It’s been quite a week in Berea, and we’re going to wrap it up by answering four of your questions in the wake of yet another free agent and trade blitz by the Browns to start the league year.
Unless I’m reading the stat lines incorrectly, it seems like Terrance Mitchell performed really well at corner until he got injured. I’ve noticed Dorsey doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to sign a corner. Do you think he’s confident at that position on account of having Mitchell back now? -- John E., Nashville
John Dorsey and the rest of the Browns front office have made it clear over the past year and a half they’re never satisfied with the depth or perceived level of talent at any position. That became abundantly clear this past week when Cleveland upgraded its receiving corps in one of the biggest ways possible, landing All-Pro Odell Beckham in a mega trade with the Giants that also improved the Browns’ pass rush with the acquisition of Olivier Vernon. The Browns haven’t signed a cornerback in free agency -- yet -- and have seen two regulars from the unit, E.J. Gaines and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, leave the roster. There’s room to grow at a position group that improved as much as any unit from 2017 to 2018, and that will likely come in the next month or so.
As for Mitchell, he was one of the best stories of last year’s training camp, going from a backup to a starter within the first couple of weeks. His strong play carried into the season, as he played a big role in Cleveland’s strong defensive start that featured turnovers aplenty. A broken wrist sidelined him for the heart of the season, but Mitchell came back in the final month and resumed his role as a starter. He’ll hold that status when he returns this season, but Dorsey will assuredly set up the roster to make it so Mitchell has to compete to maintain his major role.
Take a look at a selection of photos of new Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr., including ones from his time with new teammate Jarvis Landry back when they both attended LSU.
With a pick in the second round, what position could they fill and who would they possibly take? -- Brady H., Cleveland Heights
Gotta admit, we’re spitballing here over the next couple hundred words. The Beckham trade really threw us for a loop and put us in some relatively uncharted waters. The Browns don’t have a first-round pick for the first time since 2008 and won’t be on the clock -- barring any more wheeling and dealing from Dorsey -- until the 17th pick of the second round. As of now, some positions to keep in mind are safety -- especially in the wake of Jabrill Peppers’ departure -- linebacker, pass rusher, cornerback and tight end. A scan of a couple of the diehard mock drafts -- the ones that go beyond the first round -- reveal a handful of names that make a lot of sense for the Browns at that point of the draft. At this point, it’s tough to find an off-ball linebacker that makes sense at No. 49, but there’s still plenty of time for that to change.
- CB Justin Layne (Michigan State) - A 6-foot-2, 192-pounder who hails from Cleveland and has the athletic traits you want from the position.
- CB Jamel Dean (Auburn) - One of the biggest standouts at the NFL Combine
- CB Rock Ya-Sin (Temple) - He’s been viewed as a player with rising stock ever since the Senior Bowl.
- EDGE Christian Miller (Alabama) - A former five-star recruit who lasted five years with the Crimson Tide, never quite lived up to his potential but still has the build and look of an NFL pass rusher.
- TE Jace Sternberger (Texas A&M) - The Browns replaced Darren Fells with Demetrius Harris but still have just four players at the position on the roster as of today.
- S Taylor Rapp (Washington) - He’s not as big as Peppers but has the skill set to play strong safety.
Return game is a question mark following the OBJ trade. We traded our primary returner Jabrill Peppers and got Beckham, who has return experience but has also proven injury prone. What will the return game look like next year? -- Alex G., Monroe, N.C.
With new special teams coordinator Mike Priefer taking the reins and a number of new options on the roster, it’s too early to say how this group might look in 2019. That said, Beckham certainly has some experience but only did it regularly as a rookie. Antonio Callaway picked up a little bit of experience on punts this past season and running back Dontrell Hilliard was used on kickoffs during the second half of the year. Jarvis Landry and Duke Johnson can do it when necessary, too. We’ll have a clearer picture of it after a few OTAs and after the roster is infused with draft picks and undrafted free agents.
Who is the backup center now that Corbett is poised to be the starter at right guard? -- Bob R., Novelty
Both Kyle Kalis and new addition Eric Kush have the ability to play the position. Though Kush was used exclusively as a guard with the Bears last season, he spent some time in the middle of the offensive line with the Chiefs -- where he was drafted by Dorsey -- and Rams. Kalis’ only official offensive snap of 2018 came at fullback but he’s a versatile interior guard who often took snaps on the sideline whenever it appeared JC Tretter needed a break while dealing with a high ankle sprain.