Welcome back to the twelfth and final installment of the series. I am taking a deep dive into the Browns roster and how they can best fill the holes in their roster. Every few days I have been releasing a different position room.
For every position room, I have outlined how the NFL structures that position on the roster. The players we have in four categories: starter, rotation (play some snaps), depth (injury backup/special teams), and other (likely cut). Then I will lay out the options currently on the roster, available in FA as well as via the draft for all 53 spots.
Click to check out the Deep Dive…
Starting K: ?
Roster – The Browns currently only have Matt McCrane as a kicker under contract for the 2021 season. He might get the shot to battle in camp but is unlikely to go into the offseason as the only kicker on the roster. He last kicked in the league in 2018 for Arizona, Pittsburgh and Oakland, going 8 for 12 on field goals (100% under 40 yards) and 9 for 9 on extra points.
FA – Cody Parkey is a free agent and could be resigning, maybe they offer a one year deal to bring him back for camp and compete rather than giving him a multi-year deal at the position. We have seen more and more uncertainty at the position, with even the most reliable Justin Tucker struggling in the playoffs so they are unlikely to commit long term guaranteed money to anyone. Some names available this offseason Matt Prater, Zane Gonzalez, Stephen Gostkowski, Dustin Hopkins, Randy Bullock, Mike Nugent, Ryan Succop, Nick Folk, Cairo Santos & Aldrick Rosas.
Draft – I can’t see this front office wasting draft picks on a kicker, they might take someone in the 6th or 7th but the most likely route is adding a UDFA to compete during camp.
Starting P: Jamie Gillan
Roster – Gillan went from having a magic foot in his first year to regressing to the bottom half of the league in 2020. The Browns will keep him around for one more year to see if he can regain that form. Long term, I can’t see them being a team that will pay $3m+ on a punter, instead likely going for a veteran minimum deal or a UDFA. They could bring in a UDFA for camp if they are unsure on a Gillan rebound but I think it is unlikely.
Starting LS: Charley Hughlett
Roster – The fact most Browns fans don’t know his name is a testement to how well he plays. It is only a position you hear about or discuss when things go wrong. He has been a consistently above-average performer since he started for the Browns in 2015. I would be surprised if he isn’t here for the next two years on his deal at least.
I have given an overview of all the different directions I could see the Browns going per roster spot. While the temptation can be to go for the most expensive options in each situation it means you have to weaken yourself somewhere else.
Here are the players I would target and an approximate contract value per year and how many years they could be offered. I have tried to list multiple names where possible as you don’t want to go into FA with a make or break target. This is a dangerous game where you end up overpaying.
QB – N/A
RB – N/A
FB – N/A
WR – Rashard Higgins – $4.5m/2Y
TE – N/A
OT – N/A
iOL – N/A
ED – JJ Watt/Melvin Ingram/Romeo Okwara/Everson Griffen – $5-15m/2Y
ID – Shelby Harris/Sheldon Rankins/Soloman Thomas – $2-11m/1-3Y
LB – K.J. Wright/BJ Goodson/Malcolm Smith – $1.5-6m/2Y
CB – Richard Sherman/Jason Verrett/Bashaud Breeland/Terrance Mitchell/Gareon Conley – $2-14m/1-2Y
SCB – Mike Hilton/Troy Hill/Brian Poole – $4-6m/2-3Y
FS – Justin Simmons/Marcus Williams/Marcus Maye/John Johnson/Malik Hooker/Jaquiski Tartt – $2-16m/1-4Y
Predicting some of these contracts outside of Tier One can be a dangerous game, so if I end up miles off don’t get too upset. It only takes one team to pay them and a backup option becomes a well-paid starter.
While it is too early to put names to picks yet, it is never too early to work out where you would spend draft capital in an ideal scenario if the board falls to you. Teams will be playing with a whole range of calculations giving them a better feel for where they most go harder in FA and where they feel they can get the most value in the draft.
Day 1 – WR, ED, CB or Trade Down
They aren’t committed long term to any wide receiver on the entire roster and it is the second most important position outside of quarterback so it is certainly possible on day one. Garrett needs a running mate for the next five years so why not invest now. Corner is a dire need for the Browns as you have to have four and they only have Ward and an unknown in Williams.
Day 2 – WR, ED, ID, LB, CB, S
It is essential to add an Edge this year but with Gustin and Weaver as depth, they will be looking for early talent rather than late players who likely lose a camp battle. With the no players on the interior defensive line signed long term, having a plan for the future is key. Could the Browns continue the new annual tradition of round 3-5 linebackers? If the Browns don’t add safety in free agency then adding to the room will be important on day 2 as we still don’t know what we have in Delpit.
High Day 3 – RB, WR, TE, OT, ID, LB, CB, S
If they don’t extend Chubb, succession planning could start in this draft. Tight ends take a year to develop so stashing one to replace either Hooper or Njoku in 2022 is smart. Hubbard won’t be here long term so draft his replacement and a possible 2023 Conklin replacement in 2021.
Late Day 3/UDFA – QB, RB, WR, TE, OT, ID, LB, CB, S
Once you get to the 6th and 7th rounds I have little to no expectations on the picks. You are looking for anyone with upside and promise as well as special teams talent. Many of these players won’t even make it out of camp on a good team. Just start shooting for the positions of interest in advance of UDFAs.
The NFL salary cap sits with a minimum of $180m for this upcoming season. The Browns are currently outspending this number with $189 committed so far before free agency happens. The Sashi Brown rollover is the only thing keeping them from making cuts before adding new players. With extensions to Myles Garrett & Baker Mayfield on the horizon, they need to be prudent as I wrote about last month.
Players In Final Year
When making moves on a roster it is important to look at which players are in a final year and leaving the Browns in the 2022 offseason. You ideally want to be adding players this year in the draft that can cover their production. They are also key to freeing up money for extensions and other moves. These aren’t just expiring deals but it could be cut/trade situations. Cap flexibility is how the smart teams remain at the top of the league.
Moves after the 2021 season:
Cut/Trade – Landry – saves $15.1m
Cut/Trade – OBJ – saves $15m
Expires – Richardson – saves $13.2m
Cut/Trade – Bitonio – saves $10m
Cut/Trade – Tretter – saves $8.25m
Cut/Trade – Keenum – saves $6.5m
Cut/Trade – Hunt – saves $6.25m
Expires – Njoku – saves $6m
Expires – Hubbard – saves $5.0m
Expires – Chubb – saves $4.25m
Expires – Billings – saves $3.5m
Expires – Clayborn – saves $3.5m
Cut/Trade – Hooper – saves $2m ($9m option overall due to backloaded deal)
To give you a look at what my final 53 would look like in a dream scenario. I’m not playing Madden here with the salary cap off, I’m taking absolutely everything into account. Also trading back from pick 26 to acquire a pick in the mid 40s alongside a 2nd rounder in 2022.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.