What started as a slow and methodical approach for Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns has quietly turned into one of the best offseasons in the NFL. The Browns were tactful and effective and look to be even better this season. The Browns added a good amount of key players as they attacked their biggest needs. The Browns free agency class was a great start for the team.
Browns Free Agency Class
John Johnson III
The Browns started free agency off with a bang, signing former Los Angeles Rams safety John Johnson III. Johnson was regarded as the best player at the position in free agency and the Browns got him at a great price. They also filled what was considered as one of their top needs.
They paid Johnson a three-year $33.5 million deal, with $24 million guaranteed. This was considered great value for a player of Johnson’s caliber. The Browns have now put together one of the best safety rooms in the NFL, with Grant Delpit, Ronnie Harrison, and John Johnson.
One of the more surprising moves in the Browns free agency class was Takk McKinley. Many assumed Cleveland would go out and get a top-tier defensive end in this free agency class. But Andrew Berry did not want to overpay and took a flier on McKinley. A former first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, McKinley has not lived up to that hype. With just 17.5 career sacks, he is looking for a resurgence in his young career.
Playing alongside Myles Garrett should really help the young pass rusher. Not to mention he still possesses elite athleticism and burst off the edge. McKinley has all the tools to put together a good season and is motivated to work hard and save his NFL future. This is a low-risk, high-reward signing for Cleveland. If it works out the Browns have found a future piece of the defense who is only 25 years old. And if it doesn’t, they only spent $4 million and can get out of the deal next year.
Troy Hill is one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL. He has been regarded as one of the best nickel corners in the league for the past few seasons and could potentially be the most important player the Browns brought in this offseason. The NFL is transitioning to pass the ball more and you need three good corners to match that. The Browns are still hopeful that Greedy Williams can come back strong and adding Hill gives them 3 great pieces at cornerback.
Former Indianapolis Colts linebacker, Antony Walker will be an interesting player in Cleveland this year. He was a highly regarded leader by his former Colt teammates and seems to have a knack for hitting. He is an above-average run defending linebacker and has the athleticism to move sideline to sideline. Walker could add some much-needed run defense which the Browns struggled at last season.
While I could give Malik Jackson and Malcolm Smith their own paragraph, they both are going to have similar roles in this defense. Both are on one-year deals and will provide depth and veteran presences to this defense. Jackson will be a rotational pass rusher from the inside and Smith will be a good linebacker in coverage but I don’t expect either to make a huge impact, especially at their ages.
Wide Receivers Coming Back
The Browns free agency class was light on offensive players. They did however retain three of their own, keeping Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge, and Jojo Natson around for this upcoming season. Higgins was a key piece in the playoff push and is probably the most important of the three. Hodge was a nice role player at times and has capable hands with some nice traits. I don’t expect him to make a huge impact but I like the way he played last season when he was given the chance.
Natson tore his ACL last season and was not able to play much. Natson, another former Ram, was signed last offseason to be a return man but was unable to because of his injury. The Browns return game was nonexistent last season, and I think Natson could help fix that.
I saved the best for last. Ok not really, but the Browns did re-sign their kicker from last season. Cody Parkey was much better than any fan would give him credit for and was a pleasant surprise last year. He does not have a strong leg, but he was accurate and efficient. I think Parkey has another good season and the Browns finally have a kicker who can actually play.
There were a few more depth signings, but these were the biggest moves in the Browns free agency class for this season. The Browns seem to be much improved and should be in a position to make another playoff run. I expect the defense to be much better and the offense to stay as strong as it was. This is a good combination and should lead to a lot more success. The Browns may have finally figured it out
We now turn to the NFL draft as the Browns have more chances to get better. With nine picks in the draft, the team is far from done.
Thanks for reading my article about The Cleveland Browns Free Agency!
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