The 2021 Browns schedule release is almost here.
By the end of the week, we'll know the times, dates and order for the first 17-game regular season in NFL history. The opponents, however, have been known since the end of the season, and now that the draft and first wave of major free-agent moves are complete, we have a better sense of how steep the climb will be for Cleveland to get back to the playoffs in 2021.
Here's how the offseason has looked for each of the Browns' opponents next season:
2020 record: 11-5
Key additions: G Kevin Zeitler, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Rashod Bateman, EDGE Odafe Oweh, T Alejandro Villanueva, G Ben Cleveland
Key losses: EDGE Matt Judon, EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, WR Willie Snead IV, RB Mark Ingram, C Matt Skura, T Orlando Brown
Analysis: The Ravens replaced holes in their offensive line with Zeitler, Villanueva and Cleveland, a rookie third-round pick, and attempted to upgrade their receivers room with Watkins and Bateman. All of those moves are targeted to help QB Lamar Jackson improve a passing attack that ranked last in the league in 2020.
2020 record: 12-4
Key additions: RB Najee Harris, TE Pat Freiermuth, OT Joe Haeg
Key losses: EDGE Bud Dupree, RB James Conner, C Maurkice Pouncey, T Alejandro Villanueva, T Matt Feiler, CB Mike Hilton
Analysis: The Steelers are giving their offense another go with 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, who will have a new backfield weapon in Harris, their 2021 first-round draft pick. The losses of Dupree and Hilton could hurt the defense, but the Steelers always seem to find a way to stay competitive no matter who they lose in free agency.
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key additions: WR Ja'Marr Chase, T Riley Reiff, G Jackson Carman, EDGE Trey Hendrickson, CB Mike Hilton, CB Chidobe Awuzie, DT Larry Ogunjobi
Key losses: EDGE Carl Lawson, WR A.J. Green, DT Geno Atkins, T Bobby Hart, K Randy Bullock, CB William Jackson III, RB Giovani Bernard, WR John Ross
Analysis: The Bengals lost a few key defensive players from last year to free agency but filled those holes with big free-agent signings of their own. QB Joe Burrow will be reunited with his former LSU teammate in Chase, but the Bengals still face questions about whether their offensive line will be stout enough to protect their young quarterback.
Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Key additions: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue, OL Alex Leatherwood, S Trevon Moehrig, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead IV, CB Casey Hayward, DT Solomon Thomas, RB Kenyan Drake
Key losses: WR Nelson Agholor, C Rodney Hudson, T Trent Brown, G Gabe Jackson, DT Maliek Collins, WR Tyrell Williams, S Lamarcus Joyner
Analysis: Las Vegas lost a few key players from its offensive line that helped QB Derek Carr reach a career-best season in 2020. Ngakoue was the Raiders' biggest free-agent signing, but he hasn't recorded double-digit sacks since 2017. The Raiders have a plethora of young players (WR Henry Ruggs III, S Johnathan Abram, CB Damon Arnette) who need to take big strides in 2021 for the Raiders to improve.
2020 record: 5-11
Key additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Ronald Darby, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Patrick Surtain III, RB Javonte Williams
Key losses: DT Jurrell Casey (unsigned free agent), CB AJ Bouye, RB Phillip Lindsay,
Analysis: The Broncos will certainly be strong at the cornerback position, but their success will depend on how far Bridgewater or QB Drew Lock can take the offense. Both sides of the ball will also return key players who missed all or most of last season with injuries — WR Courtland Sutton returns to the offense, while LB Von Miller returns to the defense.
Check out photos of the stadiums the Browns will visit in 2021
2020 record: 5-11
Key additions: QB Jared Goff, OT Penei Sewell, DT Levi Onwuzurike, WR Breshad Perriman, WR Tyrell Williams, DT Michael Brockers, RB Jamaal Williams
Key losses: QB Matt Stafford, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones, WR Danny Amendola (unsigned free agent), K Matt Prater
Analysis: Detroit will offer Goff a change of scenery to possibly return to the level he reached early in his career with the Rams, but the Lions lack proven NFL receivers and appear to be a few seasons away from being consistent winners.
