The Cleveland Browns locked up the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft after a 3-13 season and nothing went right for the team in 2015. They have since parted ways with Mike Pettine and hired Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as their next head coach. The biggest question mark the Browns face this offseason is if quarterback Johnny Manziel will be a part of the team’s future plans.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Special teams, tight end
Special Teams: The Browns have one of the best punters in the NFL in Andy Lee and rookie kicker Travis Coons made 28 of his 32 field goals this season. Lee averaged 46.7 yards per punt in 2015 and his longest punt traveled 67 yards, and Coons hit 87.5 percent of his field goals. The only downside to Coons season was that he had four field goals blocked.
Tight End: Gary Barnidge showed up as an offensive force for Cleveland this season and led the team with 79 receptions and 1,043 yards. He also had nine touchdown catches in 2015. If he can continue to develop and the Browns can find a franchise quarterback, there is a possibility that Barnidge becomes a top-tier tight end.
Quarterback, wide receiver, defense
Quarterback: Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown are not the answer at quarterback and Jackson is going to see what he can get in a trade for Manziel. Their biggest need is at this position and they will likely fill it in the draft rather than in free agency. Assuming they take a player like Memphis‘ Paxton Lynch or Cal‘s Jared Goff, McCown could start until the coaches feel that their young draft pick is ready, or they could start them.
Wide Receiver: Travis Benjamin was the only deep threat that Cleveland had to offer, but he also was the second best receiver behind Barnidge. This will also be a position where they can get better through the draft and free agency.
Defense: Desmond Bryant was the only player on the defensive line that did much, but his six sacks are still lower than most defensive ends can get you. As a team, the Browns only had 29.0 sacks combined and that statistic tells you most of the defensive story in 2015. If you can’t pressure the quarterback, don’t expect to win games, especially when the secondary is not very good. Karlos Dansby was a bright spot for Cleveland this season and he tallied 108 total tackles.
Players to Re-sign:
WR Travis Benjamin
K Travis Coons
Free agent Targets ($35.4 million projected 2016 cap space):
QB Kirk Cousins
WR Alshon Jeffery
WR Rishard Matthews
DL Muhammad Wilkerson
DE Greg Hardy
DB Josh Norman
S Reggie Nelson
2016 NFL Draft First Round Targets (No. 2 pick)
QB Jared Goff (Cal)
Read Salute Magazine‘s other NFL exit interviews:
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
AFC West: San Diego Chargers