year last year and has experience with Watson was signed
- Pocic returned on a reasonable three-year contract
- Speed and quickness was added with the trade for Elijah Moore while more speed was added in the signing of Marquise Goodwin
- With Kunaszyk, Adams and Mike Ford, Ventrone’s units got an upgrade while Jakeem Grant’s return and/or Moore will help with the return game
Of the 10, the easiest one to argue is related to linebackers. Thankfully, with the added talent in front and behind them, the second level of Cleveland’s defense will have an easier job in 2023. Having Schwartz as the defensive coordinator will also assist with that.
Barring injury, which is true for every team in the NFL, the Browns have addressed their needs to a point where the team doesn’t have a weakness. Linebacker and depth at certain positions may not be a strength but they are no longer weaknesses.