A former Cleveland Browns player was on the phone this week, advocating that he would not draft a quarterback if he were running the Browns.
Guys come out unprepared these days and teams give them too much money, he said, adding that the Browns should build the team and then place the quarterback. Sort of like how Ben Roethlisberger stepped into a winning situation in Pittsburgh way back when the Browns passed on him.
This figures to be an argument the Browns will ignore this offseason. They will draft a quarterback, and they will make every effort to sign a veteran, with AJ McCarron of the Cincinnati Bengals the most likely target. Those two players will join DeShone Kizer.
The Browns may not spend $30 million for Kirk Cousins, but they will do everything else they can to fortify and solidify the position.
That said, the Browns also have plenty of other needs that can’t be ignored. What are their top needs this offseason?
Quarterback: See above. It’s a given every year. The hope is that after this offseason it won’t be a given in 2019.
Receiver: One fact illustrates this glaring need: Last season Kenny Britt tied for the team lead among the wide receiver group in receiving touchdowns with two. Britt, Rashard Higgins and Corey Coleman all had two, which tied for 109th in the NFL. The Browns had seven TDs from wide receivers, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for second fewest. Nineteen individual receivers had more than seven touchdowns. The need at this position is Grand Canyonesque and will have the Browns closely watching to see whether Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins) and Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars) reach free agency or get the franchise tag.
Cornerback: The defense showed great improvement in several areas during a winless season, especially against the run. But the passing defense gave up 28 touchdown throws, fourth highest in the league, and had only seven interceptions, second fewest. That’s not a good combination. The Browns need a corner who can cover and force turnovers, which is why they were willing to host former Colts corner Vontae Davis.
Left tackle: Joe Thomas may or may not retire. If his elbow injury prompts Thomas to retire, the Browns will have to scramble to find a suitable replacement. Even if Thomas does play, it’s probably for just one more season. Regardless, the Browns need to be thinking about a future without him.
Safety: Jabrill Peppers played the (very) deep middle of the field because that is a part of Gregg Williams’ defense, plus Peppers was the best the Browns had. The team recognizes that Peppers may be better suited closer to the line so he can play the way he did in college, which means Cleveland must find a true free safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) is an excellent, highly regarded college player. The idea of pairing him with Peppers at safety and adding a corner to go with defensive ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah and linebackers Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert (Pro Bowl) and Chris Kirksey would seem to solidify the defense.
Running back: Assuming Isaiah Crowell leaves via free agency, the Browns will need a back to pair with Duke Johnson. As much as the Browns like Johnson, there is concern he may not hold up if he is the main back. Thus, they would like to form another tandem like the one they had with Crowell. The obvious answer would be Saquon Barkley in the draft (Pick 4 overall), but if the Browns decide Fitzpatrick is the better option at that pick, there still will be good backs available in the second round.