With the 2022 season finally over, where do the Cleveland Browns stand heading into the 2023 NFL season? Where do they stand with the 2023 salary cap? What are the front office’s plans to address the positions of need in both the draft and free agency? Which current players will be resigned? Who’s going to be hired as the new defensive coordinator? Why am I asking myself all these questions? Hopefully, this will shed some light.
Salary Cap. The NFL salary cap for 2023 is assumed to be $225 million, it’s not official yet and I’m using the number from https://overthecap.com/salary-cap-space which is usually accurate. Based on the same website, the Browns will have around $27 million left over from 2022 to roll over into 2023. The price of the current roster is $262 million so cuts and restructures will have to be made. The assumption of many cap ologists is that quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Amari Cooper’s contracts will be restructured. Add to this the assumption that certain players will be cut to save money, most notably safety John Johnson III, who if designated a post-June 1st cut would save the team $9.75 million. If you figure it all up, the Browns should be at around $40 to $50 million under the cap when the new season starts.
Free Agency. The elephant in the room is the lack of production at the defensive tackle position. I’m a big fan of GM Andrew Berry, but man, did he screw this one up. In my opinion, the Browns have to sign two defensive tackles as free agents. Many Browns fans are currently lusting over Washington DT Daron Payne. I’m not seeing it, too expensive. To get better value, I think the Browns will look to sign players like Matt Ioannidis or Sheldon Rankins. Young players in the $6 to $8 million range. If they’re going to spend money on the defensive line, spend the money on an edge rusher to replace Jadeveon Clowney (Melvin Ingram would be nice). As for the other position of need, wide receiver, the Browns will have about $12 million tied up in Cooper and Donovon Peoples-Jones next year. I would like to see the Browns kick the tires on Will Fuller or if they make a trade, trade for someone like Elijah Moore. Low investment, high reward.
The 2023 NFL Draft. The Browns currently have eight draft picks. If Assistant GM Glenn Cook gets hired by another team, the Browns will gain an additional third-round pick this year and next. As of now, they have one second-round pick, one third-round pick, two fourth-round picks, two fifth-round picks, one sixth-round pick and one seventh-round pick. It’s way too early to project which players will go in which round, however, the defensive tackle position in this draft is weak, so if a first-round talent at the wide receiver position drops into the second round, the Browns might have to go that direction.
Re-Signing Current Players. The priority is on defense. I would start with linebackers Anthony Walker and Reggie Ragland. Walker might be a gamble due to getting injured two years in a row, but that didn’t stop the Browns from re-signing right tackle Jack Conklin. After Walker got hurt, the defense dissolved into chaos. Ragland brings an old school; run-stopping linebacker this defense needs desperately. I would also resign defensive tackle Taven Bryan. I would argue if Bryan had a better tackle than Jordan Elliott playing next to him, he would have had a better year.
Defensive Coordinator. We’ve all seen the list. I would put the front runners as Jim Schwartz and Brian Flores, only because I think they’re looking for someone with previous head coaching experience. Flores is going to be interviewed as a head coach and already has with the Cardinals. He was high on their list during the last hiring period. It has been reported that the Browns interviewed Eagles’ Dennard Wilson yesterday. He’s a very interesting name to keep an eye on. The next interview will be with the Seahawks’ Sean Desani, on Monday. I’m surprised Denver’s Ejiro Evero and the Rams’ Raheem Morris haven’t made the list yet. Finally, does Brandon Staley remain the head coach of the Chargers? If not, give him a call Browns.
Hopefully, this article answered some of your questions about the current state of the Browns going into the 2023 season. It’s not as bleak as the Cleveland media paints it to be.