After a great 12-6 season that saw them win a playoff game for the first time in 25 years, it’s time to take a look at some of the things on the Browns off-season agenda. The Browns need to use their open salary cap space wisely, and go into the 2021 NFL Draft with two-three defensive names on the board that they can take with the 26th pick. On top of that, with a young core of Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, and Myles Garrett, the Browns need to make sure their current top players are happy at the moment. This summer, the NFL looks to have an above average amount of high-ceiling players that will hit free agency. Players like guard Brandon Scherff, Leonard Williams, and Allen Robinson are top players that should find new homes next year. Here’s a great off-season list of what the Browns need to do to advance further in the playoffs in 2021-2022.
- Extend Baker Mayfield: Look, it’s time to finally believe in the man they drafted with the number one overall pick in 2018. He completed over 60% of his passes this year, and towards the end of the year he was a top-ten quarterback in the NFL. He threw 30 touchdown passes, and only nine interceptions. He is clearly a guy that has the leadership skills needed to take the Browns to the next level. The Browns quarterback carousel since 1999 needs to come to an end this off-season, and you do that by extending your franchise quarterback.
- Go Into the 2021 NFL Draft With A Defensive Mentality: The Browns offense is already pretty damn good, but the defense had lapses all over the field this past season. You can name a defensive position, and the Browns still need help at that position. Even at defensive end, the Browns have Myles Garrett, but they need a talented young piece to start opposite him. At corner, Denzel Ward is a top-five corner in the league, but what about the other corner spot? Terrance Mitchell played well this year at times, but he’s almost thirty years old, and the Greedy Williams situation is going to take another year of him actually playing to figure out if he’s sticking on the roster. Some guys in the draft I would like the Browns to look at are: corner back Jaycee Horn, cornerback Shaun Wade, outside linebacker Zaven Collins, inside linebacker Nick Bolton, and inside linebacker Dylan Moses.
- The Larry Ogunjobi Situation: Ogunjobi has been a good overall draft pick for the Browns. He was scooped up by the Browns with the 65th pick in the 2017. However, his rookie contract is up, and it’s tough to see the Browns putting a lot of money into the interior defensive lineman. I would like to see the Browns keep him around, but that’s unlikely. What is forgotten around Cleveland is that the Browns signed Andrew Billings last off-season, but he opted out of playing this season due to the COVID pandemic. Billings signing last off season was looked at as a great signing for the Browns by most experts. So if Ogunjobi finds a new home in the summer of 2021, then hopefully Billings can fill in for him.
- Get Grant Delpit Healthy and On the Field: The Browns hit a home run in the second round of the draft last year when they drafted 2020 Thorpe Award Winner Grant Delpit, the safety from LSU. Delpit was expected to play right away as a rookie, but his rookie season was over before it began when he tore his Achilles in training camp. Ronnie Harrison Jr. has been promising and looks like one half of the future safeties of the Browns. Delpit was a consensus first team all-American in 2018 and 2019, so he can play, the Browns just need to get him on the field.
- Hang On to David Njoku, Unless He’s A Piece in A Trade for A Defensive Playmaker: David Njoku and the Browns are not on the same page, for whatever reason. During the season, as the trade deadline approached, there were rumors that Njoku formally requested a trade from the Browns. According to Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns Beat Reporter for the Plain Dealer, he wanted out, but he denied the reports. However, there’s a strong chance the fourth year tight end still wants a divorce from Cleveland. That would not be surprising after Harrison Bryant and Austin Hooper seemed to have jumped him on the depth chart. I would vote for the Browns to try and hang onto the ultra-athletic pass-catcher. A great addition this off-season would be head coach Kevin Stefanski drawing up some plays using all three tight ends and Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. Njoku is worth much more on the field while he’s young, than the 5th round pick the Browns would get for trading him.
- Re-Sign Rashard Higgins: What the hell did Rashard Higgins do to Freddie Kitchens last year? After the first year play-caller was fired and Stefanski took over, Higgins career turned around. He recorded 599 receiving yards this season along with four touchdowns, which were both career highs. The most important reason to re-sign Higgins is simply because he and Baker Mayfield connect. Since his rookie year, Mayfield has loved throwing to Higgins, and joining him in his exotic touchdown celebrations. If you’re going to extend your franchise quarterback, why not re-sign his favorite target.
- Short, Big Deals for “Win Now” Players: Yes, all you analytics people will hate me for this but hear me out. The Browns have the perfect championship window right now. Baker is still on his rookie deal, along with Ward and Chubb, and Myles Garrett signed a huge extension last off-season. Guys like Jadaveon Clowney, Lavonte David, and Cooper Kupp are all free agents again this off-season who could be signed for high prices but for only a year or two. Right now is the perfect time for “win now” players for the Browns. Any player who you can sign to a short-term deal that helps the Browns in the immediate future, is a win in my books.
Well that’ll do it for a quick outlook on the Browns off-season priorities. It certainly looks like the future of the AFC North rides on the shoulders of Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield. Maybe even Joe Burrow in a couple years. For right now though the Browns championship window is open, so they need to take advantage of that.
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