It’s a holiday weekend, but we’re not stepping away from the desk … yet.
We’re tackling five of your questions before it’s time to flip the burgers and dogs.
With all the additions via free agency, trades, and draft which position group is an area of concern and which do you see as a strength? -- Bill J., Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Let’s start with the strengths. For the first time in a while, there seem to be multiple candidates emerging from a roster that’s undergone as significant of an overhaul as any in the NFL. Whether it be through free agency, trades or the draft, the Browns added at least one significant player to each position group with the exception of kicker. Some areas, like quarterback and cornerback, have been completely revamped.
The area that looks like the Browns’ biggest strength in these eyes is running back, where the team brought back its top offensive weapon from 2018, Duke Johnson Jr., and added two quality, workhorse-style running backs in veteran Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb. Hyde is coming off his best, most complete season as a pro and Chubb looks as NFL-ready as any rookie on the team. He’s drawn comparisons to former Ravens and Browns running back Jamal Lewis and is viewed as a prototypical AFC North back. It’s raised questions to how the Browns are possibly going to utilize all three of the playmakers -- an indication that this group is very much a strength of Cleveland’s rebuilt offense.
As for an area that needs to establish a little more depth? I’ll go with safety, even though the group has been significantly reworked over the offseason. Damarious Randall, who played cornerback in his three seasons with the Packers, was a huge addition to the group, as it gives the Browns a true free safety and allows Jabrill Peppers, a first-round pick last season, to play at strong safety, a much more natural position for the playmaking defensive back. It’s a long season, though, and establishing depth will be vital for this group in the coming months. Derrick Kindred has been a reliable player for the Browns since joining the team as a fourth-rounder in 2016 and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who has mostly played cornerback since 2016, could give the Browns some options behind Randall.
I don’t understand trading starting players for draft picks that are less than a fourth-rounder, i.e. Jamar Taylor. Even if we push them down the depth chart, they will typically help more than any low draft pick. Any explanation? -- Jarrod F., Erie, Pennsylvania
Taylor, who was acquired during the 2016 draft when Cleveland and Miami swapped seventh-round picks, gave the Browns two quality seasons and rejuvenated his career in the process. Upon taking over as general manager, John Dorsey identified cornerback as a position where the Browns needed some serious upgrades. He followed through with the signing of three free agents -- T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell -- and drafting of Denzel Ward, the fourth overall selection in the 2018 class. Those acquisitions allowed Dorsey to move veteran Jason McCourty and Taylor in trades that netted the Browns future assets and put the respective players in situations where they had a more guaranteed path to playing time.
Just curious on your thoughts on Caleb Brantley, do you think he will start this year? He was a promising young DT coming out of Florida but off-the-field issues made him fall a little bit in the draft last year. Hopefully he and Antonio Callaway can learn from each other. -- Daylon G., Caledonia, Ontario
Brantley, who battled through a couple of injuries during training camp last year, had a solid start to his career in 2017 as a rotational player in the middle of Cleveland’s defensive line. This is a position Cleveland clearly feels good about in the present and future. The Browns added major contributors at most positions but opted to ride with what they’ve got at defensive tackle, which features a number of young faces like Brantley. Trevon Coley and Larry Ogunjobi figure to be the frontrunners for the most playing time, while Brantley and Jamie Meder are poised to play key roles as well.
Has Dorsey started any kind of extension for Duke Johnson? Isn’t he in the final year of his contract? -- Gregory T., Hermitage, Pennsylvania
You’re correct in that Johnson is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract. Johnson has mentioned he’d love to be in Cleveland long-term on multiple occasions and confirmed Wednesday that he was engaged in discussions to make that a possibility.
“We are still in contract talks and taking it day by day. It’s going well. It’s not going bad,” Johnson said. “I’m not really sure about the timetable of when it’s supposed to be done, when it should be done so we are taking it one day at a time.
“I’m very optimistic. Yes, I believe that not only the staff but the front office wants me here. It’s just about both sides coming to an agreement.”
What’s going on with our No. 1 pick from three years ago? Why hasn't the organization not been able to mold Corey Coleman into a Mark Clayton style of offensive weapon? He has all the attributes to take his game to the next level. -- Jonathan H., Atlanta
Coleman is entering his third NFL season with a lot of motivation. Significant injuries to his hands and a handful of other bumps and bruises have forced him to miss a ton of time, whether it be in-season or the offseason. Coleman has shown plenty of flashes on the practice field and in games but consistency has evaded him. The acquisition of Jarvis Landry and the expectation of Josh Gordon remaining a key part of the offense should take some pressure off Coleman, who was the team’s No. 1 receiving option whenever he stepped on the field despite all of the missed time. Coleman has a ton of talent and lots of upside, and the Browns hope to see him take a big step forward within the confines of a new-look offense in 2018.