The Browns have played in just 1 playoff game since 1994 (they were deactivated for 3 years in that stretch, but still). Lack of continuity continues to be an issue for them and it won’t get any better for them next season. They have a new owner who has brought in a new GM and front office, which will bring in a new Head Coach once again. That Head Coach is expected to be Chip Kelly, who is expected to bring in yet another new quarterback.
The good news for the Browns: The had just 4 losses by more than 10, only 3 if you don’t count a meaningless week 17 game in which 3rd stringer Thad Lewis had to start. Chip Kelly has the potential to be the best coach they’ve had since being reactivated. If Kelly and whatever new quarterback they bring in can get anything out of a young, but promising offensive group of talent, they have a talented enough defense to compete in an AFC North that is in flux right now.
The Browns’ defense is better than the Browns’ offense, but they’ll probably focus more on the defense that the offense this season. They have a lot of young talent on offense that they need to wait on to develop. Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin, and Josh Gordon were all drafted this year. Jason Pinkston, Greg Little, Owen Marecic, and Jordan Cameron were drafted in 2011. All of those guys were drafted in the first 4 rounds. They need to wait on these guys.
On defense, they ranked 26th in pass rush efficiency. Jabaal Sheard had a major sophomore slump this year after having a great rookie year in 2011. I still believe in the 2011 2nd round pick’s long term potential, but they need someone opposite him regardless. Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker split snaps opposite him. Parker is a free agent heading into his age 35 season this offseason, while Rucker just isn’t that good.
The Browns really struggled for consistency at outside linebacker this season as 6 different guys made starts and none of them really impressed. The Browns will strongly consider Manti Te’o at #6 overall. He would probably play middle linebacker and move D’Qwell Jackson, coming off a down year, back to his natural outside linebacker spot.
Sheldon Brown actually had a very good year opposite Joe Haden this season, but he’s a free agent heading into his age 34 season this offseason. Regardless of whether or not he’s brought back, they’ll need another cornerback to go with Joe Haden and up and down 2011 6th round pick Buster Skrine because Brown can’t be trusted in either the long term or short term.
Cleveland had the 3rd ranked offensive line in terms of pass block efficiency, but right guard Shawn Lauvao was the weak link and needs to be replaced. The 2010 3rd round pick has started 32 games in the last 2 seasons, but he really hasn’t been impressive.
The Browns’ top three wide receivers in terms of snaps played last season were all either in their 1st or 2nd year in the league. They predictably struggled, but there’s still time for them to turn it around. However, they could use a veteran in the mix. Mohamed Massaquoi, the “veteran” of the group, is a free agent, while 2011 2nd round pick Greg Little still doesn’t seem to be able to shake his issues with drops.
Ben Watson is a free agent and they seem ready to give 2011 4th round pick Jordan Cameron a chance to be the starting tight end. They could use some veteran insurance in case he falters.
Will it be another new quarterback in 2013 for the Browns? Brandon Weeden was a 1st round pick just last year, but he struggled as a rookie and he’s already heading into his age 30 season. Everyone who drafted him has been fired with new ownership coming in and he was reportedly being given an audition for the 2013 job down the stretch. With Chip Kelly expected to be coming in, Weeden may be traded as he’d fit like a square peg in a round hole in Kelly’s system. Bringing in a veteran like Michael Vick, a dual threat quarterback, seems like something they’ll do.
Phil Dawson is one of the best kickers in the league, but he’s a free agent once again and new CBA rules say he can’t be franchised again unless the Browns want to pay him the quarterback franchise tag price (around 15 million, not happening). If he can’t be re-signed, he’ll have to be replaced.
The Browns ranked 30th in the league in net punting average. Reggie Hodges is a free agent and they need to upgrade him.