Warning, this is an article praising Browns GM Andrew Berry and the team’s front office. I realize some fans and local Cleveland media might let their opinions of the 2023 Browns free agency be tainted because the Browns didn’t sign or trade for the players they wanted. But improving the roster and staying within the parameters of the present and future NFL salary cap is the main goal. The Browns did sign a few players on my wish lists; however, I’m not going to complain about the ones they didn’t sign.
Players I wanted: Center Ethan Pocic, tight end Jordan Akins and safety Juan Thornhill.
Players I hoped they would re-sign: Cornerback A.J. Green, linebacker Sione Takitaki, linebacker Anthony Walker and quarterback Josh Dodds.
Players who were totally off my radar: Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, defensive end Trysten Hill, linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, cornerback Mike Ford and linebacker Mathew Adams.
Player who was the “big swing:” Wide receiver Elijah Moore.
Breaking down all these players: Pocic was playing like a top-five center before his injury. Akins is a big red zone target who is a former teammate of Deshaun Watson. Thornhill is a true free safety who is always around the ball. Tomlinson is run-stuffing defensive tackle who can provide pressure up the middle. Okoronkwo is an up-and-coming talent who has a high ceiling and provides much-needed help for Myles Garrett. Goodwin is a veteran wide receiver with some speed. Green is a key backup and great special teamer. Takitaki and Walker are recovering from season-ending injuries and there is uncertainty as to when they will be ready to play, Walker probably before Takitaki. Both were playing very well before their injuries. Dobbs knows the system and is like an extra QB coach on the sideline. Hurst and Hill are low-risk, high-reward players due to injuries, however when healthy can be very good. Kunaszyk, Ford and Adams are all special team aces. Bubba Ventrone gets much-needed help. The only new player with no guaranteed money in his contract is Hurst, so the rest are making the roster unless injured.
Breaking down the trade: Genius. The Browns get a speedy, young wide receiver who is still on his rookie contract ($1.4 million this year and 1.8 million in 2024) for basically a fourth-round pick when you consider the 74th pick thrown in with the trade. Moore can play both inside and outside. There’ll be no more third and six yards to go with a lumbering tight end or Kareem Hunt in motion out of the backfield.
Salary cap: Currently the Browns have about $9 million in cap space and will get an additional $10 million after June 1 due to the release of John Johnson, III and Jadaveon Clowney. I would like to see another defensive tackle and safety signed.
Draft: This is the situation Andrew Berry wants with every draft, picking the best player available. The team has eight draft picks and Berry still has the ability to move back into the second round if there’s a player the team covets. It would probably cost both third-round picks (74 & 98). I do expect him to trade away picks for future picks because he does this every year.
All in all, this was a successful free agency for the Browns. They filled needs. Fans can debate the talents of the players signed and traded for, but I’ll trust the two most important moves made this off-season, the hiring of Jim Schwartz and Bubba Ventrone.