The Cleveland Browns will be sporting a new look on the field in 2023 after a busy offseason of rebuilding the roster by general manager Andrew Berry.
The Browns will have a full season with starting quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will be throwing the ball to new wide receivers Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman. In addition, the defense has a new look with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, defensive linemen Dalvin Tomlinson, Za’Darius Smith, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Siaki Ika and Isaiah McGuire, along with safeties Juan Thornhill and Rodney McLeod. (We told you Berry has been busy!)
On paper those moves look positive, even if some still believe the Browns have the weakest roster in the AFC North Division, but what if Berry could reach into the team’s past and add one more player at a key spot?
That is the premise of an article from Sam Monson at Pro Football Focus, who looked to add one former player to the roster of each of the league’s 32 teams.
For the Browns, Monson made an obvious and certainly reasonable choice in left tackle Joe Thomas:
Cleveland has plenty of legends to choose from, but I don’t see one who represents a larger upgrade at a key spot than Joe Thomas. Jedrick Wills Jr. hasn’t quite lived up to his draft spot and is currently the weakest link on the Browns’ line. Thomas, on the other hand, was the gold standard for pass protection in the NFL throughout his career.
One of the first players to see his entire NFL career captured by PFF grading, Thomas didn’t have a single season with a worse PFF pass-blocking grade than 81.7 (better than the best year from Wills thus far), and he came in above 90.0 for six years, including his last five before he retired.
Adding Thomas to what is already one of the league’s best offensive lines would be a smart play, but what about some other options?
Running back Jim Brown would be as easy of a selection as Thomas, but the Browns are in a good place with Nick Chubb, so adding Brown might not be the best use of the selection.
A better alternative might be at wide receiver, where Paul Warfield, who caught 52 touchdown passes and averaged 19.2 yards per reception in eight years in Cleveland, would be an ideal deep threat for Watson.
The same could be said of tight end Ozzie Newsome, who was part of the first wave of tight ends to revolutionize the position during his 13 seasons with the Browns.
Turning to the defense, there is no doubt that the defensive tackle position would benefit from the likes of Walter Johnson (66 sacks in 12 years with the Browns), Jerry Sherk (70.5 sacks in 12 seasons with Cleveland), or Michael Dean Perry (51.5 sacks in seven seasons).
There is not a defense in the league that would not benefit from a pair of pass rushers like Clay Matthews (75 sacks in 16 seasons with the Browns) and Chip Banks; or cornerbacks Hanford Dixon (a two-time All-Pro selection in nine seasons) and Frank Minnifield (a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-1980s team who played nine seasons in Cleveland).
Those are just a few players from Cleveland’s past that would be a nice addition to this year’s roster. Now have your say in the comments - if you could pick one player from the past, who would it be and why?