Here is the third annual installment of my Browns offseason roster deep dive. I will be going through the Browns roster and how they can best improve/fill all 53 roster spots. Every Monday and Wednesday I will be releasing a different position room.
For every position room, I will outline how the NFL structures that position on the roster and also how the Browns might vary from the standard based on what we have seen in 2020 & 2021.
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 for QBs.
The average NFL team has 4.3 RBs/FBs on their roster.
2020 (4) – Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Andy Janovich
2021 (5) – Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, Andy Janovich
Teams tend to have a #1 RB who can play all three downs as both a runner and a receiver. A 3rd down back to compliment them. Another who can offer depth and predominately play special teams. Then in the Browns case, a fullback to fit Stefanski’s scheme.
Felton is an unusual case, in his rookie year he played 130 snaps on offense, only 17 of these were in the backfield. So while the team officially lists him as a running back and might plan to transition him there that isn’t where he was used during the rookie season. For that reason, I will list him as a wide receiver in this series of articles.
The reason it is important to know where they view him is that he will either need to step up to be the third running back if they want to carry six wide receivers or have three other running backs and only five wide receivers with him being the sixth. On a depth chart he would likely be the backup third-down back and backup slot wide receiver, so I’m not saying he won’t do both.
Starting RB: Nick Chubb
Roster – Nick Chubb will be the starting running back for the Browns for the next two years and then after that, they will need to decide if they want to give him $12.2 million to play the 2024 season. Having only played over 45% snaps once over his first four seasons and averaging 47% a year, it is worrying if he can carry the workhorse load he is paid to do as the NFL’s 6th most expensive back. How his body holds up over the next two seasons could force the Browns into a decision before his deal expires. Running back is a position where players have much shorter careers than any other position.
Rotational 3rd Down Back: Kareem Hunt or D’Ernest Johnson
Roster – Hunt has one more year under contract at $6.25 million, making him the 13th most expensive running back in the league and the most expensive non-starter. After paying Chubb the Browns aren’t going to keep a player that expensive as their second choice long term so if Hunt makes the 2022 roster then they will need to start planning for his replacement in the draft, likely this year. He has a $1 million roster bonus due on April 6th so if he is there then he will be on the roster. If you move Hunt you are likely looking at a 5th or 6th round pick in a trade.
Johnson is a Restricted Free Agent this season so can be given a ‘Right of First Refusal’ tender worth $2.433 million according to Over The Cap. This means that the Browns can keep him at this number but if any other team offers him a contract and he agrees to it then the Browns can match it or he leaves with no compensation. The Browns could extend Johnson to a multi-year deal, hypothetically $12 million over three years. This gives them some long-term security behind Chubb rather than just one year plus a player who has less wear and tear on their body than Hunt.
Depth RB: ?
Roster – They could transition Felton from a slot wide receiver to more of a running back as he could just have been limited in terms of opportunities due to the depth we had. I feel when they lose one of Hunt or Johnson they will want someone bigger in this spot.
Draft – In terms of adding a third RB though, it is likely Rounds 5/6/7 (aka pre-order UDFA) or a UDFA. Whoever performs the best in special teams likely gets the role. They will be chasing upside more than someone ready to start week one.
Rotational FB: Likely Andy Janovich
Roster – Janovich has been solid, plus great at special teams and that is all you can ask for from a full back. The Browns did half his amount of snaps from last year. He has $1.6 million with no guarantees in the final year of his contract so competition during camp is certainly possible.
They could replace the full back position with another tight end but based on Stefanski’s use of full backs and the way he called up Stanton when Janovich was out it points to him continuing to use a full back. The full back/tight end four role is likely t be a predominately special teams role anyway.
Johnny Stanton has been okay but not really wowed so I would expect him to lock up another spot on the Browns practice squad rather than challenging Janovich for the job.
Other: Dexter Williams, Tre Harbison III, Benny LeMay, Artavis Pierce, John Kelly
Check back Monday for the Wide Receiver deep dive.
Any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @JackDuffin. The DMs are open for any salary cap/roster construction questions you have.