NFL Free Agency: Browns have a few options remaining on the market

There are still a few veterans on the free agent market that could intrigue Andrew Berry and the Browns:

The offseason for the NFL has hit, mostly, a lull. Minicamps are over and training camps are over a month away. The Cleveland Browns biggest stories are the acquisition of Deshaun Watson and the likely departure of Baker Mayfield.

While those two stories dominate the headlines, for obvious reasons, the addition of Amari Cooper, the loss of Jarvis Landry and retaining a number of important players like Jadeveon Clowney, David Njoku and Anthony Walker deserve attention as well.

With training camp around the corner, teams are focused on the rosters they have and looking to make the most of their team from there. That doesn’t mean GM Andrew Berry won’t be looking to make a trade or sign a free agent.

Earlier this week, we shared some would-be free agents that might interest Berry in a trade and now we take a look at some of the remaining free agents on the defensive line, wide receiver and tight end positions that the Browns could sign:

Five players the Browns should look at from the FCF

The Fan Controlled Football league is interesting. As the Browns leave no stone unturned, here @joshkeatley16 has five players from the #FCF they should look at:

Fan Controlled Football is like the Arena Football League on steroids and the indoor football league has a few stars like Johnny Manziel, Terrell Owens and Terrence Williams, but they have yet to have someone make a name in the NFL after making an impact in the FCF. The league has now completed its second season and my money is on a few of these players earning NFL checks.

The front office in Cleveland does a great job of turning over every stone for possible play-makers and they churn the bottom of their roster more often and effectively than most NFL teams. A few of these prospects would be worth a deeper look.

 

17 free agents to be the Browns could trade for this season

A contract year for many players who might benefit from a change of scenery and help the Browns in 2022 including grizzled vets, early-round busts and players finishing their rookie contracts:

The Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL have a break in the action. The halftime of the offseason, if you will, where teams and fans hope for as little news as possible as, generally, news during this time is only bad news.

For the Browns, news about the fate of Deshaun Watson will be key to the rest of the 2022 season. While a suspension looms, a lengthy one could derail the season.

The team also still has Baker Mayfield on the roster and a move could be made any day with him but the lack of movement this offseason so far means we could still be waiting a while.

As we take a deep breath during this NFL downtime, it gives us a chance to look at some bigger picture items from the past, for the upcoming season and for the future. Today we look at the upcoming season with a list of players that could be available for trade, based on expectations surrounding their team and their expiring contracts.

While GM Andrew Berry may not want to trade a lot of future draft assets, finding a player that fits the team’s needs in 2022 might be worth it. Berry could also take a chance to swap out a player from Cleveland for another player that fills a need better.

Here are 17 players that could help the Browns in 2022 before their contracts end at the end of the season starting with some veterans:

Lions announce 8 front office changes, continue strong culture building

The Detroit Lions announced 8 front office changes and mostly internal promotions which shows the strong culture the Lions are instilling.

Since Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell walked through the door, they have been building an influential culture from top to bottom. One that awards individuals for their continued strong efforts, giving them the platform to take the next step forward in their careers potentially. Today those efforts were awarded as the Lions announced eight front office changes this morning, with only one being an outside hire.

The one hire of strong significance is the promotion of Mike Disner, who was promoted as the Chief Operating Officer. Disner has risen through the ranks in the Lions organization when he was hired in 2019, starting as the Vice President of Football Administration, then Senior Vice President of Football and Business Administration when Brad Holmes took over as General Manager.

Disner is widely respected in the Lions organization as he was integral in the hiring of Brad Holmes and brought Holmes to the front office’s attention. He has been a main avenue for Holmes, coming in as a first-time general manager and widely recognized as an up-and-comer in the NFL, and on his continued trajectory, he could find himself running a front office shortly.

The lone outside hire was making the hire of Brandon Sosna official. The Lions are bringing in Sosna from USC and making him the team’s Senior Director of Football Administration. He is another individual making a name for himself as he was named to the Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Sports” list in 2020 as he played as USC’s athletic director Mike Bohn’s right-hand man.

Here are the rest of the front office changes to round out the recent promotions:

  • Lance Newmark from the director of player personnel to the senior director of player personnel.
  • Brian Hudspeth from national scout to assistant director of college scouting.
  • Joe Kelleher from pro scout to assistant director of pro scouting.
  • Ademi Smith from personnel assistant to scout.
  • Gina Newell from director of team operations to senior director of football operations.
  • Jesse Giambra from the coordinator of team operations to manager of team operations/head coach administration.

