NFL 2019: Here are three offseason moves the Browns could still make to boost their chances of reaching the Super Bowl
The offseason isn't over yet and the Browns could still boost their Super Bowl chances by making these three moves
You know it's been a crazy offseason when people start using the words "Browns" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence, but that's exactly what we're doing right now, and that's mainly because general manager John Dorsey has managed to build a playoff contender in Cleveland.
If you haven't been following the Browns this offseason, they've been busy. First of all, they Odell Beckham from the Giants in a deal that also brought them Olivier Vernon. In the past three months, they've also signed Sheldon Richardson and Kareem Hunt.when they acquired
Although the Browns have had an impressive offseason, will that be enough to get them over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2002?
Great question, glad you asked.
For the month of May, we'll be taking a look at three potential moves that teams can still make this offseason to turn themselves from playoff contenders into Super Bowl contenders. Although Dorsey has built a talented roster in Cleveland, there are still a few small things he can do to put the Browns in a position to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. And look there, we just did it again: We mentioned "Browns" and "Super Bowl" in the same sentence. This is starting to get weird.
So what can the Browns still do this offseason to make themselves better?
Let's get to the list.
1. Make a trade with the Buccaneers for Gerald McCoy
If we've learned one thing about John Dorsey this offseason, it's that he loves to make a big splash in the trade department, and at this point in the offseason, nothing would make a bigger splash than pulling off a trade for McCoy.
Although the idea of adding McCoy to a Cleveland defensive line that's already loaded might seem a little odd, the move would actually make a lot of sense, and that's because the six-time Pro Bowler would likely be a good fit in the defense being implemented by the team's new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.
If Wilks has proven one thing during his time in the NFL, it's that he loves to blitz. Wilks' last stint as a defensive coordinator came with the Panthers in 2017. If you are one of those guys who likes to blitz on every play in "Madden," then you'd love Wilks' philosophy, because that's basically what he did in 2017. During that season, Carolina ranked third in the NFL against the run and seventh overall in total defense, and they blitzed a lot.
When you're blitzing all the time, it helps to have defensive linemen who can put pressure on the quarterback, which is where McCoy comes in. Although the Browns are stacked on the defensive line with Olivier Vernon, Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson, the fact of the matter is that they don't have much depth.
After Richardson and Ogunjobi, the next two guys up are Brian Price and Trevon Coley. Not only did those two both enter the NFL as undrafted free agents, but they combined for 0.5 sacks in 2018. To put that low number in perspective, Ogunjobi had 5.5 sacks, Richardson had 4.5 with Minnesota and McCoy had 6.0 in Tampa.
With five of their 16 games in 2019 coming against Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, getting pressure on the passer will be a big deal for the Browns. Let's also not forget that defensive linemen are at their best when they're fresh, and by adding McCoy, the Browns would be adding an extra player so that they would be able to rotate constantly to keep anyone from getting tired.
Basically, there's a lot upside to adding McCoy, which is probably why the Browns have continued to show interest in him despite the high price tag ($13 million for the 2019 season).
In an ideal situation, the Browns would be able to convince McCoy to take a pay cut before the trade. However, if that doesn't happen, it'd probably still be worth making the move as long as they don't have to give up a lot of compensation to acquire him (The Bucs might not be looking for a lot of compensation in a potential trade and that's because they'll just be glad to get McCoy's $13 million cap hit off their books).
The Browns currently have more than $30 million in cap space, so they could add McCoy and his $13 million cap hit for 2019 and still have some financial breathing room. The upside to McCoy's contract is that if he's ineffective in 2019, they can cut him after the season without any financial ramifications. On the other hand, if he plays well, then they have him under contract for two more seasons at a lower rate than his 2019 cap number ($12.5 million cap hit in 2020, $12.9 million in 2021)
Dorsey is clearly doing his best to build a Super Bowl contender and adding McCoy might be the move that ends up moving the Browns' defense into the NFL's upper-echelon. Of course, even if the Browns do add McCoy, they'll still have a small hole on their defensive depth chart, which brings us to our next proposed move for Cleveland.
