Analysis

Cleveland Browns Free Agency Outlook

Cleveland Browns Free Agency Preview

Cleveland is coming off of a disappointing 2021 season where they finished with a 8-9 record and missed the playoffs. They followed an encouraging 2020 in their first season with head coach Kevin Stefanski with regression across the board in 2021. Despite the regression, 8 wins was their second highest win total during the regular season since 2010. Entering this offseason their biggest concerns are to find a number one receiving option for Baker Mayfield and to add some young pieces along their front seven. They’re 14th in cap space with $17.92 million under the cap available to use this offseason and they have four picks inside the top 100 picks in the 2022 draft. 

Update: The Browns have $17,948,118 available in cap space now.

Cleveland’s Impending Free Agents:

  • EDGE Jadeveon Clowney (Void)
  • EDGE Takkarist McKinley (UFA)
  • IDL Malik Jackson (UFA)
  • LT Chris Hubbard (UFA)
  • LB Anthony Walker Jr. (UFA)
  • WR Rashard Higgins (UFA)
  • FB Andy Janovich (UFA)
  • S M.J. Stewert (UFA)
  • LB Malcom Smith (UFA)
  • P Dustin Colquitt (UFA)
  • LB Elijah Lee (UFA)
  • IDL Sheldon Day (UFA)
  • EDGE Ifeadi Odenigbo (UFA)
  • WR Ryan Switzer (UFA)
  • QB Nick Mullens (UFA)
  • S Montrel Meander (ERFA)
  • TE Stephen Carlson (RFA)
  • IDL Porter Gustin (RFA)
  • RB Dexter Williams (ERFA)
  • S Ronnie Harrison (UFA)
  • K Chase McLaughlin (RFA)
  • IDL Malik McDowell (ERFA)
  • RB D’Ernest Johnson (RFA)
  • S Duke Dawson (SFA)

Of Cleveland’s impending free agents, only a few stick out when it comes to being candidates to be re-signed: WR Rashard Higgins and LB Anthony Walker Jr. Higgins doesn’t put up gaudy stats but is a veteran presence in the receiver room outside of Jarvis Landry and has been with the Browns throughout Mayfield’s entire career. He shouldn’t be expensive and it makes sense to keep familiarity around Mayfield in the receiver room even if he’s deployed in a backup role. Walker Jr. played in just 13 games for Cleveland in 2021 and still led their team in total tackles (113) & solo tackles (69). He’s just 26 years old and was an instant contributor after signing a 1-year deal with them last offseason. 

Franchise Tag:

  • TE David Njoku

David Njoku was tagged by Cleveland prior to the deadline and will earn around $10.83 million on the tag during the 2022 season. Njoku hasn’t caught more than 4 touchdowns in any season of his career and hasn’t had a season with over 700 receiving yards. However, he will allow Cleveland to continue to run 12 personnel and they won’t have to try to find a replacement in free agency or in the draft to pair with Austin Hooper

Top Team Needs:

  1. Wide Receiver
  2. EDGE
  3. Linebacker

Cleveland needs to find a new number one wide receiver option after Odell Beckham Jr. was released midseason. Landry has declined and is too old to be their featured guy and Donovan Peoples-Jones isn’t at the point with his development to take the full workload of the featured target. Finding a go-to option for Mayfield is their top need.

A compliment to Myles Garrett is Cleveland’s second need. Clowney is an impending free agent and a slightly above average pass rusher, at his best. Garrett put up career highs across the board with a pass rushing threat across from him. Finding a compliment to take Clowney’s role will allow Garrett to continue to see less double teams and give Cleveland one of the better pass rush duos in the NFL.

If they chose not to re-sign Walker Jr., linebacker will be another top need. They have no proven player on their current roster and four of the linebackers on their roster are from the 2019-2021 drafts. Unless one of their young backups has developed enough to be a winning starter, finding a veteran or a highly talented linebacker in the draft is another top need for Cleveland.