The Cleveland Browns have been supplementing and tinkering with the roster since losing to the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs. General manager Andrew Berry has bolstered the defense and added competition at every position. Those moves were the precursor for a talented and deep roster.
Here is the projected depth chart for the Browns in Week 1.
Rookies are denoted with (*)
James Hudson III*
The Browns elected to keep two quarterbacks on the roster. Baker Mayfield enters what amounts to a contract year. Case Keenum is a reliable backup in the unfortunate event that Mayfield would suffer an injury.
At running back, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are slam-dunk contributors. D'Ernest Johnson has played really well and is a safety blanket in the event either Chubb or Hunt suffer injury. Versatile weapon Demetric Felton has the ability to play either running back or wide receiver.
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KhaDarel Hodge was a difficult cut but Cleveland had to make that decision if they intended to only keep five receivers. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz were going to receive roster spots.
An injury to Stephen Carlson led the team to keep just three on the active roster. Cleveland has three very good tight ends when healthy: Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant.
Cleveland went heavy in its retention of offensive linemen. Jedrick Wills, Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin, Chris Hubbard, J.C. Tretter and Nick Harris were easy choices. The Browns are now very deep by keeping James Hudson III, Blake Hance and Michael Dunn as well. When the initial 53-man roster was announced in 2020, nine offensive linemen were listed.
|WLB||Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah*||Tony Fields*||Jacob Phillips|
The defensive tackle rotation should be relatively obvious with veterans Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings mixing with youngsters Tommy Togiai and Jordan Elliott. A fifth spot goes to former second round pick Malik McDowell, who played really well in the preseason.
The edge rusher position was a little up in the air beyond Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Takk McKinley was mysteriously absent for most of training camp but he returned in time to receive a spot on the 53-man roster. An injury to either Clowney or Garrett would be pretty demoralizing. In that event, a phone call should be made to Olivier Vernon.
Second-year linebacker Jacob Phillips was on the initial 53-man roster, indicating the team believes he could return this season. He should be added to the Injured Reserve shortly. The bayou tigers of LSU have had a rough stretch of injury luck with the Browns over the past year-plus. Odell Beckham Jr., Grant Delpit, Greedy Williams and Phillips all suffered season-ending injuries; the former three should be ready for the start of the regular season.
Beyond the complication of Phillips, the Browns kept projected starters Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Anthony Walker. Malcolm Smith's veteran presence is important. Tony Fields II, a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has not practiced much this offseason but the team determined it was too risky trying to sneak him through waivers. An injury to Phillips opened the door for Mack Wilson to make the roster as well. Depth at linebacker is important to special teams.
The secondary was relatively clear cut. Troy Hill, Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and Greedy Williams were safe at cornerback. A.J. Green and M.J. Stewart were kept for depth. At safety, the team is confident rolling with John Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison, Grant Delpit and standout rookie performer Richard LeCounte.
|KR||D'Ernest Johnson||Donovan Peoples-Jones|
When Cody Parker was added to the Injured Reserve, it ended the competition between he and McLaughlin. Chase McLaughlin, entering his third season out of Illinois, converted on all four field goal attempts within 50 yards last season. The prior year, he successfully converted 18 of 23 field goals.
Cleveland did not carry any competition for either Charley Hughlett or Jamie Gillan in training camp. Gillan averaged 44.0 yards per punt in 2020, which was 27th in the league.