Cleat Geeks

On The Clock: Cleveland Browns 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the Cleveland Browns.

2015 Record: 3-13
Draft Pick: #2


Season Summary

johnny-manziel (1)Death, taxes, and the Cleveland Browns being awful. After an abysmal 2015 season, the Browns have now finished last in their division for the fifth consecutive year, have just one 10-win season in the past twenty years, and haven’t made the playoffs since 2002.

The biggest storyline in Cleveland’s 2015 season was quarterback Johnny Manizel’s constant off-the-field drama, which may wind up landing him permanently out of the league. After firing head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer at the end of the season, Cleveland looks to turn a new leaf and bring a winning tradition back to the most patient fans in sports.

Re-Signings & Cuts

Photo By Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire.

Photo By Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire.

The Browns need to make it a priority to resign offensive lineman Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, but it is uncertain if they will even want to stay. The Browns offensive line is the one bright spot on this team, so keeping the unit in tact is essential if they want to compete in the near future.

Safety Tashaun Gipson and wide receiver Travis Benjamin are also good players with expiring contracts, but it is hard to say if either one of them will be retained. Gipson is one of the best at his position, but has shown desire to get out of Cleveland. It is inevitable that he will be starting for another team in 2016, the only question is whether he leaves via free agency or a tag-and-trade. The Browns may look into keeping WR Travis Benjamin, but he will probably come at a premium price given his surprisingly-productive 2015 season.

Free Agency Needs

At this point in time, the Browns have roughly $42 million in cap space and will need to throw some serious money at free agents in order to lure them away from better teams. Areas of need that they can address in free agency include their wide receivers, defensive line, and secondary.

marvinJonesAlshon Jeffrey is the lone big-name wide receiver in this year’s class of free agents. Should he hit the market, several teams will be heavily interested in him, and I expect the Browns to be one of them. If WR Josh Gordon gets reinstated in the NFL, those two would instantly provide the Browns offense with life it has not seen in quite some time. Marvin Jones is another name to keep an eye on. While not extremely productive, he is a talented wide receiver who has worked with the Browns new head coach Hue Jackson in Cincinnati.

With this year’s decline of Joe Hayden, the inevitable departure of Tashaun Gipson, and Justin Gilbert not living up to the hype, the Browns need some serious help in their secondary. Sean Smith, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward, Prince Amukamara, and Eric Berry could all draw interest.

This is a good year to need a defensive lineman. Several talented players highlight this class including Malik Jackson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Olivier Vernon. As of right now, reports are that Malik Jackson is asking for a 5-year, $75 million contract. I can’t see Denver paying that much, but Cleveland might make an offer in that ballpark.

Potential Draft Picks

I can’t see the Browns passing up on a quarterback at the number two spot, whether it is Jared Goff from Cal or Carson Wentz from NDSU. The NFL is a win-now league, and the Browns have proven to have the most impatient front office out of any team. No move will turn the Browns into a playoff contender quicker than landing a franchise quarterback, so I expect them to take the gamble here.JaredGoff

Everything after the first pick is contingent on what happens in free agency, but I would look for them to draft some combination of wide receiver, defensive back, and defensive line in the second and third rounds. Luckily, this defensive line class is one of the best in recent memory, so they could be able to land a valuable starting player, even in the third. RB Kenneth Dixon from Louisiana Tech would be a steal in the fourth round, and he is the perfect complement Duke Johnson in their backfield.

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