Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: What’s next at safety after Morgan Burnett signing?

We’re handling five of your questions at the end of Cleveland’s first week of offseason workouts.

Mr. Gribble, I see Amani Hooker mentioned in mocks at pick No. 49. Do you think general manager John Dorsey is considering safety at that point? -- Joseph C., Adelanto, California

Full disclosure: Since this question was officially submitted to the Browns Mailbag, Cleveland has added two veteran safeties to the roster. Eric Murray, formerly of the Chiefs and a nine-game starter in 2018, was acquired Monday in a trade for defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. On Friday, the Browns added Morgan Burnett, a true strong safety with more than 100 starts under his belt. That’s two significant additions in the wake of Cleveland’s two regulars at the position last year, Jabrill Peppers and Derrick Kindred, now residing in new locations.

But does that mean the Browns are done bolstering the position? Probably not.

It certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for the Browns to add even more players at safety via free agency before the start of training camp. A number of key names, including Tre Boston and Eric Berry, remain available. There’s also the draft, where Cleveland holds eight selections starting with the 49th pick. It’d likely take a second- or third-round pick to nab a player like Hooker, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year who had four interceptions at Iowa last season. The same goes for a number of other of the draft’s top safeties, most of whom are expected to be Day 2 selections. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay tabbed just one safety, Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram, to be a first-round selection. If the Browns were committed to using the 49th pick on a safety, the ones that best line up with that period in the draft include Washington’s Taylor Rapp, Maryland’s Darnell Savage Jr. and Delaware’s Nasir Adderley -- all of whom have been mocked to the Browns in some way, shape or form since the blockbuster trade with the Giants.

Browns players -- including newly acquired superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. -- are back in Berea for the start of offseason workouts. We snapped some photos of their arrivals.

Rumor has it that one of Browns primetime games might be played Thanksgiving night. Is that a possibility? Because I, as the No. 1 Browns fan, would love that. -- Richard F., Niles

You won’t have to wait too long, Richard. And as Kevin Garnett once loudly screamed, anything is possible when it comes to the Browns and the 2019 NFL schedule, which will be released in a week or two. As far as Thanksgiving goes, the primetime window would be the only one that makes sense for the Browns. The Lions typically get the early game with the Cowboys in the late afternoon slot, and Cleveland doesn’t play either team in 2019. The Browns have played three times on Thanksgiving and lost all of them, the most recent being a 1989 loss to the Lions.

I have heard and seen several forecasts for two late-round picks, one is the kicker from Utah and the other being the QB from NDSU. Have you heard any of these rumors? -- Carl G., Leland, North Carolina

I have not heard any of these rumors. For some reason, my passcode into the Draft Room doesn’t work anymore.

As for the players you’re discussing:

Utah kicker Matt Gay, a former soccer player, is Kiper’s second-ranked at the position behind Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship. Gay won the Lou Groza Award in 2017 and finished his two-year career with 56 makes on 65 attempts, including a bunch from 50+. He’s really good and likely will be drafted by someone Day 3.

North Dakota State’s Easton Stick is projected as sixth- or seventh-round pick. He finished his career as the all-time winningest quarterback in FCS history, going 49-3. He filled in for Carson Wentz during Wentz’s senior season and played a big part in maintaining the Bisons’ elite FCS status over the past few seasons as their full-time starter.

What range will Jeffrey Simmons fall in the draft? He is top-10 talent with checkered past/ACL injury. Has Dorsey ever traded up in draft for non-quarterbacks? -- Gurjit S., Rocklin, California

In this writer’s opinion, Simmons is one of the draft’s most intriguing figures behind maybe only Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. He has top-10 talent at a position NFL teams covet, but there are plenty of variables working against him, including a recent ACL injury that is expected to sideline him for all of 2019.

As for Dorsey’s draft history, he traded up in last year’s draft to select wide receiver Antonio Callaway. In 2017, he moved up 18 spots in the third round to take running back Kareem Hunt. In 2016, he traded up a few spots to take wide receiver Chris Conley.

All of the national pundits keep saying the Browns need another linebacker and cornerback. Terrance Mitchell was playing at a Pro Bowl level before his wrist injury. So why are people overlooking him? And what about Chad Thomas? He deserves a good look. -- Michael V., Cleveland

You’re right on both fronts. Mitchell had a great season last year and enters 2019 as the front-runner to start on the opposite side from rookie Denzel Ward. Thomas wasn’t used all that much last year but enters his second season with higher expectations. A full offseason of work -- something he didn’t get last year because of a sports hernia injury -- should do wonders for him. That said, the Browns can’t ever feel satisfied from a depth standpoint at any position, especially these two. You can never have enough cornerbacks or pass-rushing defensive ends, so it won’t be a surprise to see both spots bolstered through the draft.

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