We picked six -- six! -- of your questions for this week’s edition of the Browns Mailbag.
People are saying Antonio Callaway will push Corey Coleman to make the team. Isn’t it more that Callaway is here to replace Josh Gordon in 2019? -- Mack M., Monmouth, Oregon
The long game is always in the mind of a general manager when he plots his course through an NFL Draft. A franchise might not get the pieces in place it needs if it only drafts with its eyes on the upcoming season. But with that said, I think you’re overthinking this situation just a bit. Callaway was drafted because the Browns saw immense value in him with a fourth-round pick, believing he would have been one of the top wide receivers in the class if not for off-field concerns. In the short-term, he can push for playing time in a wide receiving corps that appears to be more talented and deeper than it’s been in years.
In the OTAs open to reporters, Cleveland has often lined up three-wide with the trio of Jarvis Landry, Gordon and Coleman. Callaway has been sidelined with a groin injury. Browns coach Hue Jackson has liked what he’s seen from Coleman, whose first two NFL seasons have been marred by injuries and inconsistency. If Cleveland gets a boost from him, it will have a variety of weapons to utilize in a new-look passing game.
“I think the biggest thing for Corey is that he has been out here every day. He has been dependable. He has been dependable and accountable. He is working at it each and every day,” Jackson said. “For Corey, this is Year 3, and I think that he wants to take the next step in his development. He is working. He is getting to know the quarterbacks, all of them, as well as he can. I think that is all you can do at this point. I think that the real test will be once we go to training camp and really get into the season. He has to continue to get better and work at his craft, and I think that he will do that.”
When will Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward sign their rookie contracts? Are there any holdouts as to why it's taking so long to negotiate? -- Karen K., Union City, Pennsylvania
A little more than a month has passed since the 2018 NFL Draft. That’s not a lot of time.
The Browns have signed seven of their nine draft picks, the most recent being second-round running back Nick Chubb. As of Thursday, half of the league’s first-round picks had signed with their respective teams. That group did not include any of the top five picks, as Colts offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (No. 6) and Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (10) were the only top-10 selections to ink their respective deals. The league’s collective bargaining agreement gives little wiggle room on these rookie contracts, making the memorable holdouts we remember from recent decades largely a thing of the past. Give it time. There’s no sense in predicting a specific date for either contract to be signed because these things -- from our end -- just sort of pop up.
With the acquisition of Damarious Randall, Jabrill Peppers' role on defense will obviously be changing to something I assume he is much more comfortable with. Is there a chance this will open him up to some reps on offense? That was something that set him apart in college and it would be nice to see the Browns try to utilize his skills in that respect. -- Harris B., Cleveland
We haven’t seen any evidence of that yet, and the influx of new weapons on offense might make that even trickier, but it’s impossible to rule anything out at this point of the offseason. Peppers, for what it’s worth, has a lot on his plate entering his second season. After a year manning the free safety position in Gregg Williams’ defense, Peppers is taking snaps at strong safety, perhaps a more natural fit for the former college linebacker. He also figures to have a role on special teams, where he served as a punt and kick returner last year.
“We are exploring different things and we have a lot of guys who can play a lot of different things on defense,” Peppers said. “We are going to give everyone their best advantage, what they do best in their skillset and put 11 guys on the field who are going to be tenacious and go get it.”
Do we have enough beef at nose tackle or will we pick someone up in free agency? -- Ricky P., Dayton
The Browns have a handful of young and promising players at defensive tackle, a group that features three second-year players -- Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley and Trevon Coley -- and veteran Jamie Meder. An important thing to remember is the multiple looks Cleveland presents up front. Sometimes you’ll see Myles Garrett lined up in the middle. Sometimes it could be Carl Nassib and, perhaps more often than not this upcoming season, it could be Chris Smith. The former Bengal, who signed with the Browns on the first day of free agency, is listed as a defensive end but spends plenty of time positioned in the middle of the line.
What are the Browns’ plans for Jeff Janis? -- Ken S., St. Petersburg, Florida
Janis, who is entering his fifth NFL season after spending the previous four with the Packers, has made his biggest mark, thus far, on special teams. He was incredibly valuable in that area for Green Bay and is expected to do the same in Cleveland. He can also help the Browns at wide receiver, of course, and is expected to provide valuable depth at a position that experienced plenty of injuries last season.
I believe Nick Chubb could lead the league in total rushing yards if the Browns let him loose. Is my prediction way off base? -- Rick J., Melbourne, Australia
I wouldn’t call it off base -- Chubb is incredibly talented and running back continues to be a position dominated by young players around the NFL -- but it might be tough for Chubb to accomplish simply because of what the Browns have around him at running back. Veteran Carlos Hyde is coming off one of his most productive NFL seasons and Duke Johnson Jr., who signed a contract extension Friday, clearly figures to have a large role in the Browns offense. Chubb is going to make some plays and get the ball in his hands as a rookie. He very well could be the team’s leading rusher. It’s just going to be as a member of a deep running back group that looks like it will do a good job of spreading the wealth.