The Cleveland Browns on Sunday claimed DL Carl Davis (Baltimore Ravens), DL Ifeadi Odenigbo (Minnesota Vikings), OL Aaron Neary (Los Angeles Rams), DB Tavierre Thomas (Arizona Cardinals) and LB Tanner Vallejo(Buffalo Bills) from waivers. In corresponding moves, the team waived OL Austin Reiter, DL Jamie Meder, DL Carl Nassib, LB Jermaine Grace and DB Jeremiah McKinnon.
Sunday’s moves were the latest in an offseason full of them, as the Browns reshaped their roster in a slew of ways since the 2017 season came to a close. Thirty-one of the Browns’ 53 active roster players are new additions since the start of the year.
“As we sit here today, we have actually turned the roster over 59 percent from last year’s roster. That does not happen unless you have a plan,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “That plan was developed in mid-January with the input of the coaches and the personnel staff putting this thing together. Once we identified what we needed, we used whatever resources that were available. It starts with planning for unrestricted free agents. Doing our research for trades. Doing our research on the waiver claims and picking players up. Then, doing the planning for the college draft and college free agency. Of course, when you are sitting in the No. 1 waiver claim position, you always go attack the final two or three claims and see what is out there. We thought that it would be best if we picked up five players who we think could help this team.
“At the end of the day, I think that we are a better football team on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I think that our skill groups have a lot of young and upcoming guys. That is all that you can ask for.”
The decisions weren’t easy, as Dorsey called this period of time “the most agonizing weekend of the year in the NFL,” as the Browns parted ways with 39 players who were with the team throughout training camp and the preseason. Meder, for example, was one of the longest tenured Browns on the roster, joining the team near the end of the 2014 season.
“We were able to again add some more talent to our team, and in the process of doing that, there are some players that have been here that we had to let go,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. ”That is always tough to do, but at the end of the day our No. 1 job is to make the football team the best that we can make it and to give our fans what they truly deserve, which is a winner.”
Injuries at tight end, fullback and linebacker, along with some maneuvers on the offensive line made some of these decisions even more difficult. The Browns waived last year’s starting FB Danny Vitale with an injury designation Saturday and are hoping to have TE Seth DeValve, who missed most of the preseason with a quadriceps injury, back on the field soon.
“At the same time, we feel comfortable,” Jackson said. “Orson Charles has been a really good find for us thus far but we will keep exploring that position. We want to get Seth back up and on the field playing. One thing I do like about John and the personnel guys, we are going to always continue to look to get the football team better. That is what it should be. At the end of the day, our charge as coaches is to get them to perform and play well, and John’s job is to go find them for us.”
Since last week’s signing of OL Earl Watford, the Browns added seven players who ultimately round out the 53-man roster. DL Devaroe Lawrence was acquired Saturday in a trade with the Saints while Sunday’s five claims will look to join the team in Berea as soon as possible.
“There is mutual respect between the coaches, the personnel and the research staff,” Dorsey said. “What you have now is that you are becoming a well-oiled machine because everybody understands the vison, the coaching staff is going to coach up the players that we acquire for this team. The personnel staff knows that those guys are going to get coached up. From the personnel and coaching standpoint, the information that comes from the research department, we know that those research backings will help you in making decisions. Whenever making decisions, the more information you have the better off you are. At the end of the day, I think that it is a good day to be a Cleveland Brown.”
Even with the numerous moves, the Browns return a number of valuable players who bring experience to their respective position groups. Of note, OL Joel Bitonio and LB Christian Kirksey are entering their fifth season with the Browns and are poised to lead a roster Jackson said has “some quality in every room now.”
“The guys have really worked together during training camp, in terms of having that single mindset and common core goal of understanding what it is going to take to overcome that adverse moment that may strike in the fall on any given Sunday,” Dorsey said. “When you have that single mindset that this team has right now, you can do that because everybody is striving for the same goals. With that, now we just have to go out and play some football. Who better to start the season with than the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think we are in a good spot and I am excited to see where this team heads in the 2018 season.”
Davis is a 6-5, 320-pound fourth-year defensive lineman out of Iowa. Originally selected by the Ravens in the third round (90th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft, Davis has played in 28 career games with 12 starts. He’s collected 30 tackles, three pass breakups and a half-sack. Last season, Davis started nine of 15 contests with a career-high 19 tackles. He’s a native of Sterling Heights, Mich.
Odenigbo, officially in his first NFL season, is a 6-3, 275-pound defensive lineman from Northwestern. A 2017 seventh-round (220th overall) draft pick by the Vikings, he spent all of last year on Minnesota’s practice squad. Collegiately, Odenigbo earned first team All-Big Ten honors from conference coaches and second team accolades from league media as a senior. He led the conference with 10 sacks on the year and ended his career ranked second in school history with 23.5 sacks. Odenigbo is a product of Centerville, Ohio.
Neary (6-3, 301 pounds), a first-year offensive lineman out of Eastern Washington, was originally signed by the Denver Broncos in 2016 as an undrafted free agent. He spent the season as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad after the Broncos waived him during final roster cuts. He was acquired by the Rams via waivers before the start of 2017 and spent most of the season on the club’s practice squad. Neary started and played in his first career game during Week 17 of last season. He was raised in Richland, Wash.
A 5-10, 205-pound rookie defensive back, Thomas was signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent this spring. He played in 45 career games at Ferris State, totaling 175 tackles, 14 interceptions and 35 passes defensed. He led his team as a senior in 2017 with 60 stops, four picks and a career-high 18 pass breakups. He hails from Detroit, Mich.
Vallejo, 6-1, 230 pounds, was originally drafted by the Bills in the sixth round (195th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Boise State. Officially in his second year, he played in 15 of 16 games for the Bills as a rookie linebacker last season and appeared in the team’s lone postseason matchup. At Boise State, he played in 35 career games with 226 tackles, five sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown. He’s a native of Penn Valley, Calif.
The Browns’ 53-man roster
Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton
Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb
Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies, Josh Gordon
David Njoku, Darren Fells, Seth DeValve, Orson Charles
Joel Bitonio, Austin Corbett, JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler, Chris Hubbard, Desmond Harrison, Earl Watford, Greg Robinson, Aaron Neary
Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Chris Smith, Chad Thomas, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley, Devaroe Lawrence, Carl Davis
Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert, Genard Avery, James Burgess, Tanner Vallejo
Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines, Denzel Rice, Tavierre Thomas, Jabrill Peppers, Damarious Randall, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Derrick Kindred
Special teams (3)
K Zane Gonzalez, P Britton Colquitt, LS Charley Hughlett