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NFL free agency: Predicting 6 Browns veterans who won’t be in 2024 training camp

There comes a time when you have to cut bait with underperformers

Las Vegas Raiders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns had an exceptional season in 2023. They not only made the playoffs with an 11-5-0 record, but they secured the highest Wild Card seed with the #5 slot. Plus, they defeated the Number 1 seeds in both conferences by beating the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

At one point towards the end of the season, there was a formula devised where they could actually capture the AFC North Division crown. At another juncture, it was revealed that the Browns could get the Number 1 seed but needed quite a bit of help. In any regard, it was a successful season despite getting taken to the woodshed in their 45-14 playoff loss to the Houston Texans who would later get embarrassed themselves in their post-season defeat.

Now, the process of the off-season begins for Cleveland.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl and other college All-Star games are on the agenda to scout. Various players will need to be signed to reserve contracts to retain their rights. Designation of franchise or transition players will occur. The Combine is February 27-March 4.

The free agency period will commence in mid-March with the college draft the following month. Both of these events will become the main focus for every NFL club to fill in problem areas and gain improvement. The league’s annual meetings are March 24-27.

Also, during the off-season, Browns GM Andrew Berry will need to address his team’s own free-agent contracts. Which players will the club offer? Will these be multi-year deals or extensions? Which athletes will they re-sign?

RELATED: LIST OF BROWNS FREE AGENTS

This 2024 list for the Browns has 26 pending free agents. As chief negotiator for the club, Berry has exclusive negotiating rights for extensions with every player on this list until the league year which begins on March 13.

Here at Dawgs By Nature, our writers came up with a list of players we think will not be invited back to training camp this season. That double-digit list was then whittled down. We offer up six veterans we believe won’t be retained for the 2024 season.


AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

QB Joe Flacco

Thomas Moore


Enjoy your retirement or whatever comes next, Joe Flacco.

Quarterback Joe Flacco had the city of Cleveland and the NFL in the throes of “Flacco Fever” for four weeks in December.

Signed as a last option after the Browns lost quarterback Deshaun Watson to a season-ending injury, it took Flacco a couple of weeks to get rolling, but once he did he helped lead the Browns to four consecutive wins and back to the playoffs after missing out the previous two seasons.

It was a fun ride, but there were warning signs that were easy to overlook given the level of competition and the play of the defense. In the five games Flacco started in the regular season, he committed nine turnovers - eight interceptions and a lost fumble - and had two of those interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Those mistakes finally caught up with Flacco and the Browns in the playoffs as consecutive Pick-sixes in the third quarter sunk any chance of Cleveland advancing and started the off-season before anyone was ready for it to begin.

Once he is healed from his shoulder surgery, Watson will return as QB1 for the Browns. There is no reason to debate it as Watson is a decade younger than Flacco, and the Browns have 230 million reasons to continue to make it work with Watson. (It also has been lost a bit, but the Browns were 4-1 in games with Watson at quarterback in 2023, so it is not as if he was a disaster.)

Flacco may have played himself into a backup role with another team, especially if a team can live with him turning the ball over multiple times every game. But it can’t be in Cleveland - at least not to start the season. Watson is no hothouse flower, but the Browns need to eliminate as much outside noise as possible, and no one would make more noise than a fanbase always thirsty for the backup quarterback and ready to boo at every incompletion.

Much like Don Strock in 1988, the Browns and their fans will always be appreciative of what Flacco accomplished, but, also like Strock, there will not be an opportunity to create new memories this fall as the Browns will move on with a quarterback room that does not include Flacco in 2024.

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

RT Jack Conklin

Curtiss Brown


Why I could see Jack Conklin not being on the roster in 2024?

I could see a scenario in which the Browns will have a new starting tackle in 2024. And it’s not Jack Conklin. Conklin has been a mainstay at the right tackle spot since being signed back in 2020 after spending four seasons with the Tennessee Titans. However, Conklin has struggled to stay healthy for the past couple of seasons. He suffered an elbow injury in 2021 followed by tearing his patella tendon which resulted in him playing in only seven games. In 2022 he appeared in 14 games and he also signed a contract extension.

This past season he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the season opener and was out for the remainder of the season. Dawand Jones, their fourth-round draft pick out of Ohio State stepped up and filled in for Conklin admirably. That makes Conklin expendable. If Conklin were to be moved, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Jones has done enough to be the starting right tackle for the foreseeable future. Berry plays the “chess not checkers” approach when it comes to roster building. If he feels that someone in a specific position isn’t performing, he won’t hesitate to replace them.

