The Browns fundamentally reshaped their roster over the offseason, adding big-name players like quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and top-shelf rookies such as Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward.
Lost in the flurry of moves, however, are a handful of new faces who figure to play significant roles for Cleveland next season. Here are five players who could be flying under the radar when training camp starts in two weeks.
CB T.J. Carrie
Ward, the fourth-overall pick in the NFL Draft, gets a lot of attention, but don’t forget about Carrie. The former Ohio University standout signed with the Browns in free agency following four seasons with the Raiders, where he started 37 games. Since coming to Cleveland, the savvy vet has already earned the trust and respect of the the coaching staff.
“He’s just a player where you just trust him,” cornerbacks coach Dwayne Walker. “He’s a pro, he studies, he's a man to be honest with you in terms of how he approaches the game. It’s just a trust factor that he's just going to do what you ask of him.
OL Chris Hubbard
While the Browns are still searching for answers at left tackle, Hubbard appears to have given them a solid option on the right side. Something of a jack of all trades in four seasons with the Steelers, Hubbard got his break last year, starting 10 games on Pittsburgh’s high-flying offense.
The Browns saw his potential and signed him in free agency. “We have a right tackle that I think is going to be a really, really good player,” head coach Hue Jackson said. Though his position might not generate the buzz of a quarterback or wide receiver, Hubbard is a quality addition to an offensive line that returns guards four starters. “
WR Damion Ratley
Ratley’s road to the NFL was the one less traveled. He made the football team at Blinn Community College via a tryout and then transferred to Texas A&M a year later. After two unheralded seasons, Ratley put together a dynamic final campaign with the Aggies with 30 receptions for 694 yards and six touchdowns. Toward the end of offseason workouts, the 6-foot-3 and speedy Ratley seemed to be catching on.
“He’s made some plays. He is still a young guy who’s learning how to play, learning how to line up. Again, that’s to be expected right now, but I think that he has talent,” Jackson said. “He can catch. He can run. I think once he figures out that part of it of where to be and when to be there, then his athletic ability will show.”
DL Chris Smith
Smith, who signed with the Browns after a season in Cincinnati, is fresh off a breakout year in which he saw career highs in games played (16), tackles (26) and passes defensed (three) in addition to three sacks and two forced fumbles. Smith, who enters his fourth season,. should play a big role in Cleveland’s defensive line rotation.
TE Darren Fells
It’s hard not to notice Fells (6-foot-7, 270 pounds) and be intrigued by his unusual size and athleticism. After playing professional basketball internationally, he entered the NFL as a free agent in 2013 after having not played the sport since high school. Still, Fells caught on quick and has played in 54 games with 37 starts, most recently with Detroit. In Cleveland, he joins a room that includes Seth DeValve and David Njoku.
“Darren has kind of built a second career that is probably better than the first on that he had as an international professional basketball player," tight ends coach Greg Seamon said. "It's just unusual – 6-7, 270 pounds and can bend, has agility, balance and is very, very bright."