Bengals: First week free agency grades for every AFC North team

Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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Baker Mayfield (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Baker Mayfield (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Browns

New additions:

  • WR Amari Cooper
  • DE Chase Winovich
  • DT Taven Bryan
  • WR/PR/KR Jakeem Grant
  • QB Deshaun Watson

The Browns either re-signed, tendered, or tagged several key players already on their roster, but also made some impactful, if not interesting moves.

Amari Cooper, formerly of the Cowboys comes in as the defacto wide receiver 1, but also will be 28 before the season begins. Cooper is a talent but also has shown a propensity for disappearing for stretches, even games during the season. He functions better when there is talent across the field from him, and unless the Browns restructure his contract and re-sign Jarvis Landry, there certainly isn’t much to draw double coverage away from him.

Chase Winovich (who was picked up in a trade with the Patriots) and Taven Bryan are both good, young players and should help bolster a defense that was solid, if not uneven last year. They may well be called upon to keep games close next season, especially if the quarterback situation is unsettled.

Jakeem Grant is a dynamic return specialist but doesn’t contribute much on offense. However, as Bengals fans are aware, having a reliable return man can contribute to one or two victories, so definitely a good signing.

Speaking of an unsettled quarterback position, the Browns essentially mortgaged the farm and all the equipment for the foreseeable future to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Texans.

The Browns will be down a first-round pick for the next three seasons, as well as a third in 2023, and a fourth in 2024. While this move could ultimately pay huge dividends, when? Almost certainly Watson will miss at least a portion of 2022 for his off the fields transgressions, leaving the Browns to rely on newly acquired Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett is a decent enough short-term option, but even if he manages to keep the Browns season afloat until Watson is ready, does Watson really fit in Cleveland’s scheme? As of now, the Browns are a ground and pound attack without much on the outside to help, and certainly, Watson will be rusty after not playing for a year plus.

All things considered, it’s a good enough gamble on the part of the Browns organization, as the Bengals demonstrated that you really need the franchise quarterback to win big in the NFL.

Grade: B-