Upon the conclusion of the NFL Draft, if you look closely enough, you can start to see the shape of the Browns’ new-look roster coming into form.
Over the past three days, the Browns have found their franchise quarterback of the future (Baker Mayfield), a premier cornerback (Denzel Ward), a versatile offensive lineman (Austin Corbett) who could have a crack at replacing future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thomas, a bruising running back (Nick Chubb) and several others poised to have meaningful futures in Cleveland.
That’s long way of saying that the Browns believe they’ve significantly improved a roster that’s already undergone fundamental transformations since the start of the new league year.
Because of that, there’s hope in Cleveland that it can, sooner than later, bounce back from the worst season in franchise history, a 1-31 stretch over the past two years and, generally speaking, years of mediocrity.
“I think the main thing is that we’ve improved,” said assistant general manager Eliot Wolf, who reunited with Dorsey in Cleveland following 14 seasons in Green Bay.
“You set out to improve every single day — we feel like we’ve done that. If we go out and don’t win a game, then none of this means anything. I would say that anyone could win in March or April. The key is getting these guys, the coaching staff and us, to get these guys together and go play together, and believe in a common goal and go win some games.”
Mayfield, Ward and the Browns’ 2018 draft class join fellow newcomers in veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor (acquired via trade with Buffalo), three-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry (acquired via trade with Miami), free safety Damarious Randall (acquired via trade with Green Bay) and a host of significant free-agent signings including running back Carlos Hyde, cornerback T.J. Carrie and right tackle Chris Hubbard.
Each player was brought to Cleveland for a reason.
“You hate to say it — it’s cliché — but it’s a cultural change. Bringing in the right people with the right attitude, the right commitment,” said Alonzo Highsmith, Cleveland’s vice president of player personnel who reunited with Dorsey after 19 years in the Packers’ personnel department.
“I think that myself, Eliot, John Dorsey, every time that we walk through these doors it’s about a commitment to get better. It’s about making the Cleveland Browns better. It’s about representing the city and bringing a proud franchise back to this city.
“It’s going to take the right type of players, the (Jarvis) Landry’s, the Corbetts, the Chubbs, the players that we have signed in free agency, Tyrod Taylor, and all of these people. It’s time to change. It’s time to turn this thing around. We have got to bring in good football players."
Faced with the league’s fifth-toughest strength of schedule, nothing will come easy for head coach Hue Jackson and Co. next season. The Browns open the year against the Steelers and drew matchups against the loaded NFC South, where all four teams figure to be playoff contenders.
With a head-spinning haul in free agency and perhaps the team’s most pivotal draft in the books, however, there’s a sense in Berea that the Browns will be more than up to the challenge. But actions, Jackson said, will speak louder than anything the Browns can say from now until September.
“Obviously, this is always an exciting time. I have been through this now for the third time here, but we do know that all of this has to parlay to the field,” he said. “This is still about winning drafts, but at the end of the day, it is about winning football games. We really feel like we put some guys on the team that can help us do that. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”