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Browns are banking on a full season of Deshaun Watson and a revamped defense in 2023

A lot of additions to the roster and key changes to the coaching staff for 2023

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Fans are looking forward to how this Cleveland Browns team will perform with a full offseason and regular season of Deshaun Watson leading the charge at quarterback.

Although a lot of eyes will be on Watson finally becoming the full-time starter, he’s not the only new component to the team heading into the 2023 season. Let’s take a look at how general manager Andrew Berry refreshed the roster this offseason.

Key Departures

  • QB Jacoby Brissett
  • RB Kareem Hunt
  • DE Jadaveon Clowney
  • DT Taven Bryan
  • S John Johnson III
  • CB Greedy Williams
  • Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods
  • Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer

Key Additions

  • QB Joshua Dobbs
  • WR Elijah Moore (via trade)
  • DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
  • DE Za’Darius Smith (via trade)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson
  • S Juan Thornhill
  • Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz
  • Special Teams Coordinator Bubba Ventrone

Knowing What Works on Offense

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The offense was very much unchanged this offseason, making it clear that the team hopes Deshaun Watson is able to elevate everyone around him. However, there were still a few key moves and decisions the team made, the first of which was opting not to re-sign running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt was beloved by fans as part one the one-two punch with Nick Chubb, but he never got going in 2022, and the team appears ready to go with second-year man Jerome Ford as Chubb’s backup.

The biggest move on offense came when the Browns acquired wide receiver Elijah Moore from the New York Jets in exchange for a second-round pick. Moore’s “get off” from the line of scrimmage is very impressive from the slot — he’ll either break open or help create openings for players like Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Njoku. Moore is the most exciting X-factor to watch for the Browns’ offense heading into the 2023 season.

The final big move on offense is one that sort of flies under the radar: the re-signing of center Ethan Pocic. Pocic came out of nowhere to play at a high level at center for the Browns last year as an injury replacement for Nick Harris. Many fans believed that Pocic would command too expensive of a deal, considering Cleveland already has a ton of money tied up in the offensive line, but Berry still managed to pull off the deal to assure that Watson is well protected this season.

Re-Inventing the Defense

Cleveland Browns Offseason Workout Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Fans and players weren’t going to tolerate another season of Joe Woods as the team’s defensive coordinator. The team acted swiftly in firing Woods and hiring Jim Schwartz as the team’s new defensive coordinator. With a change in coordinators often comes a change in defensive personnel too, and it was a clear priority to upgrade the defensive line.

For once, Myles Garrett won’t be the only threat up front having to shoulder the load: the team signed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and then also made a trade to acquire defensive end Za’Darius Smith from the Minnesota Vikings. While Tomlinson and Okoronkwo are longer-term investments, Smith could be more of a one-year rental to help elevate the defense.

The other big change on defense was an “out with the old, in with the new,” as the team cut ties with safety John Johnson III and instead signed free agent safety Juan Thornhill. Johnson never quite panned out to the big contract he had a few years ago, and the team was willing to take on some dead money to move on from him in favor of Thornhill.

Other Key Changes

  • Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was fired, with Bubba Ventrone being hired in his place.
  • You may notice that the 2023 NFL Draft wasn’t mentioned yet. Cleveland did not have a pick until the third round, where they selected WR Cedric Tillman and DT Siaki Ika. People were intrigued by the value of the players the Browns were able to select in the draft, but those value picks aren’t penciled in to make an immediate impact in 2023.
  • The Browns held a fan vote for a new “dawg” logo: see the winning entry here.
  • Cleveland will wear white helmets during three games this season.

Betting Line Movement

Cleveland’s odds on DraftKings Sportsbook to win the AFC North were automatically elevated after last season to +370, thanks to Deshaun Watson being ready to have a full 17-game season in front of him. The odds improved to +350 following the team’s free agency moves but slipped to +360 following the draft. The lack of movement is a clear indicator of how much weight Watson’s presence with the team holds from the oddsmakers’ perspective. He is their make-or-break player.