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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Talking kickers, the draft, offensive tackles and more

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

The offseason always brings a good mix of questions, and you all certainly did not disappoint as we get the week rolling with a Browns Mailbag.

Keep. Them. Coming.

We tackled four to get us rolling into the third full week of the offseason.

With the lack of production from the WR position, there has been emphasis on drafting a WR early. With a great running game and the use of three-TE sets, has this been a forgotten position in the offense? Drafting a WR seems like a wasted pick if the offense doesn't utilize the position more. — Dave M., Thunder Bay, Ontario

I wouldn't use the team "forgotten." The Browns — who certainly love to get the ball in the hands of their running backs and tight ends — have shown plenty of willingness to incorporate their wide receivers in the offense. Just last year, the Browns had four receivers among the top five players on the team in receptions and receiving yards and they accounted for roughly half of the 501 targets in the passing game. This year, though, was a much tougher year not just for the team's wide receivers, but the entire Browns passing offense. Wide receivers accounted for three of the five top players in receptions and receiving yards with Donovan Peoples-Jones leading the way with 597 yards. Wide receivers, again, accounted for roughly half of the team's targets in the passing game but finished with significantly fewer yards and touchdowns than the previous year.

Asked if it were a priority to upgrade the position during the offseason, Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry said that kind of thinking stretched across the entire roster — not just the wide receivers.

"I told you guys at the bye week that I thought our passing offense was too inconsistent at that point, and I think that remains to be the case as we exit the year," Berry said. "We will pull it apart, look at it and obviously make the necessary changes and improvements that are needed, whether that is externally, internally or schematically."

Who are the highest rated LTs coming out of college? I think the Browns should consider moving Wills back to RT (his natural position) and drafting a LT or finding a solid veteran through free agency. Perhaps, with some cap magic, they could do both, which would increase depth at the position. — Craig R., Prescott Valley, Arizona

Alabama's Evan Neal appears to be the consensus top tackle in this year's draft. Most early mock drafts have Neal coming off the board inside the Top 5, with ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. slotting him No. 3 to the Texans. Along with Neal, Kiper has two other offensive tackles — Ikem Ekwonu (NC State) and Charles Cross (Mississippi State) landing in the top six and one other — Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa) — going in the first round.

All that being said, the Browns are poised to once again return their entire starting offensive line. When healthy, it's among the best, if not THE best, in the NFL. Bitonio, meanwhile, has made four straight Pro Bowls and earned first-team All Pro recognition for his performance at left guard. RT Jack Conklin, who battled through injuries and underwent season-ending knee surgery, is just one year removed from a first-team All Pro season. Wills is 22 years old and coming off a second season in which he dealt with a significant ankle injury.

The Browns certainly will look to fortify their depth through free agency and the draft. That's a given, especially after all of the injuries they had to weather in 2021. There are just no indications of the kind of shake-up you suggested along the offensive line.

Do you think the Browns should draft a good kicker this year instead of going for a kicker from off the street or another team's practice squad? — Kenneth P., Dorset

Berry fielded this question in his end-of-season press conference and said the Browns would be open to it — just like they are for every other position on the roster.

"I would consider anything," Berry said. "My reaction to that is not any hard and fast rule. It probably depends on the player, and it depends on other ways you can acquire talent at the position. No, I would not rule it out."

Drafting kickers is arguably one of the toughest things to do. Of the 20 kickers drafted over the past 10 years, only three are still with the team that selected them. Three of the best kickers in the NFL — Daniel Carlson, Matt Gay and Harrison Butker — were cut by the teams that drafted them before going on to the success they're having today. Arguably the best kicker in the last generation, Justin Tucker, and many, many other kickers around the league entered via the undrafted free agent route.

Over the last 10 years, the Browns have used two draft picks on kickers. Neither lasted with the team for two full seasons. Just 12 teams have used draft picks on kickers during this time frame.

Looking at the All-Pro team for 2021. Two Browns made the list with others getting votes. I also saw Jordan Poyer made the list. If I remember correctly, wasn't he one of the Browns released or traded during the Sashi Brown years? — Elmer L., Bangor, Maine

Poyer wasn't released. His rookie deal expired following the 2016 season, and he opted to sign with the Bills in free agency. He's gone on to tremendous things in Buffalo, where he's started all but two games in his five seasons with the team. It's a great story and one that should be celebrated. Poyer, who joined the Browns midway through the 2013 season as a waiver claim, grinded his way up to a full-time starting role with the Browns for the 2016 season, which was cut short at just six games after Poyer suffered a kidney laceration following a scary hit in a game against the Titans.

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