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Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Talking potential free agent WRs, a rising pass rusher and more

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

We're back from Indianapolis and multiple days removed from eating steak for dinner.

Now, it's time to shift the focus to free agency, which kicks off in earnest next Wednesday.

We're taking three of your questions in our first Mailbag of March.

As we all know, the Browns need WRs. I think we will pick one up in the first round of the draft but what do you think about free agency? Two good options I have seen: Michael Gallup and Juju Smith-Schuster. What do you think about signing those guys? — Gus M., North Carolina

Ah yes, it's that time of year. Free agency speculation is abounding, and the wide receiver position has come under the microscope as the Browns get ready for the start of the 2022 league year. It certainly was a position we highlighted in our coverage of the NFL Combine, and mock drafters are close to unanimous in believing Cleveland will select a wide receiver with the No. 13 pick. That said, there's free agency first, and there are a number of talented players who will be switching teams in the coming days and weeks. It's important to remember that whatever the Browns do in free agency, the draft plan likely won't be impacted in too big of a way.

"I think it would be disingenuous to say that free agency does not have some interplay with the draft," Browns EVP of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said last week at the NFL Combine. "But I would not say it would be the primary driver in terms of what we really want to do with our draft picks."

I suggest reading our latest breakdown of the WR market, which continues to evolve as teams reach extensions or utilize the franchise tag on players to keep them from hitting free agency. The two you highlight do not qualify for that distinction … yet. There's still a lot that can happen over the next eight days.

Gallup, for instance, could be in line for a few more years with the Cowboys in the wake of the news WR Amari Cooper is likely to be released. Gallup is coming off an injury-affected 2021 in which he appeared in nine games and amassed 35 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. Gallup, who posted a career-high 1,107 yards in 2019, tore his ACL in Week 17, so his status for the early part of the season could be in question. 

Smith-Schuster's 2021 was also impacted by an injury. He saw action in just five games before going down with a shoulder injury and caught just 15 passes for 129 yards. He returned for the Steelers' playoff loss in Kansas City and caught five passes for 26 yards. Smith-Schuster, of course, has done some big things in the NFL, including a 2018 season in which he caught 111 balls for 1,426 yards. considers him to be the No. 43 overall free agent in this year's class. Smith-Schuster, who was a free agent last year before opting to re-sign with the Steelers, recently indicated he's likely to hit free agency again this year.

Travon Walker is a physical defensive end with a similar appearance to Myles Garrett. If he falls to the Browns would they draft him? — Rob M., Fairmont, West Virginia

It was a very good week for Walker at the NFL Combine. The Georgia pass rusher, who measured at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds, was a standout performer in most on-field drills, including a blazing 4.51-second 40-yard dash. He has the versatility to play both as an edge or an interior rusher and was a key part of a national champion Georgia defense that was one of the best of the past decade in college football.

How good was Walker's week? Well, The Athletic's Dane Brugler now has him going third overall in his latest mock draft. That's a big leap from the teens, where Walker has hovered in recent weeks. The Browns, of course, have the 13th pick and could be in the market for a young pass rusher to place in the same room as All-Pro Myles Garrett.

There are eight kickers that kick 80 percent or better on the market. Should the Browns look to spend a little extra money for a good kicker for the 2022 season? — Kenneth P., Dorset

There definitely are a bunch of quality kickers set to hit free agency, many of whom held down full-time roles in 2022. Chase McLaughlin, Cleveland's every-game kicker in 2022, is among them after an up-and-down 2021 season that featured 15-of-21 makes on field goals, including four from 50+, and a 36-of-37 success rate on extra points. Some of the bigger names in the group include Younghoe Koo, who was a 2020 Pro Bowler, Matt Gay, who kicked for the Super Bowl champion Rams, and Nick Folk, who was 35-for-35 on all kicks inside the 53-yard line.

There's also the option to address the position in the draft. Cleveland has used draft picks on kickers twice since 2017, and Berry didn't rule out the possibility when he was asked if he'd be willing to use one of the Browns' nine picks on the position.

"Definitely open to it," Berry said.

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