Browns make several new hires and promotions in the front office and scouting staff

The Cleveland Browns make several hires and promotions in the front office and scouting staff

Throw out your old Cleveland Browns front office org chart. Thursday saw several changes to the management and scouting staff under GM Andrew Berry.

The Browns hired seven new people into the football operations staff and also promoted or added new titles to 13 returning members, most of them on the scouting staff.

Among the new hires are a couple of expected names. Catherine Raiche is the new Assistant GM and Vice President of Football Operations. She comes from the Philadelphia Eagles and is the highest-ranking female in any NFL front office. Another ex-Eagles staffer, Shawn Heinlein, comes with Raiche to Cleveland. Heinlein is the new Southwest area scout for the Browns, a capacity he’s held with other teams for over 20 years.

The other new hires:

Hajriz Aliu – Scouting assistant

Chris Buford – National scout

Ryan Conway – Scouting assistant

Jimmy Raye – Senior Executive advisor

Cyrus Wolford – Scouting assistant

You might recognize Raye’s name. He has over 20 years of front office experience, including a stint as the Assistant GM of the Houston Texans when they drafted Deshaun Watson in 2017.

The shuffle of the existing employees includes promotions for seven members of the scouting department. In their new capacities:

Adam Al-Khayyal – Director of pro scouting

Zack Ayers – National scout

Josh Cox – West Coast area scout

Sam DeLuca – Assistant director of pro scouting

Matt Donahoe – Southeast area scout

Joe Dever – Mid-Atlantic scout

Max Paulus – Director of college scouting

Former Lions GM Bob Quinn moves from senior assistant to senior personnel/coaching executive, while Joy Tapajcik moves into the role of player personnel and football operations process manager. Shane Normandeau moves from scouting assistant to Football Operations coordinator.

Tyler Hamblin takes over as the director of Football Operations, moving up from the role inherited by Normandeau. Glenn Cook added Assistant GM to his title of VP of Player Personnel, while Callum Mahoney jumps into the role of salary cap and contract analyst.

Report: Lions to hire Brandon Sosna into the Detroit front office

Sosna is expected to be the new Lions senior director of football operations

The Detroit Lions are adding a new executive to the front office. Per a report from Pete Thamel of ESPN, the Lions are hiring Brandon Sosna as the new senior director of football operations.

Sosna currently serves as the chief of staff for the USC Trojans football program. From Thamel’s report,

Sosna has operated as the No. 2 to USC athletic director Mike Bohn essentially since Bohn’s hiring late in 2019, including a promotion to executive senior associate athletic director. During that time, Bohn credited Sosna as the architect for the “brilliant” search for Lincoln Riley as head coach.

USC was aggressive in trying to retain Sosna, sources said, but the lure of a career in the NFL trumped anything the school could come up with.

He does have some NFL experience that helps explain the connection to the Lions. Sosna worked in the Cleveland Browns front office in 2017 and 2018 as a salary cap analyst under then-GM John Dorsey, who now serves as a senior assistant in the Lions front office.

Browns players currently set for free agency after 2022 season

While the Browns have locked up a lot of their core, quite a few players expected to start or be key contributors are currently set for free agency after this season:

The Cleveland Browns have locked a number of key players over the last year. Since last offseason, the following have been added to the core of the team’s present and future:

  • DE Myles Garrett – Extension
  • OL Wyatt Teller – Extension
  • OL Joel Bitonio – Extension (and underrated)
  • RB Nick Chubb – Extension
  • QB Deshaun Watson – New contract
  • WR Amari Cooper – Traded for three years left on the contract, restructured
  • CB Denzel Ward – Extension
  • TE David Njoku – Franchise tagged then a new contract

The team also has a variety of players that they drafted, like Greg Newsome II and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, locked up under rookie contracts for a few more years.

With a lot of key players on big, long-term deals, Andrew Berry continues to have some difficult decisions to make with some of the other players on the team. Currently, according to Spotrac, Cleveland has 27 players scheduled for some version of free agency (ERFA, RFA, UFA) after the 2022 season.

As what happened with Ward, the summer before a player becomes a free agent can be the key time to get an extension worked out. With one more set of OTAs then mandatory minicamp before training camp later this summer, Berry could be looking to get more deals done.

