Aside from wins, the main thing the Cleveland Browns have lacked over the course of the past couple of decades has been consistency, stability. It was rare, seemingly for a head coach to spend more than two years there before he would be fired and they would move on to someone else—often in conjunction with a change at general manager, as well.
Finally, with a long-sought winning season under their hat, and the franchise’s first postseason victory since 1994, the hope is that they have the team together to begin building that stability, with Kevin Stefanski at head coach and Andrew Berry as general manager.
And that’s reflected in their trying to keep more of their players together. Despite having a wealth of first-round picks, few have actually signed second contracts, for a variety of reasons. Baker Mayfield is set to sign one, likely over the course of the next two months, after Myles Garrett got his bag last offseason.
And the young quarterback will finally get a chance to grow from that stability after having three different offensive coordinators in his first three years. Even though there are still many relatively young and new parts, he sees substantial growth just from last year.
“Far, far ahead of what it was”, he said back in minicamp about the camaraderie on display. “All of these guys have played together. It was a very new roster with a lot of new faces last year. Yeah, we added some key pieces and a lot of guys, but those guys are good culture guys”.
The Browns actually return every starter on offense from last season, as well as the majority of their most important backups, but the defense has undergone major revision, including significant investments in free agency and the draft. But this time around, they expect these players to meld into what they already have, rather than come in and try to create something from scratch.
“When you bring that type of person in, they fit right in and they join along”, Mayfield said of their offseason additions, such as Jadeveon Clowney and John Johnson III. “That is why we welcome these guys in with open arms. You enjoy playing and working with people who have the same goal-oriented mentality as you. That is why you see that”.
The story on offense is to grow from that chemistry and stability. For the defense, it’s about building something new. They’re projected to have eight players in the starting lineup who did not play last season, including two players projected to be starters last year who were injured, one of them a rookie.
That’s a substantial amount of turnover on one side of the ball in one offseason, but in every case, barring perhaps the loss of Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson—replaced by Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings—the changes are viewed across the board as upgrades.