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5 things to watch for in Browns offseason workouts

The Browns returned to Berea on Monday, knocking out the first day of offseason workouts on a blustery and unseasonably chilly morning that felt more like the middle of January than April.

Along with the 49ers and Eagles, Cleveland was one of three teams that began its offseason workout program under a first-year coach. (Only franchises that hired a new coach in the offseason are allowed to begin this week, while the rest of the NFL starts in two weeks).

For the Browns, it marks the beginning of the long and winding road aimed at training camp, which is set to begin in late July/early August.

In between then and now, here are a handful of emerging storylines to keep an eye on as Hue Jackson and Cleveland lay the foundation for what they hope is the start of a turnaround next season.

Finding a franchise QB

Jackson and the Browns front office haven't been coy about Cleveland's need for a franchise quarterback. "I think we all know and recognize we're trying to find a quarterback and we'll do so," the coach told reporters at the league's annual owners' meetings earlier this month.

"It's been one of our missions because we want to make sure our team is prepared to have the best of the best at every position if we can get it."

The Browns currently feature a roster that includes Robert Griffin III (the former Redskins star and Heisman Trophy winner whom Cleveland signed two weeks ago in free agency) veteran Josh McCown (who started eight games last season) and a pair of younger signal callers in Connor Shaw and Austin Davis.

Cleveland, which holds 10 NFL Draft picks, including the second overall selection — is also evaluating quarterbacks in this year's class, including California's Jared Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz among others.

In any case, Jackson said the Browns "create an environment to make our quarterback precious."

"Everything we do is about the quarterback," Jackson said, adding, "Our practices are about the quarterback. Our meetings are about the quarterback."

And as a result, Jackson and Co. are taking their pursuit to find the right guy seriously.

"We're going to take every shot we can to find a franchise quarterback," Jackson said in March during in an interview with ESPN 850 WKNR.

"My goal is to put a quarterback on this football team that our fans, that this city can be proud of and call their own because he'll be a guy that plays well week in and week out."

OL ready to step up

Following the departures of center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, the Browns will look to replace two of the league's better offensive linemen at their respective positions.

Cleveland, of course, returns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas and guard Joel Bitnonio, who was named to's All-Under-25 Team this winter. 

But two players who could see their roles expand are tackle Austin Pasztor and Cameron Erving, the second-year player out of Florida State and 2015 first-round draft pick.

While Erving saw limited time last season — and struggled some in those contests — he said on Friday he was eager to do whatever the Browns need him to next season.

"I prepare as I prepare all the time, I prepare as I'm going to be a starter at any point in time," Erving told last week.

Meanwhile, Pasztor — the 6-foot-7, 308-pounder from Ontario — started four games last season and saw action in all 16 games.

Depth at DB

On Saturday, the Browns released veteran safety Donte Whitner as well as second-year player Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. And compounded by the departure of Tashaun Gipson, who departed the team in free agency last month, Cleveland's secondary appears to be in need of some depth.

While starters in Pro Bowler Joe Haden and Tramon Williams are back, a thin selection at a position group that struggled last season is something the Browns front office and coaching staff will likely evaluate in the coming months. Haden will be sidelined for the next few months with an ankle injury.

While Cleveland can certainly address the need for depth at the position group in the draft, expect current members of the roster — like Charles Gaines, Jordan Poyer, Pierre Desir, Don Jones, Ibraheim Campbell, Justin Gilbert, K'Waun Williams and newcomer Rahim Moore — to compete for playing time. 

Can Gary Barnidge build on Pro Bowl year?

On Sunday night, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge was in Dallas watching WrestleMania. Come sunrise, the Pro Bowler made it back to Cleveland in time for workouts. Talk about a haul.

After a career year in which he caught 79 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns last season, Barnidge enters the offseason with big expectations.

"He's a tremendous football player," Jackson said in February at the league's scouting combine. "I can't wait to see a lot of these guys on April 4 and get an opportunity to share my vision for our organization with them. Again, he had a sensational season and I don't see him going backward at all. I see him even getting better and playing really well for us."

New faces in Berea

Count Griffin, linebacker Demario Davis and Moore as a handful of new faces around the facility this week.

Davis, the former Jets starting linebacker, is expected to compete for a starting job on the roster as is Moore, the former Houston Texans and Denver Broncos safety.

Also joining the Browns are offensive lineman Alvin Bailey and linebacker Justin Tuggle, both of whom saw most of their playing time on special teams for their previous clubs.

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