2. Add another veteran safety
If there's one position on the Browns defense that John Dorsey still doesn't seem too comfortable with just yet, it's safety. Dorsey has basically spent half his offseason trying to find someone to replace Jabrill Peppers, who was sent to New York in the Odell Beckham trade. Although no one would ever mistake Peppers for an All-Pro safety, he was an adequate defender who started 16 games for the Browns last season.
In the two months since Peppers was traded, Dorsey has gone every route to try and replace him: Since March, the Browns have signed a safety in free agency (Morgan Burnett), they've traded for a safety (Eric Murray) and they even drafted a safety in the fourth round this year (Sheldrick Redwine). Although that's three new safeties on the roster, the Browns really shouldn't feel comfortable going into the season with any of those guys as their potential starter.
What this comes down to is that the Browns still have a hole in their secondary and time's running out for them to fill it. The good news for Cleveland is that if there's one position in free agency where you can still find some decent talent, it's at safety. If the Browns want to patch their hole quickly, then it would make sense to give someone like Eric Berry a call.
The Browns have actually already spoken with Berry, and that conversation came in late March. As a matter of fact, Browns general manager John Dorsey admitted at the NFL's annual league meeting that he had spoken to two potential safeties in Berry and Tre Boston. Besides those two, the Browns could also call Glover Quin and/or Darian Stewart to gauge their interest.
Dorsey has turned Cleveland into an attractive spot for free agents, which means it shouldn't be too difficult for him to talk any of those four guys into signing with the Browns.
3. Add some depth on the interior offensive line
As it turns out, Peppers isn't the only starter who Dorsey traded away to the Giants this offseason. The Browns also shipped starting right guard Kevin Zeitler to New York, which means the Browns also need to find a replacement for him. Unlike the situation at safety -- where the Browns didn't really have anyone on their roster who could replace Peppers -- the team actually has a plan at right guard.
With Zeitler gone, the Browns are now pinning their hopes on 2018 second-round pick Austin Corbett. After playing in 11 games last season and starting in just one, Corbett will be given the first crack at winning the job, but as he's been told, that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the starter: He's actually going to have to earn it.
"It's yours for the taking but by no means is it going to be given to me," Corbett said in April, via the team's official website. "I don't want to go through life by just anything given to me, so that's how I'd want it and we brought in some good guys to compete with and I'm just looking forward to that competition."
Since Corbett has never actually started a game at right guard, getting him as much competition is vital. Although the Browns did add Bryan Witzmann and Eric Kush this offseason to compete with Corbett, they could stand to add even more depth. Witzmann is a journeyman who has only started 20 games since starting his career as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Kush is also a journeyman, and he's only started 12 games over six seasons. Basically, that's not ideal depth to the have in the event that the Corbett move totally backfires in Cleveland's face.
Although the free agency pool at guard isn't exactly deep right now, there are a couple of veterans available. For one, there's Jeff Allen, who actually started 14 games for the Chiefs in 2013 while Dorsey was in Kansas City.
In the past four seasons while playing for the Chiefs (2015, 2018) and Texans (2016-17), Allen has made a total of 38 starts, which is more than Kush and Witzmann have made combined in their careers. Even if Allen's not starting, he could provide some versatile depth to the offensive line in Cleveland and that's because he's started at least one game in his career at every position except for center (40 starts at left guard, 23 starts at right guard, three starts at left tackle and two starts at right tackle). Other veteran interior offensive linemen who are still available include Chance Warmack, Ryan Groy and Patrick Omameh. Although Omameh probably wouldn't be garnering any Pro Bowl votes if he were to sign in Cleveland, he's still a crafty veteran who's started 24 games over the past two seasons while playing with both the Jaguars (18 starts) and Giants (six starts).
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