We’ve finally recovered from another busy draft weekend in Berea, and we’re here to answer four of your questions in a special Tuesday edition of the Browns Mailbag.
Two questions if I may: 1. Prior to training camp, is there a limit to how many players the Browns organization can start out with to begin the offseason program? 2. I saw a lot of teams take UDFAs after the draft, but it seems as the Browns only took one so far; is it because of little interest in the UDFA market or is it a limit on how many they can bring in? -- Dennis D., Colorado Springs, Colorado
These are two separate questions but they’re somewhat related. First off, the roster size limit at this point of the calendar is 90. Of note, defensive back Tigie Sankoh, a London native who was assigned to the Browns through the NFL’s International Player Development Program, doesn’t count toward that total. He’d only start counting if he were to make the 53 in early September. In the past, teams were required to chop their rosters to 75 before the final preseason game, but that’s no longer the case. Basically, teams can have as many as 90 through the entire offseason.
Secondly, you haven’t seen much about the Browns and the UDFAs they plan to sign because an announcement won’t come until they are, in fact, signed. As it stands today, the Browns have 79 players on the roster, including Sankoh. That leaves more than enough room for some undrafted free agents, and I’d expect you’ll hear about them in the coming days.
Are the Browns building their team with an inherent defensive weakness? It appears that all of our 2019 draft picks are strong on coverage and speed but weak on tackling and strength. As the NFL moves more and more toward passing first and often, this may seem logical. Until the Patriots (or another team like the Ravens) lines up two tight ends and a fullback and smashes the ball down your throat. Think about the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams last year. Are the Browns building for an almost championship, or are we building for a Super Bowl? Love the new draft picks, but I hope we don't get pushed all over the field when the weather gets cold and the games matter the most. -- Dan D., Marion
I don’t exactly agree with this assessment. Yes, if there’s a criticism to make about second-round cornerback Greedy Williams, it’s his tackling. But as someone who closely follows the LSU program told me, some of it has to do with the fact the players Williams guard don’t often get the ball. There’s also plenty of time to work with him on that aspect of his game.
“He is playing in the hardest conferences there are in college football, and I think he holds up really well,” Dorsey said. “I have no problem with his tackling. He will get you down. Corners are paid to cover. The tackling aspect, just get the guy down.”
Tackling certainly isn’t a weakness for third-round pick Sione Takitaki, who averaged 100 tackles over his past two seasons at BYU and “plays every play like it could be his last,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein writes. The same goes for fifth-round linebacker Mack Wilson, who manned the middle of Alabama’s defense as a full-time starter in 2018. Check out these four bullet points from Zierlein about Wilson’s strengths.
- Anticipates run-lane choice and quick to respond to bounce-outs
- Good pursuit burst with easy change of direction
- Plays through blockers with his eyes
- Can trigger downhill into leaky zone gaps
Every NFL-related media program talks about how great the Browns are, how they’re the team to beat in the AFC North, etc. Yet, we’re still a 7-8-1 football team, last time we played. How will a brand new HC be able to keep his players (some of whom seem to revel in media coverage) from “buying into the hype?” I’m very concerned we are setting ourselves up to lay a giant egg, in 2019. After all … this IS Cleveland. -- John H., Athens
First off, ridding yourself of that “this is Cleveland” mindset is the first step. If there’s ever been a time to be confident about your favorite team, it’s now. As far as Freddie Kitchens’ ability to handle it, he’s made it clear the Browns aren’t in the “prediction business.” He understands the excitement a player like Williams had moments after he was drafted, but that’s probably going to be the end of the “big talk” that’s worrying you.
“It is fine to have that as your dream and that as your goal as long as you do not let that be your master. You have to let the process of getting there be your master,” Kitchens said Saturday. “That is where you have to focus that. We will get them right when they get here. We don’t want to talk about it either. We want to do our talking on how we prepare and how we work.”
Nothing will be handed to Seibert, whom the Browns tabbed with the 170th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. If that wasn’t already assumed, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made it clear to Seibert he’d have to earn his job when he spoke with him shortly after the pick was official. Greg Joseph is coming off an up and down rookie season that had its fair share of highlights. He’ll have a chance to retain the job, but there was always going to be some kind of competition for the position. It’s like that on nearly every NFL team.
“He was sitting there on the board and we decided to go get him,” Kitchens said. “There is nothing wrong with always adding competition. I think we did that. Hell, there was what three, four kickers taken before him? A punter-slash-kicker and I think a couple of them in the same round."
Seibert was as prolific as anyone’s been at the position during his four-year career at Oklahoma. He finished as the FBS’ all-time leader in career kicking points, beating a record previously held by former Brown Zane Gonzalez. He didn’t get a ton of opportunities from 50+ but he’s shown the leg to connect on them. Dorsey said Seibert was the highest-rated kicker on Cleveland’s board and was certain he’d be drafted before the Browns’ next pick in the sixth round.
“When you go to practice or you go to Pro Days, they are going to work them out at further distances,” Browns scout Josh Cox said. “There is a sound that the ball will make when it is coming off their foot if they have a really strong leg. He has a cannon. I’m not worried about it at all.”