Three Remaining Free Agents for the Browns to Acquire Before the Draft

Three Remaining Free Agents for the Browns to Acquire Before the Draft

Ayden Fahlstrom
2 years ago
3 min read
Free agent defensive tackle Akiem Hicks celebrates with the Chicago Bears

Given their trip to the AFC Divisional Round in 2020, many expected the Cleveland Browns to compete for the conference crown in 2021. Instead, the Browns struggled to the tune of an 8-9 record and a third-place finish in the AFC North.

Desperate to get back into contention, Cleveland traded six draft picks — including three first-rounders — for the controversial QB Deshaun Watson. The club also landed WR Amari Cooper and EDGE Chase Winovich in separate trades while signing WR/KR Jakeem Grant to a multi-year deal.

Even though Watson is an upgrade over Baker Mayfield behind center, the Browns still have needs to address. And with no first-round pick to provide significant upside at a low cost, Cleveland may need to explore this free-agent trio to secure a postseason return.

WR Cole Beasley

One year ago, the Browns felt confident in veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry being their top two wide receivers. Today, OBJ is glowing from his Super Bowl victory with the Los Angeles Rams, while Landry is looking for work with a visit to the New Orleans Saints following last month’s release.

Cleveland will enter 2022 with Cooper as WR1. But the depth behind him is lacking, as third-year wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones and newcomer Grant are currently penciled in as starters.

Cole Beasley is the perfect slot receiver to replace Landry. The 32-year-old has reeled in a career-high 82 receptions in each of the last two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He also has experience playing alongside Cooper from their 2018 venture with the Dallas Cowboys.

Although Beasley averaged a career-worst 8.5 yards per reception last season, the veteran would serve as a nice upgrade over Grant in the slot. Not to mention, Cleveland should easily be able to ink him to a low-risk, one-year deal.

EDGE Trey Flowers

Although last season was a disappointment in The Land, Myles Garrett had a campaign to remember. The 26-year-old pass-rusher registered 16 sacks and 33 quarterback hits, both career-bests for the 2017 first-overall pick. One big reason for Garrett’s success was Jadaveon Clowney.

Cleveland took a flier on the oft-injured Clowney, another first-overall selection, hoping he’d be able to draw attention from offensive lines to make Garrett’s life easier. The plan worked to a tee, with Clowney also drawing nine sacks of his own.

Clowney could still reunite with Cleveland over the next few weeks. But if he or the Browns decide to move on, former Detroit Lions pass-rusher Trey Flowers is another buy-low starter who could bring out the best in Garrett.

While his recent injury history is reminiscent of Clowney’s checked past, the 28-year-old Flowers has recorded seven or more sacks in three of his seven seasons. If healthy, he’d be a solid Clowney replacement that allows Winovich to be a more-situational pass-rusher.

DL Akiem Hicks

In addition to Garrett and Clowney, the Browns’ 2021 D-line also included Malik Jackson and Malik McDowell on the inside. The two newcomers started 16 and 14 games for Cleveland, respectively, accruing 12 QB hits and 58 combined tackles in their first season in brown and orange.

That said, both Maliks are free agents and unlikely to return. This leaves former mid-round picks Jordan Elliot and Tommy Togiai to shoulder the load as projected starters. Only Elliot has any starts (four) under his belt between them.

The Browns could decide to pursue reunions with former linemen Sheldon Richardson or Larry Ogunjobi. But if they’re looking for a cheap veteran with some skill left in the tank, Akiem Hicks is the guy. For the last six seasons, the 32-year-old has been a mainstay with the Chicago Bears, even earning a Pro Bowl spot in 2018.

Hicks has missed 20 games across the last three years, so durability is a concern. But with 40.5 sacks since 2012, his pass-rushing chops could elevate the Browns’ D-line from good to great.

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