2020 record: 8-8
Key additions: QB Justin Fields, QB Andy Dalton, EDGE Jeremiah Attaochu, DT Angelo Blackson
Key losses: QB Mitchell Trubisky, CB Kyle Fuller, DT Roy Robertson-Harris, RT Bobby Massie, CB Buster Skrine
Analysis: All eyes will be on the Bears' QB room in 2021. Chicago's hopes for Trubisky, the second overall pick of 2017, ended after four seasons, and now the job will be handed to either Dalton or Fields, the 11th pick of the 2021 draft. Whoever wins will benefit from the return of WR Allen Robinson II, who accepted his franchise tag for another season despite entering the offseason as one of the top free agents available.
2020 record: 4-12
Key additions: EDGE Shaq Lawson, RT Marcus Cannon, QB Tyrod Taylor, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, RB Phillip Lindsay, CB Terrance Mitchell, CB Desmond King, LB Christian Kirksey, RB Mark Ingram
Key losses: EDGE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, LB Benardrick McKinney, RB Duke Johnson
Analysis: The Texans lost two of their biggest pieces from previous successful seasons in Fuller and Watt, but they were one of the most active teams in free agency and lured several veterans to Houston.
Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Key additions: G Joe Thuney, T Orlando Brown, DT Jarran Reid, LB Nick Bolton, C Austin Blythe, G Kyle Long
Key losses: T Eric Fisher, T Mitchell Schwartz, C Austin Reiter, WR Sammy Watkins
Analysis: The focus of the Chiefs' offseason has revolved around their offensive line, which will contain new players at all but one position — RT Mike Remmers is the only returner. Thuney and Brown, acquired in a trade with the Ravens, figure to be upgrades on the left side, which could make QB Patrick Mahomes an even more dominant player in 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Key additions: C Corey Linsley, G Matt Feiler, T Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr., TE Jared Cook
Key losses: TE Hunter Henry, EDGE Melvin Ingram, G Trai Turner, C Mike Pouncey, G Dan Feeney
Analysis: The Chargers revamped their offensive line with Linsley, Feiler and Slater, the 13th overall pick of the 2021 draft, and have set the table well for 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year QB Justin Herbert. Their defense will benefit from the return of S Derwin James, who missed last season with a torn meniscus.
Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Key additions: CB Eric Stokes, WR Amari Rodgers
Key losses: C Corey Linsley, RB Jamaal Williams, RT Rick Wagner, LB Christian Kirksey
Analysis: The Packers lost one of the biggest pieces of their offensive line in Linsley, a 2021 All-Pro, but retained most of the other key pieces from their roster last season, when they went to the NFC Championship.
2020 record: 7-9
Key additions: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Patrick Peterson, EDGE Steven Weatherly, EDGE, Ifeadi Odenigbo, T Christian Darrisaw
Key losses: T Riley Reiff, LB Eric Wilson
Analysis: The Vikings beefed up their defense, which ranked 29th in the league in 2020, with Tomlinson and Peterson. The unit dealt with injuries for the entirety of last season, however, and should be vastly improved with the returns of LB Anthony Barr, DT Michael Pierce (2020 opt-out), DE Danielle Hunter and LB Eric Kendricks.
New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Key additions: EDGE Matt Judon, TE Jonnu Smith, TE Hunter Henry, WR Nelson Agholor, T Trent Brown, DT Davon Godchaux, S Jalen Mills, EDGE Kyle Van Noy, DT Henry Anderson, WR Kendrick Bourne, QB Mac Jones
Key losses: G Joe Thuney, T Marcus Cannon, WR Julian Edelman, T Adam Butler
Analysis: The Patriots didn't waste time to fill roster holes in free agency and immediately grabbed some of the top players on the market within the first few days of the signing period. With additions at nearly every position, New England looks poised to get back into the playoffs for the first time since the end of the Tom Brady era.
2020 record: 8-8
Key additions: DE J.J. Watt, WR A.J. Green, CB Malcolm Butler, C Rodney Hudson, K Matt Prater, RB James Conner, LB Zaven Collins, WR Rondale Moore
Key losses: CB Patrick Peterson, EDGE Haason Reddick, TE Dan Arnold
Analysis: The Cardinals acquired one of the top players of the free-agent class in Watt and patched their receivers room with Green, an 11-year veteran, and Moore, a second-round pick. They certainly have the tools in place for a playoff run in 2021 if they can navigate through the NFC West, which could be the best division in the NFL.