Here are some of the expected starters or key contributors currently scheduled for unrestricted free agency in the 2023 offseason:

Jadevon Clowney contract details revealed

The details are interesting as Clowney’s new contract becomes public:

The Cleveland Browns brought back defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on a one-year deal to keep Myles Garrett’s pass rush partner in the fold. Clowney officially signed his deal Wednesday and returned to the field for the OTA practice.

According to one report, Clowney turned down bigger deals to return to Cleveland to play with Deshaun Watson. The two were teammates with the Houston Texans, the team that drafted them both.

Last year, Clowney signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Browns. The structure of that deal included void years to help offset the cap hit in 2021. Once Clowney was not on the roster at the start of the 2022 league year, those void years became $3.6 million in dead cap for this season.

We now have details of Clowney’s newest deal with Cleveland:

As noted at the end, Clowney will count just a little over $7 million toward the team’s cap this season but the four void years will lead to cap space being used in future years even if Clowney is not on the roster.

Over two years, Clowney will earn around $18 million from Cleveland. During his 2020 free agency, there were reports that the Browns offered him a multi-year deal for big money and had the highest offer but he declined.

With this deal done, Andrew Berry turns his attention toward franchise-tagged TE David Njoku. Njoku mentioned that he was next after Clowney signed and a report says the two sides are close on a deal.

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Browns roster full of youth just two players over the age of 30

The Browns plan to be Super Bowl contenders this year while also having a long championship window with a lot of young players on their roster:

For years, the Cleveland Browns built a very young roster with the goal of building a foundation on the way to winning. Sometimes that was due to veteran players not wanting to play for the Browns, sometimes it was because the team was in another rebuild.

Sometimes it was both.

Going into the 2022 season, Cleveland is in a different place than in many previous years. Super Bowl aspirations based on a talented roster and some recent success have many wondering how far the team can actually go.

The possibility of a suspension for Deshaun Watson has mostly calmed the highest of expectations. If the team can weather a potential suspension for the quarterback (or if none is levied), the sky is the limit for the Browns.

On top of that, the Cleveland roster is still full of a lot of young players:

Looking at the list creates some interesting dichotomies. Houston has the most older players but is not considered a competitor like the rest of the top six. Similarly, Cleveland is surrounded by mostly competitive teams except for Detroit, which has the least amount of players 28 years and above.

A look at the Browns roster page shows just two players over the age of 30: OL Chris Hubbard (31) and long snapper Charley Hughlett (32). OL Joel Bitonio sits squarely at 30 years of age.

As the organization hopes its Super Bowl window has just opened, a young roster gives them hope of being competitive for a long time.

A great visual of Browns salary cap hits, expected cap space from 2022-2026

The Browns have some big contracts on their books. This visual does a great job of putting the cap hits and cap space, now and in the future, into perspective:

The Cleveland Browns have done a lot of business over the last couple of seasons. Extensions for Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, Nick Chubb and Denzel Ward kept the homegrown talent in place and well paid.

David Njoku is sitting on the franchise tag currently, which would pay him over $10 million for one year while awaiting a long-term deal as well.

The team also has highly compensated players they didn’t draft but acquired either through trade or free agency. Deshaun Watson, Amari Cooper and Wyatt Teller were acquired in trades while John Johnson III and Jack Conklin were big free agent signings.

There has been a lot of talk about the salary cap around the NFL this offseason. While “the salary cap isn’t real” is an invalid statement, it can be manipulated. In the end, teams can kick cap hits down the road almost as long as they’d like until a player is no longer on their team.

The cap hit comes due at some point but when that is, often, is up to the structure of the contract.

Here is a great visual of what Cleveland’s salary cap looks like and could look like moving forward:

A larger version of the picture for easy reading:

The first thing you will notice is that Austin Hooper is still listed as a $13.2 million cap hit. While Hooper was released already, he was released as a June 1st designated player which spreads his cap hit out but the team doesn’t receive cap relief from his contract this year until then.

Baker Mayfield’s contract, a big sticking point in trade discussions, being the biggest salary cap hit in 2022 is also interesting to note.

Andrew Berry and company have the flexibility to restructure contracts while assuming the salary cap will have big jumps in the next couple of years. For now, a lot of big cap hits for the Browns in the upcoming seasons.

What stands out to you looking at the above visual of the Browns salary cap situation?