The Browns cleaned up at NFL Honors on Feb. 8 – with four awards total in Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year – and the 2023 season came to a close as the Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11.
Now the offseason continues, with the NFL Combine beginning Feb. 27 as the next touchstone of the offseason. So, we opened up the mailbag and answered your questions.
How can the DPOY Award to Myles Garrett be justified? — Gregg E., Orlando, FL
There's plenty of evidence to justify the award for Garrett. Let's first look at the numbers.
He led the Browns with 14 sacks for the 2023 season, which tied for third-most by a Brown in a season. He was tied for seventh in the NFL in total sacks for the season. Garrett is also the only NFL player to record at least 14 sacks in each of the past three seasons and the only player to record at least 10 sacks in each of the past six seasons. He is the Browns all-time sack leader with 88.5 over his seven-year career.
But sack production is not the only statistic that indicates a defensive player's effect on the game. It's the most obvious statistic, but we have to look beyond just this number.
Garrett finished the 2023 season with six quarterback hurries, 16 quarterback knockdowns and 30 quarterback hits. He totaled 37 pressures, alongside his 42 total tackles – 33 of which were solo tackles – and 17 tackles for loss. He also added three passes defended, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick.
Those stats indicate how he was able to affect quarterbacks throughout the league and how effective he was in the pass rush, as well as create key defensive stops. Garrett played a necessary role in their success in third down situations, as the Browns had the best third down percentage in the league at 29.1 percent, allowing just 67 third down conversions out of 230 attempts.
The blocked field goal kick against the Colts in Week 7 demonstrated another level of his athleticism, as Garrett leapt over the Colts offensive line and jumped to block the field goal attempt.
His impact also goes beyond stats. Teams game plan for Garrett, trying to find ways to take him out of the game. And yet, he still found ways to affect the game. I don't think we can look past those elements when evaluating his defensive dominance. Coach Kevin Stefanski summed it up pretty well in his end-of-season press conference about Garrett's overall impact.
"With Myles, the other unique thing about him, teams do everything in their power to make sure he doesn't make those disruptive plays," Stefanski said on Jan. 14. "So, he's getting a tight end, he's getting – the line is sliding to him, they're running away from him, those type of things. […] If you look at his impact overall, it was unbelievable."
Is Charley Hughlett under contract? — Mark B., Lima, OH
Yes, Hughlett is under contract for the 2024 season. He signed a four-year contract extension with the Browns in 2022 that began with the 2023 season and goes through 2026. Hughlett will then become an unrestricted free agent in 2027.
Hughlett has been a consistent piece of the Browns special teams' unit. Assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone highlighted Hughlett's role throughout the 2023 season in helping K Dustin Hopkins break records. Between Hughlett, Hopkins and P Corey Bojorquez, they were all able to get on the same page quickly after Hopkins was traded to Cleveland and built chemistry and connection that translated over to the success of their operation.
I believe we have the now Super Bowl Champs on the home schedule next year. With the Cleveland connection with Travis Kelce and with dates not set – so (Nick) Chubb's status undetermined – what do you think the Browns chances are? What will the game mean as to whether we are ready for playoffs? — John C., Cleveland, OH
Yes, the Chiefs are one of the Browns' eight home games during the 2024 season. The official schedule will be released later this offseason, so we don't know what week the game will take place just yet.
At this exact moment, it's a bit hard to predict what the chances are because there are several offseason benchmarks that will play a factor as to what the Browns roster looks like next season. The Browns have 23 players who are free agents – with a handful of key defensive players on the list. They also have their seven draft picks who could help to add depth to different positions on the roster.
The same goes for Kansas City. According to Spotrac, they have 25 players who are free agents this offseason, as well as six draft picks, so their roster will look different in areas for the 2024 season. However, their stars in QB Patrick Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce are under contract for next season, so the Browns will face two three-time Super Bowl champions leading the Chiefs offense.
Even with the bit of uncertainty as to what rosters will look like next season, I think this matchup against the Chiefs next season is an important measuring stick for the Browns. They will be facing the back-to-back Super Bowl champions, as well as a team that has played in four of the last five Super Bowls. While there is a difference between regular-season football and playoff football in terms of intensity and time for preparation, I do think facing a playoff-tested team like the Chiefs in the regular season can be a solid gauge of where the Browns are as a team during the 2024 season. Depending on when the game falls, it won't necessarily be a definitive answer as to if they are ready for the playoffs; however, it can be a steppingstone.