Free agency is on the horizon. It has been a year since Browns GM John Dorsey introduced us to his brand of team-building. The whirlwind approach caught many of us off-guard. After all, offseasons in Cleveland have long been relegated to saying good bye to key players, missing out on others and treating the NFL Draft like our Super Bowl. By the way, if drafts have represented our Super Bowl, we’ve been short-changed until recently. Things have changed and it isn’t all due to Mr. Dorsey.
A year ago, the Browns had an incredible 13 draft picks and plenty of cap space as well. In terms of draft capital, the Browns dominated. John Dorsey had control over the draft like your typical schoolyard bully does at recess. When all was said and done, the Browns selected nine players, eight of whom are still with the team.
The Browns are currently the owners of 10 draft picks in April’s NFL Draft. The 2019 draft should resemble last year’s draft in the way John Dorsey maneuvers to get the players he wants. He can easily move up by utilizing some of his lower round picks. On a team that is rapidly amassing talent, it only makes sense that this team will not break camp with 10 rookies on the 53-man roster. Expect a similar paring down to what was accomplished in 2018. 10 picks are more likely to become six or seven selections.
Going into the 2018 offseason, John Dorsey was the proud owner of a roster that won zero games the prior season, needed a franchise quarterback, needed help at wide receiver, had underachieved in its running game and had a coach who many doubted. The beauty of what the Browns’ new GM was able to pull off in one offseason should not be lost on us. If you’ve followed football for any period of time, you know that the draft can be a crapshoot. Players don’t always translate to the NFL. This is even true of guys taken very early in the draft. Injuries derail promising free agents’ careers. You won’t always be right or win as an NFL GM. The key is knowing talent and taking calculated gambles. This is where Dorsey thrives.
The Browns drafted Baker Mayfield in a strong QB class. They drafted Nick Chubb in a strong running back class. Fifth and sixth-round picks are meaningful when you can evaluate talent. Gennard Avery and Antonio Callaway both have a chance to be excellent players for a long time. Look for that trend to continue with later-round picks made by the Browns GM. This draft class is strong at DT and TE among other positions. John Dorsey will exploit that. He will draft a player from each position in this draft and I expect it to be in the early rounds.
The Kevin Zeitler for Olivier Vernon trade was hard to see in some ways. We know how good Kevin Zeitler is. He’s one of the top interior linemen in the league. We also know what we have in Myles Garrett and we want to unleash the full fury of the animal that Myles can be on the football field. He needed help. I see this trade as such a huge boon for the defense that I am willing to live with a drop off at right guard. For all we know, Austin Corbett may not be much of a drop-off. John Dorsey saw something in him. He didn’t bring him here to play left tackle.
So you want to know what other moves the Browns will make prior to the Draft. The goal of trades and free agent signings between now and the draft will be to open up the draft to allow the most talented players to be drafted regardless of position. The Browns currently need a minimum of two defensive tackles, one tight end and one linebacker. They will seek competition at other positions most notably corner and to a lesser degree wide receiver. The Browns will sign a DT and a LB in free agency. They will target corners if they get the right player and the right deal. This will allow them to go BPA in the draft. There will undoubtedly be more than three acquisitions, but the top three will be key.
Remember that each signing, release or trade really doesn’t tell a story. It’s the aggregate of the moves and the composition of the 53-man roster in the fall that matters.