The Browns saw their 2023 season end shorter than many had hoped with the loss in the Wild Card round of the playoffs to the Texans. As their offseason began, it started a time of reflection and assessment on the 2023 season and how they can improve for 2024.
So, let's take a look at three main questions for the Browns as the offseason gets underway.
Which Browns players are free agents?
Following a two-day negotiating period, the 2024 league year and free agency signing period will officially begin on March 13 at 4 p.m. ET. That is when the 2023 player contracts expire, and players can make contracts official with teams.
The Browns will have some roster questions when the time comes for free agency as they have a number of players who will be unrestricted free agents. Below is a list of their unrestricted free agents:
- DE Za'Darius Smith
- DT Shelby Harris
- WR Jakeem Grant
- QB Joe Flacco
- LB Sione Takitaki
- WR Marquise Goodwin
- P Corey Bojorquez
- CB Mike Ford Jr.
- RB Kareem Hunt
- S Rodney McLeod
- DT Maurice Hurst II
- LB Anthony Walker Jr.
- LB Matthew Adams
- LB Jordan Kunaszyk
- S Duron Harmon
- DT Jordan Elliott
- LB Jacob Phillips
- T Geron Christian Sr.
- TE Harrison Bryant
- G Michael Dunn
- C/FB Nick Harris
- WR James Proche II
- QB P.J. Walker
- QB Jeff Driskel
The Browns also have an exclusive rights free agent in DE Sam Kamara.
Several key defensive players and role players are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Smith played an important role on the defensive line, as he finished the regular season with 27 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, five stuffs, one forced fumble and three passes defended. He was second on the team in total sacks for the season, just behind DE Myles Garrett.
Harris finished the 2023 season with 28 tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, five passes defended, one forced fumble and one kick blocked. Hurst had 22 tackles, four tackles for loss, three passes defended, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said in his end-of-season press conference that one of the constant factors in the NFL is change. Teams see turnover on their rosters from year to year, regardless of record. It could be a similar situation this offseason, and Berry is preparing with that understanding in mind.
"I think as a general manager, you really go into the offseason understanding that running it back really isn't an option," Berry said. "It's just not with the economic realities of our sport. So, I'd say one, acknowledging that reality going into it and then trying to make the best decisions that you can to improve the club, it's really as simple as that."
What draft picks do the Browns have in 2024?
The 2024 NFL Draft will take place in Detroit from April 25-27 and the Browns have seven picks this year, beginning with one pick in the second round. They also hold a third-round pick, two fifth-round picks, two sixth-round picks and one seventh-round pick.
Depending on how free agency shakes out about a month before the NFL Draft, the Browns can use their picks to add depth to the roster, address certain position groups and develop young players.
During last year's draft, the Browns added seven rookies in DT Siaki Ika, DE Isaiah McGuire, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, CB Cameron Mitchell, C Luke Wypler, WR Cedric Tillman and T Dawand Jones. Over the course of the 2023 season, a handful of their rookies earned critical opportunities as the Browns dealt with injuries across the board.
Jones stepped into a starting role in Week 2 of the season after T Jack Conklin suffered a season-ending knee injury for nine games before dealing with his own season-ending injury. Thompson-Robinson saw time at starting and backup quarterback as they dealt with injuries in their quarterback room. Tillman found an increased role over the course of the season and finished the season with 21 receptions for 224 yards. Mitchell also earned his opportunity in the secondary and finished the regular season with 18 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and two passes defended.
What are the roster holes that the Browns could look to fill?
As free agency and the draft approach, the Browns will home in on positions where they can fill a need and add depth to their roster.
Offensively, they could look to add depth at wide receiver, as they played 11 personnel and put three wide receivers on the field at times during the 2023 season. While they do have Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore under contract for next season, as well as some younger players with Tillman and David Bell in the mix, adding players to their receiving unit could be a point of emphasis.
The Browns will have players back their offensive line room as tackles Jack Conklin, Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jones can return from their season-ending injuries. Yet, as the 2023 season demonstrated with the injuries to three tackles, depth to the offensive line could be an area they focus on.
Defensively, the Browns have some holes to fill at linebacker. With Takitaki, Walker, Adams, Kunaszyk and Phillips all unrestricted free agents this offseason, that leaves just Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Tony Fields II and Mohamoud Diabate as linebackers under contract. Owusu-Koramoah had a breakout season in 2023, finishing the regular season leading the Browns with 101 tackles and 20 tackles for loss. He also recorded six passes defended, two interceptions, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble. But the Browns need depth at that position moving forward.
The Browns have key players still in the mix in their defensive line, as DT Dalvin Tomlinson is under contract for next season, and the Browns have their defensive ends in Myles Garrett, Ogbo Okoronkwo under contract as well. However, they could also look at add depth – particularly at defensive tackle – considering that Elliott, Hurst and Harris are unrestricted free agents. They also could add depth at defensive end with Smith as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The conversation about needs and where they could add can change over the course of the offseason and free agency begins in March. As they prepare for the different markers of the offseason, the Browns will target the areas of need they see and find the best ways to address them.