Five Questions Surrounding The Cleveland Browns Before OTAs

Five Questions Surrounding The Cleveland Browns Before OTAs

Nick Pedone
1 year ago
3 min read
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson listens as head coach Kevin Stefanski talks with the media

As players roll into Berea for voluntary OTAs, it feels like a renewed energy of cautious optimism has been born for the Cleveland Browns.

However, there's also a handful of small fires that the team must extinguish before they hit the field for the start of the 2022.

Every organization has some sort of roster uncertainty, but here's a few questions the Browns will need answered before the 2022 season begins.

1. How Many Games Will Deshaun Watson Miss?

In the NFL, you're nothing without a quarterback. And the Browns could be without theirs due to a suspension stemming from 22 pending civil cases alleging sexual misconduct.

Watson, who the Browns traded three first-round picks and paid $230 million guaranteed dollars for, missed the entire 2021 season due to a holdout with the Houston Texans due to a pending trade request. 

If the Browns are without Watson for a significant amount of time, this will obviously alter plans for their season. Jacoby Brissett is a solid game manager, but he won't be able to will this team through a difficult AFC North.

This remains the most critical question for the Browns as they navigate this offseason.

2. What's Going On With Baker Mayfield?

It seems like the Baker Mayfield situation could be resolved somewhat soon, with the Browns now willing to absorb a large sum of his $18 million contract.

The Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are the known interested parties, but it would be beneficial to all parties for a resolution to take place before the start of mandatory minicamp.

Of course, if Mayfield refuses to show up to mandatory minicamp, he would be fined for each session missed. Inversely, he could show up, make things awkward, and force a trade that way. Or, show up and be a massive distraction, like Watson was during Texans camp last season.

The Browns have made their decision to move on from Mayfield. Regardless of what happens with Watson's suspension, it's impossible to fathom a world where both parties put their feelings aside to the point where Mayfield ever puts on No. 6 in Cleveland again.

3. What Gives In A Crowded RB Room?

The Browns running back room is literally packed right now.

Obviously, Nick Chubb and fifth-round pick Jerome Ford aren't going anywhere.

It's been noted that Kareem Hunt is a free agent after this season and D'Ernest Johnson still hasn't signed his tender. 2021 sixth-round hybrid player Demetric Felton could be on the bubble as well.

The Browns like Johnson, who played a key role out of the backfield in several games without Chubb and Hunt due to injury or COVID-19. He also contributes on special teams. Hunt, who will turn 27 years old before Week 1, played just eight games last season.

It's likely the Browns only carry three running backs into 2022. With Chubb and Ford cementing two of those spots, that leaves the final spot up for grabs between Felton, Hunt, and Johnson. The Browns could always facilitrate a trade in this deep position if the right offer comes through.

4. Tight Ends & Stefanski's Offense Going Away?

While defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and wideout Will Fuller have everyone's attention in the veteran free agent market, also keep an eye out for a tight end.

Currently, David Njoku (who could be extended very soon) and Harrison Bryant are the only two NFL-caliber tight ends on the roster. A few tight ends in camp could compete for a practice squad spot, but it's tough to see them making an active NFL roster.

We all know Kevin Stefanski loves the tight end position, and it's impossible to run his 2020 and 2021 offense without several capable options. Someone like Darren Fells, who was on Tampa Bay's practice squad last year, could become enticing.

If the Browns are into reunions, perhaps they can check on the health of 25 year-old Stephen Carlson. Or, maybe they just promote Johnny Stanton to a full-time member of the active roster. There's options here, but the pressure is on Stefanski to provide a better offense than what we saw in 2022.

5. Interior Defensive Tackle Help On The Way?

It's difficult to have a top-ranked defense when the defensive tackle room is one of the least talented in the NFL.

Rookie Perrion Winfrey talks a big game, but has yet to touch an NFL blade of grass. Youngsters like Jordan Elliott, Taven Bryant, and Tommy Togiai haven't proven much in their early NFL careers, either.

While the Browns have been linked to Suh, Malik Jackson is still out there as well as Akeim Hicks. General manager Andrew Berry has never made a splash at this position, but it's one that needs some attention before the season begins.

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