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

CB Greg Newsome

Jared Mueller


Getting it out of the way first, Newsome has been a good cornerback and has been a part of the best trio in the NFL. His PFF grades have him ranked as a starter-level corner throughout his career.

There was a report last year that Newsome wanted out of Cleveland which he denied but there was some underlying truth to the report. This year, the Browns are looking at asset management issues as Martin Emerson and Newsome reach free agency after the 2025 season and Denzel Ward already being highly compensated.

Getting a draft pick or another young player at a different position would help Cleveland’s front office balance out the roster. Cameron Mitchell played well as a rookie and Berry likes to draft cornerbacks every year.

Losing Newsome will lower the talent level in the cornerback room but should help the team overall.

NFL: NOV 12 Browns at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WR Marquise Goodwin

Matt Wilson


Though Marquise Goodwin was an exciting player in Cleveland’s offense when on the field in 2023, his age and injury troubles will make it hard for the team to bring him back in 2024. He was effective when going into motion on sweeps, the end-around, and reverses but he lacks the consistent ability to be more than a “gadget” type of player at this point in his career.

He’s going to be turning 34 during the 2024 regular season and there are much better, younger options for the Browns to sign in free agency if they feel the need for that type of player going forward.

New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

TE Harrison Bryant

Barry Shuck


When Bryant was drafted as the Mackey Award winner back in 2020, head coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense relied on a lot of two-tight end sets. This required two good athletes to man those positions and Bryant was a very good blocker with great hands.

He had the size needed for an NFL tight end standing 6’-5” and a beefy 230 pounds. He signed a four-year deal for $4.064 million with a $769,028 signing bonus.

He made the final roster and played sparingly in his rookie year with 24 receptions for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Not exactly great stats, but as a supplemental player it was considered a natural beginning. The fact that he was named to the PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team made everyone take notice that he was a player on the rise and could help this team going forward.

In his sophomore campaign, it was basically more of the same from Bryant. He ended the 2021 season with 21 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns.

His third-year numbers were just 239 yards on 31 receptions with a single touchdown. The catches and total yards were a career-high for Bryant - if you could call them that. What happened to him becoming this valuable asset in the passing game? Why was he regulated to being mainly another blocker? His 42 targets were also a career-high, but nowhere near what was expected of a skill position player competing in his third season who played in all 17 games with nine starts.

After three lackluster seasons with Bryant in the lineup, there were questions.

Going into his contract year this past season, he was set to make $2.73 million. By his 2022 reception numbers, that would equate to him making $88,065 per catch, which of course did not make much sense. As Bryant had played every game in 2022, the numbers compute to just 1.8 catches per game. Needless to say, that is atrocious.

What came next during the off-season wasn’t a contract extension, but a restructured deal. That is usually a warning sign to the player that management is questioning your roster spot.

Bryant’s 2023 production was again bleak with just 13 catches for a paltry 81 yards and three touchdowns. His four-year grand total with the Browns is 89 receptions for 791 yards and 10 scores with 11 drops.

The 791 yards should be a number that Bryant was envisioned to achieve each season and not for four years. What did the Browns get for the $4,833,028.00 they compensated Bryant? They paid $54,304 per catch, $6,110 per yard, and $483,303 per touchdown.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

RB Kareem Hunt

Thomas Moore


Kareem Hunt, thanks for the memories!

Running back Hunt was one of the feel-good stories for the Browns in 2023.

Signed to the roster after the Browns lost running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, Hunt went on to lead the team with nine rushing touchdowns, a career-high, and added two more touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) in the playoff loss to the Texans.

The touchdowns and toughness that Hunt brought to the offense are the high points. The low points are that Hunt averaged a career-low three yards per carry, which continued a three-year trend of decreasing production from the veteran running back. Touchdowns make the highlight reel, but there were far too many games where Hunt’s stat line showed three yards per carry or less, which happened in seven of the 14 regular-season games he played.

It might not have all been Hunt’s fault as injuries hit the offensive line, and opposing defenses had little to fear from the passing game in the middle of the season with quarterbacks Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker running the show. But he did contribute to Cleveland finishing the season averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, scoring 15 rushing touchdowns, and having just 12 runs of more than 20 yards - all the lowest team totals since 2019. (Another example of how much life stinks without Nick Chubb around.)

The Browns need to improve the running game, possibly even more so as they don’t know what to expect from Chubb coming back from a major injury, and if you had to predict which is more likely - Hunt will rush for double-digit touchdowns for a second consecutive season or his production will continue to decline - it would be the latter.

Berry can keep Hunt’s phone number handy in case the Browns find themselves in an emergency again this fall, but there is no reason to bring Hunt back in any other scenario.