Last offseason saw the other NFL team in Ohio, the Cleveland Browns, swing for the fences and trade for Deshaun Watson. Putting aside how you might feel about Watson as a person, it was hard to deny that he's a good quarterback and gave the Browns a better chance to win down the road.
Watson was suspended for the first 11 games of the 2022 season and by the time he returned, it had been nearly two years since he had taken a snap in a regular season game. The Browns didn't look all that impressive with Watson at the helm but with an entire offseason and some new weapons and talent in town, the Browns might be in better shape in 2023.
Watson's contract was the first to be fully guaranteed and that led a lot of people to believe that the Browns wouldn't be able to do much in free agency for the next few years. Well, after speaking to Randy Gurzi of Dawg Pound Daily (FanSided's Browns site), that might be the case. Check out my entire conversation with Randy below!
Q&A with Browns expert
Q: What were the biggest needs for the Browns to address in free agency and have they checked off those boxes?
A: The top three needs were defensive tackle, free safety, and wide receiver and after the Elijah Moore trade they have checked all boxes. Dalvin Tomlinson is a massive upgrade at defensive tackle and while it’s not easy to say Juan Thornhill is better overall than John Johnson, he is an upgrade when it comes to playing free safety.
Q: What remains the biggest frustration for the Browns so far in free agency?
A: Probably the fact that Andrew Berry isn’t a fan. It might sound harsh but far too often, fans get all worked up about a player that has some type of tie to the city. Or one that played for Ohio State.
Dre’Mont Jones was the perfect example since he was both. Fans wanted him so bad and got irritated when Berry didn’t outbid Seattle. But in all honesty, Tomlinson is a better fit. They needed help stopping the run and he does that. Jones would have been more of the same — a guy who can bring heat on the pass rush but wouldn’t improve their porous run defense.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for the Browns in free agency, if anything?
A: I would say either landing Thornhill or Moore. Each of those players were very high on my list but I didn’t know how realistic they were. Let alone how realistic it was to land both.
Q: How is the Browns' cap situation looking after the first week of free agency?
A: The cap isn’t real.
Of course, I say that in jest but there were those out there crying that Cleveland was in “cap hell” and pointed to the poor New Orleans Saints as a team we were going to emulate. And they were about to see the bill come due.
Then the Saints somehow signed Derek Carr for $150 million and that created more room.
The Browns are in the same boat as the Saints. They went into the offseason way in the red, spent a ton of money, and are somehow fine. They’re currently somewhere between $8-9 million under the cap and all they did was release John Johnson, move some bonuses around, and then hand out a bunch of contracts.
In today's NFL, GMs know how to work the cap and Berry is among the best in that department. Oh and for that concern about the bill coming due when you “kick the can down the road,” that’s no worry either. Because there’s really no end to the kicking. Just like the Saints. No matter how bad they’ve gotten, they just keep pushing the can down the road. It’s kind of like the “free beer tomorrow” at the local bar. They’ll pay the cap hit “tomorrow.”
Q: Is there a move the Bengals made this offseason that Browns fans are worried about?
A: Fans are a proud bunch. I saw on Twitter a few Browns fans playing a single clip of Orlando Brown slipping on a play and acting like that meant he was awful. They also poked fun at Jonah Williams wanting out, as if it meant the entire organization was falling to pieces.
But the truth is, Cincy landed the absolute best offensive tackle in free agency. Brown is a legit left tackle and Williams has been a disappointment as far as I can tell. Ideally, moving him to right tackle and La’el Collins to guard (where he was excellent for Dallas) would have been their move. Perhaps they can still do that but either way, that signing should be a concern.
Cleveland has had issues covering these wideouts and it won’t get any easier if Myles Garrett is slowed down.
Thanks again to Randy for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to check out his work on Dawg Pound Daily.