With the NFL Draft now complete, the Cleveland Browns are once again focusing on the roster through free agency, possibly some potential trades. For the Browns, that means Jarvis Landry, Jadeveon Clowney, Baker Mayfield and players like Akiem Hicks.
The Browns and in particular general manager Andrew Berry seem comfortable with the Baker Mayfield situation, ready to play the long game, although everyone is hoping for an immediate resolution. Day to day, he’s out of sight and out of the team’s mind, despite the fact that it’s something that needs to be done.
Even though it looked like the Browns were trying to fabricate a deal because everyone knew about trade talks with the Carolina Panthers, the way the draft went at quarterback with an all-time low amount of capital spent on the position made it unlikely a deal would be completed over the weekend.
As with some of the decisions the Browns will make, teams may want to see what they have in rookie minicamp before returning to the negotiating table regarding Mayfield.
If the potential for a Landry comeback isn’t dead, he’s on life support at best. The Browns made their offer and Landry was not happy with it, trying to use it to take advantage of better deals elsewhere. The NFL Draft did not help its situation as a teams as 17 wide receivers were selected in the first three rounds alone.
The Browns, for their part, drafted David Bell in the third round and Mike Woods in the sixth round. They also reportedly signed three more after the draft. At this point, there’s no incentive for the Browns to up any offer they’ve made to Landry.
This is where timing becomes a factor. The Browns are excited to see what they have in the players they just added. Their rookie camp runs from May 13-15. Unless there is a serious injury or the Browns are horrified by what they see, realizing they need more help, they have no reason to offer more money. in Landry. Likewise, if they’re really excited about what they see from Bell, they can just pull the offer and pull the plug.
The Landry situation is all about money. If that wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t have been fired in the first place, but would instead have taken a pay cut. Frankly, it seems both parties were happy to let this idea live longer than was realistic because it was good for both parties. Many fans are emotionally invested in Landry and want him back when the Browns weren’t going to step in and stop teams hoping for him as it has helped reduce the focus on ongoing lawsuits.
Landry spoke to the New Orleans Saints and visited with a free agent. Tyrann Mathieu just signed, someone Landry knows and loves. This might be the most logical place for him, but keep an eye out for the Ravens. They’re more interested in adding a true X receiver, which Landry isn’t, but he could provide some help following the Marquise Brown trade, without drafting an obvious replacement.
However, the Browns could still be interested in adding some extra help for the receiver. Anthony Schwartz will likely be at rookie camp just to keep working, taking every opportunity to improve. The Browns seem higher on Schwartz than anyone else, which is understandable and strange at the same time. He struggled as a rookie, but he wasn’t expected to contribute much. Injuries didn’t help. Still, Schwartz is younger than most of the receivers selected over the weekend.
So maybe they’re looking at Will Fuller. Maybe they’re considering a potential trade, see if the Seattle Seahawks are willing to give up Tyler Lockett. Cuts after June 1 could also produce someone interesting.
The NFL Draft did nothing to diminish the Browns’ interest in Jadeveon Clowney. If anything, it might suggest their level of confidence that he will re-sign. The Browns might be excited about Alex Wright and Isaiah Thomas, but they don’t have a starting defensive end on the roster outside of Myles Garrett at this point. Chase Winovich could be a good role player on this team, but the Browns shouldn’t be taken seriously as a contender if they’re just rolling with what they’ve got.
With Clowney, money may be a factor, but so is timing. The difference here is that Clowney isn’t interested in attending anything mandatory until training camp. The veteran minicamp for the Browns only takes place June 14-16 before the team goes on summer vacation. Next month is when a deal with Clowney is made, whether it’s with the Browns or another team.
The Browns have been linked to Jerry Hughes. Melvin Ingram Ingram may be an option. The Browns could even watch Olivier Vernon as he continues to recover from the Achilles injury he suffered at the end of the 2020 season. Clowney is the preferred option and the Browns can be confident that the agreement will be made.
As expected, the Browns didn’t draft a nose tackle in this draft class as it was a mediocre class at the position. They added Perrion Winfrey, who could be a great player for transmissions. The Browns have reportedly signed a few undrafted options in Glen Logan and Roderick Perry II, whom they will see at rookie camp.
Like the defensive end, the Browns just don’t have enough on the defensive interior right now, especially when it comes to 2-spread hooves that can stop the run on early downs. This would allow the combination of Taven Bryan and Winfrey to focus on using their athleticism to attack the quarterback.
Akiem Hicks is the best option still available in the free agent market. Injuries have diminished him two of the last three years, but he is still effective in this role with the potential to dominate. It also likely comes with a hefty price tag, at around $8 million for one year. The Browns might prefer not to pay as much for this position, but they can make an exception given the status of this group. They want to get to a point where they can have players to fill that role on cheaper rookie deals or veteran deals, allowing them to put more money into positions they deem more important.
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They are not there yet.
There is more evidence that they should sign two free agent options than there is reason to believe that the combination of Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai will be ready to take on those roles.
Eddie Goldman and Zach Kerr are among the other options available that should also be cheaper, but probably won’t be as effective. Perhaps there will be a cut after June 1 that the Browns could target as well.
But as with Clowney, the rubber may not meet the road until June with one of those players. Hicks probably has no interest in anything mandatory until training camp because the wear and tear on his body just isn’t worth it. The Browns will likely want to take a look at Logan and Perry in rookie camp before moving on with other veteran options, even if that just delays the inevitable. They might make a deal with one of these guys to see them for veteran minicamp before summer break.
If the Browns could reunite with Garrett, Clowney and Hicks in the starting lineup in September, it would give the Browns a talented front line and enhance the depth potential they’ve gathered. If Hicks can have a productive season, it could put Bryan and Winfrey in the best possible position to make an impact.
The fact that the NFL Draft is over and there are deals in the works might make it seem like the Browns should be moving at a faster pace, but the Browns are largely operating at player pace.