We’re killing time waiting for the schedule by answering five of your questions for this special edition of the Browns Mailbag.
With the Browns likely set on the starting O-line, Dorsey went out & brought in FAs to fill out the roster on the O-line. Which new O-lineman is the best addition?
I still love the draft, without a selection until 49, how about you throw three names out there as possible selections with that pick. -- Matthew M., Mt. Sterling
A two-parter to kick things off. I like your hustle, Matthew M., and you’re going to be rewarded for it.
Regarding the offensive line, the Browns, after the re-signing of left tackle Greg Robinson, were poised to enter this season with their entire starting group from 2018. That changed when the Browns put the wraps on a mega deal with the Giants that sent right guard Kevin Zeitler to New York. In the days since, Cleveland added three veterans to the group -- guards Eric Kush and Bryan Witzmann and tackle Kendall Lamm. All of whom are expected to provide competition behind the likes of Austin Corbett, who is the perceived front-runner at right guard, and returning starting right tackle Chris Hubbard. It’s hard to say who is the “best” from this group, but Lamm was the most accomplished in 2018. An undrafted free agent who signed with Houston in 2015, Lamm started a career-best 13 games at right tackle this past season. He worked hard to reach that point, and he really impressed Texans coach Bill O’Brien along the way.
"He's fought hard to be where he's at,” O’Brien told reporters last season. “He's earned the right to play a lot of football. He's tough, he understands how we want to play, he works his butt off and we really like having him on the team."
As for the second part … are we really just eight days away from the draft? Time flies when you don’t have a first-round pick. Here are my three best stabs at who the Browns will take with the 49th overall pick. Warning: This is based almost exclusively off mock drafts and has no actual inside information driving the decisions. Consider these simply as three names to consider.
DB Justin Layne - Michigan State
S Taylor Rapp - Washington
S Johnathan Abram - Mississippi State
What are the chances the Browns draft Dre’Mont Jones from Ohio State? Football is won and lost in the trench, and Dre’Mont is a beast. -- Brian P., Prospect
Jones is a projected Day 2 pick and, considering the Browns and seemingly every team’s needs for more depth on the interior portion of the defensive line, would make some sense at either No. 49 or No. 80. If the previous questioner had asked me to throw out four names at 49, I would have included Jones. Because of where he played in college and where he grew up (Cleveland), he was able to participate in the Browns’ local Pro Day last week. The former St. Ignatius star is coming off a big 2018 season in which he compiled 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks -- numbers that helped elevate his draft stock after a couple of disappointing statistical outputs in the previous years. If the Browns take him, it’d mark the second consecutive year they use a high pick on Buckeye from Cleveland.
Why are the Browns waiting until next season to debut their new uniforms? Isn't NOW the time? -- Brian O., Colville, Washington
The NFL’s uniform rules mandate a team must wear its uniforms for at least five seasons before making a change. Because the Browns debuted their current uniforms in 2015, they aren’t permitted to make updates/upgrades until the 2020 season.
How bad were our KO and punt returns last year? -- Richard H., Fulton, New York
Cleveland ranked 28th in the NFL on kick returns, averaging 20.1 yards on its 44 attempts. The Browns were much better on punts, averaging 9.1 yards to rank 12th in the league. That total is impressive considering the Browns’ longest return of the year was just 37 yards. Still, the Browns are hoping to be much better in 2019 under the watch of new special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. Perhaps a diamond-in-the-rough addition like Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi can find his way onto the 53-man roster and make the kind of game-changing impact Cleveland has lacked since Travis Benjamin’s final season with the Browns.
Will Browns play in Seattle next year? -- Mark R., Buckley, Washington
The Seahawks will be coming to Cleveland this season. The Browns next travel to Seattle in 2023.
With the additions of Eric Murray and Morgan Burnett shoring up the safety position, and the seeming possibility of solid safety depth still being available in the third round (Mike Bell, Darnell Savage, etc.), is it fair to think the Browns are now in a position to go with the best player available at No. 49? -- John E., Nashville
That’s the approach the Browns have been taking from the very beginning. The additions of Burnett and Murray certainly help, but they won’t dictate how John Dorsey and Co., attack this year’s draft. The same goes for the offensive line, where the Browns added three veterans -- Lamm, Witzmann and Kush -- since the start of the new league year. Just think back to last year, when the Browns added three defensive backs in free agency -- T.J. Carrie, Terrance Mitchell and E.J. Gaines -- only to use the No. 4 overall pick on cornerback Denzel Ward.