Any time a professional football franchise goes 0-16, a high number of changes, both from the roster and coaching staff, is expected. The 2018 Cleveland Browns were no exception.
Gone is analytic-driven general manager Sashi Brown, in is football lifer John Dorsey. The Browns finally have an offensive coordinator as Todd Haley comes over from the Steelers, while Cleveland added 15 players via free agency, and three players via trades, while seeing five players depart via trades, three leave in free agency, and face of the franchise Joe Thomas retire.
All of that happened in one off-season. Now, it’s time for the Browns to win some darn games.
In: TJ Carrie (Raiders), Darren Fells (Lions), E.J. Gaines (Bills), Chris Hubbard (Steelers), Carlos Hyde (49ers), Jeff Janis (Packers), Mychal Kendricks (Eagles), Ross Martin (Jets), Terrance Mitchell (Chiefs), Greg Robinson (Lions), Chris Smith (Bengals), Drew Stanton (Cardinals), Joel Stave (Jets), Donald Stephenson (Broncos)
Out: Isaiah Crowell (Jets), Josh Keyes (Texans), Marcus Martin (Cowboys), Corey Coleman
Honestly, the Browns didn’t lose much in free agency. While I did like Isaiah Crowell a ton coming into last season, he never really got going on the ground like the Browns had hoped for, and started to clash with head coach Hue Jackson, leading to an exit to New York in free agency.
Taking over for Sashi Brown, John Dorsey went right to work bringing in “real football players” for Jackson and his staff. Dorsey signed 15 players in free agency, finding at least six starters (Carrie, Fells, Gaines, Hubbard, Hyde, Mitchell), while adding serious depth to the roster, highlighted by Mychal Kendricks and Jeff Janis.
After all the work Dorsey put into this roster in the off-season in free agency, there’s no excuse for Jackson and the Browns to go 0-16 ever again under Dorsey’s reign.
In: Jarvis Landry from Dolphins for No. 123 overall in 2018, 2019 7th rounder, Tyrod Taylor from Bills for No. 65 overall, Damarious Randall, No. 114, and No. 150 overall for DeShone Kizer, No. 101 and No. 138 overall
Out: Danny Shelton to the Patriots, Jason McCourty to the Patriots, Cody Kessler to the Jaguars, Kevin Hogan to the Redskins, Jamar Taylor to the Cardinals, Corey Coleman to the Bills
Much like Dorsey cleaned up in free agency, the veteran general manager took advantage of a buyers market on the trade block, bringing in starting receiver Jarvis Landry, starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and starting safety/cornerback Damarius Randall, while shuttling out defensive tackle Danny Shelton, backup quarterback Cody Kessler, 2017 starting quarterback DeShone Kizer, cornerback Jason McCourty, and backup cornerback Jamar Taylor.
For the most part, Dorsey acquired high-end talent via trade for draft picks, sending two picks to the Dolphins for Landry, one pick to the Bills for Taylor, and two picks and Kizer to the Packers for Randall.
Landry should come in right away and provide Taylor and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield with a serious security blanket, while also hoping to shed the label as a possession receiver that was slapped on him in Miami, where the Dolphins rarely let him stretch the field.
Taylor will have to hold off Mayfield for the starting quarterback job, but for the first time in a long time, the Browns have serious talent at the quarterback position, which was Dorsey’s No. 1 priority after taking over for Brown.
Randall provides defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with a chess piece on defense, as Randall can play effectively at two different positions, which is rare in today’s NFL.
2018 NFL DRAFT
One thing Brown did well for the Browns was stockpile draft picks, allowing Dorsey to work with a war chest of draft picks.
Once the 2018 NFL Draft rolled around, Dorsey stunned almost everyone by picking Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma quarterback, with the No. 1 overall pick. He then followed that up by selecting Ohio State shutdown cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall, providing the Browns with two hopeful cornerstones at arguably the two most important positions on the roster.
Dorsey also nabbed guard Austin Corbett, running back Nick Chubb, defensive end Chad Thomas, wide receiver Antonio Callaway, linebacker Genard Avery, wide receiver Damion Ratley, and cornerback Simeon Thomas in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mayfield and Ward are obviously the headliners and will make or break this draft class, but Corbett, Chubb, Thomas and Avery provide good depth for the class, while Callaway is the wild card.
Fans might look back in 5-6 years at this class and see at least six starters and three other contributors. That would count as a grand slam for Dorsey and his staff.
As I mentioned above, when you go 0-16 in the NFL, expect a long laundry list of changes on the roster and in the coaching staff.
I already mentioned Dorsey taking over for Brown, but Cleveland added a number of coaches and executives to the fold as well. Dorsey brought in Alonzo Highsmith as Vice President of football operations, Eliot Wolf as assistant GM, Jimmy Noel as assistant director of pro scouting, Matt Donahoe as a scout, and Dan Zegers as personnel coordinator.
The Browns also announced that former vice president of player personnel Ken Kovash would switch to a role within the strategy department, and fired senior personnel executive Ryan Grigson.
Additionally, Chris Tabor was released as Special Teams coordinator, Adam Henry was hired as WR coach, Al Saunders transitioned into advisor role. Ken Zampese was hired as QBs coach after being fired by the Bengals three weeks into the 2017 season. Kirby Wilson was fired as RB/run game coordinator, Special Teams assistant Shawn Mennenga, and Special Teams quality control coach Stan Watson were also let go.
In the wake of changes on the staff, Amos Jones was hired as Special Teams coordinator, Todd Haley was hired as Offensive Coordinator, and Freddie Kitchens was hired as RB/assistant Head Coach. Sam Shade was brought in as assistant Special Teams coach, and former special teams standout Josh Cribbs was hired as a Special Teams intern.
On the coaching side, Haley should help the Browns’ offensive attack get back on track, which is a scary thought for the AFC North, considering Haley helped Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ attack have the best stretch in Steelers history.
It will be interesting to see how Haley and Mayfield get along moving forward, but the Browns certainly did their part getting Haley and his quarterbacks weapons to work with on the offensive side of the ball.
In the front office, aside from Dorsey, the Browns might have one of the top front offices in the league, in terms of talent. Elliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith will have general manager jobs down the line, while Jimmy Noel has a good track record as a scout in the NFL.
This isn’t the Browns you’re used to. They’re clearly on the rise and could become a powerhouse in the AFC North moving forward, barring that Cleveland curse not affecting them any longer.
Week 1, Sun, Sept. 9 vs. Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
Week 2, Sun, Sept. 16 at New Orleans 1:00 PM
Week 3, Thurs, Sept. 20 vs. New York Jets 8:20 PM
Week 4, Sun, Sept. 30 at Oakland, 4:05 PM
Week 5, Sun, Oct. 7 vs. Baltimore 1:00 PM
Week 6, Sun, Oct. 14 vs. Los Angeles Chargers 1:00 PM
Week 7, Sun, Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Week 8, Sun, Oct. 28 at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM
Week 9, Sun, Nov. 4 vs. Kansas City 1:00 PM
Week 10, Sun, Nov. 11 vs. Atlanta 1:00 PM
Week 11 BYE
Week 12, Sun, Nov. 25 at Cincinnati 1:00 PM
Week 13, Sun, Dec. 2 at Houston 1:00 PM
Week 14, Sun, Dec. 9 vs. Carolina 1:00 PM
Week 15, Sat, Dec. 15, at Denver TBD
Week 16, Sun, Dec. 23 vs. Cincinnati 1:00 PM
Week 17, Sun, Dec. 30 at Baltimore 1:00 PM