In case you haven't heard, the Browns turned things around in 2018 in a big way, going from 0-16 to 7-8-1. That's fine, dandy and incredibly encouraging, but as is the case with every NFL team (including the Patriots), roster turnover will happen.
The first phase of such turnover? Free agency, which begins with the start of the new league year March 13. Let's take a look at which Browns are headed toward testing the waters of the open market next week.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
(These players are free to sign anywhere when the new league year commences March 13)
QB Tyrod Taylor
In a sign of what's good about the Browns' current roster, Taylor is the only current player who landed on NFL.com's annual top 101 free agents list (No. 70). Taylor was a reliable starter for Buffalo before the Browns acquired him via trade. He made small strides as Cleveland's starting quarterback before a concussion forced him out of the Browns' Week 3 contest against the New York Jets. From there, you know the story: Baker Mayfield entered and never gave up the position, and Taylor was relegated to backup.
WR Breshad Perriman
Things are more encouraging on the Perriman front when it comes to returning. Why? Two reasons: Perriman came on strong late in the season, scoring two touchdowns in his final three games with the Browns, and, well, the Browns need a field-stretching deep threat receiver. Perriman seems to fit that bill, is only 25, a former first-round pick and may have just needed a change of scenery to find his productive self. General manager John Dorsey said "I would love to have that player here" during last week's media session at the Combine. Perriman has expressed a desire to return to Cleveland as well. There's no update yet, but there's reason for optimism.
CB E.J. Gaines
Gaines was brought in on a one-year deal later last offseason but struggled to stay on the field, suffering two concussions. The latter ended his season in early November after just six games played, in which he had one interception and three passes defended.
The Browns didn't get much of a read on Gaines as a result, but two questions remain: 1. Is Gaines healthy enough to return and play? 2. If so, can he be the depth contributor Cleveland hoped it was getting in 2018?
OL Earl Watford
A versatile backup interior lineman, Watford played just six offensive plays all season and appeared in 13 games for the Browns. Watford signed with the Browns in the preseason after starting 20 games for the Arizona Cardinals between 2016 and 2017.
WR Rod Streater
Streater is another veteran brought in when injuries decimated the depth chart at receiver. He suffered a season-ending neck injury while making a special teams tackle attempt.
LB Ray-Ray Armstrong
Another veteran added for depth purposes after the loss of Christian Kirskey to injury.
CB Phillip Gaines
Gaines, claimed via waivers from the Bills midway through the 2018 season, appeared in four games and played 94 plays (40 defense, 54 special teams) after the Browns had serious injury issues at cornerback.
DT Carl Davis
Davis appeared in five games for the Browns, totaling one tackle in 2018 after spending his first three seasons with the Ravens.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
(These players are free to sign an offer sheet with another team, but the Browns have the right to match such an offer)
WR Rashard Higgins
A former fifth-round pick, Higgins flourished in 2018, catching 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns. His final five games included three with at least 60 yards receiving and two with a receiving touchdown. His rapport with Mayfield can't go overlooked.
UPDATE: The Browns **tendered Higgins on Friday**, securing their right to match any offer Higgins attracts.
CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Boddy-Calhoun spent the majority of the season playing the slot corner for the Browns, appearing on 55.2 percent of Cleveland's defensive snaps, and 53.9 percent of its special teams snaps. Boddy-Calhoun averaged 54 plays per game, recorded 56 tackles and two passes defended.
TE Orson Charles
Charles played fullback and tight end for the Browns before he was lost for the season in early December to an ankle injury.
DB Juston Burris
A former fourth-round pick of the Jets, Burris was called into action for Cleveland's final four games of 2018. He totaled 69 snaps with the team, all on special teams.
EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
(These players can only sign with the Browns, unless the team decides not to tender a qualifying offer to them by March 13)
DT Trevon Coley
The Browns could use additional help at defensive tackle, but Coley is an exclusive-rights free agent (a player whose contract has expired but has less than four seasons of accrued time in the NFL), it seems likely Coley will return unless the Browns decline to tender him a qualifying offer.
UPDATE: The Browns **tendered Coley on Friday**.
DB Jermaine Whitehead
After playing 349 snaps with the Packers through the first nine weeks of the season, Whitehead ended up in Cleveland, where he played just 98 snaps, all on special teams. The Browns were Whitehead's third team in four years.
UPDATE: The Browns **tendered Whitehead on Friday.**