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John Dorsey explains key decisions behind Browns’ 53-man roster

The Browns' 53 man roster as of September 20, 2019.

The Browns on Saturday made a slew of roster moves to get their roster down from 91 players to 53. The maximum roster size during the regular season is 53 with 46 eligible to play on game days.

The Browns made the following moves:

- The Browns terminated the contracts of LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, P Britton Colquitt, DT Carl Davis and G Bryan Witzmann.

- The Browns waived the following players: WR Dorian Baker, DT Brandin Bryant, TE Stephen Carlson, TE Seth DeValve, T Brian Fineanganofo, RB Trayone Gray, LB Willie Harvey, S J.T. Hassell, WR Ishmael Hyman, CB Robert Jackson, K Greg Joseph, CB Donnie Lewis Jr., S Montrel Meander, WR Braxton Miller, RB A.J. Ouellette, DE Jarrell Owens, CB Lenzy Pipkins, DT Brian Price, DE Wyatt Ray, S Tigie Sankoh, T Brad Seaton, WR Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, LB Anthony Stubbs, T Travis Vornkahl, LB Dedrick Young II, WR Derrick Willies, G Willie Wright, DE Anthony Zettel 

- The Browns waived/injured G Kyle Kalis (concussion) and FB Joe Kerridge (concussion).

- The Browns placed CB Phillip Gaines (concussion) on injured reserve.

- The Browns placed the following players on the reserve/suspended by commissioner list: WR Antonio Callaway, RB Kareem Hunt and TE Rico Gathers.

“I consider this one of the hardest days in the National Football League because you have virtually 37, 40 guys, whatever that number may be, here every day in and day out,” Browns general manager John Dorsey said. “And then the organization’s got to tell these guys you know what, they’re not going to be a part of the 53-man roster. So what I always do is try to use empathy, understanding and dignity when you kind of handle these situations. I think you have to do it that way and thank them for all they’ve done for this organization, how hard they’ve worked, how hard they’ve competed. Sometimes words can’t express how hard that transition is when you have to tell these guys that they’re no longer going to be a member of the Cleveland Browns.

“I want to thank everybody for what they’ve done, but moving forward now, now we’re down to the 53-man roster and we’re getting ready to play the Tennessee Titans and that should be our sole focus moving forward.”

Dating back to Thursday, the Browns made four trades, three of which brought new players to the roster and two of which were executed Saturday just before the NFL’s 4 p.m. deadline for roster cuts.

The Browns acquired WR Taywan Taylor from the Titans in exchange for a 2020 undisclosed draft pick. Taylor is 5-11, 205 pounds and entering his third NFL season out of Western Kentucky. Originally a third-round pick by Tennessee, Taylor has appeared in 29 games with nine starts. He has 53 career receptions for 697 yards with two touchdowns. Last year, he registered 37 receptions for 466 yards and one touchdown in 13 contests.

The Browns also acquired OL Justin McCray and a 2020 undisclosed draft pick from the Packers in exchange for a 2020 undisclosed draft pick.

McCray is 6-3, 315 pounds and in his third NFL season out of Central Florida. Originally signed Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in 2014, he has appeared in 25 regular season games with 13 starts. Last year, he appeared in 12 games with five starts for the Packers. He joins Wyatt Teller, who spent training camp with the Bills and was acquired in a trade Thursday, as the newest additions to Cleveland’s 10-man offensive line group.

“You’re trying to upgrade the back end of your roster. That’s what you’re trying to do,” Dorsey said. “I think with Taywan Taylor he gives you an element of speed. He gives you an experienced receiver who’s been the No. 3 receiver for the Titans. (Wide receivers coach) Adam Henry will do a magnificent job of kind of getting him up to speed on how this offense is run. He’ll have a few bumps in the road in terms of learning. It’s hard to digest this whole playbook in one shot so I don’t think you shove it at him at one time. 

“And then, when you add Teller, Teller, that’s a depth move. And then when you add Justin McCray, that’s a depth move. So what you’re trying to do is trying to stabilize your foundation and make it as strong as possible because this is a long season. All those guys now that are along the line have played in the National Football League and have started some games, so that’s a good thing to have there because now, moving forward you have versatility, and these linemen have versatility and can play multiple positions. That’s all you really are seeking at this point.”

The Browns have increased experience throughout the roster over the past year but will roll with rookies at kicker and punter entering the 2019. Austin Seibert, a fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft, finished the preseason with six consecutive field goals and Jamie Gillan, a Scotland native who signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent, handled all of the punting in the final two preseason games.

“I think what it reflects is we’re comfortable with where we are with those two young guys. I think that they have demonstrated their ability to be skillful at both of their positions,” Dorsey said. “We knew what Greg Joseph was and we knew what Britton Colquitt was as players. That’s why we gave those guys those two games to play because we really didn’t know how they’d respond under pressure. I thought they did a really nice job of taking on the challenge, accepting it and succeeding at achieving that goal. I think the organization is excited for the two young men. I think we have complete confidence in both of their abilities.

“You want to thank a veteran like Britton Colquitt for all he’s done for the Cleveland Browns and you want to thank Greg Joseph for all that he’s done. Like I told Greg, because we drafted the guy doesn’t mean that he automatically makes it, OK? We’re going to have a competition and it was a really good competition. And that’s with the punting situation, too. That’s why we talk about increasing competition. That’s why you have those battles. Because those two young guys made this decision really hard and I’m happy with where we are in the kicking game.”

Cleveland returns two of its three quarterbacks from last season in Baker Mayfield and Drew Stanton. Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, started the final 12 games of his rookie season. Garrett Gilbert was signed in April and led the Browns in passing yards during the preseason.

“I think that when it was (Gilbert’s) time to shine, he showed he could stand up and he could deliver,” Dorsey said. “You applaud him for how he’s played the game, how he’s progressed in the preseason and how quickly he’s grasped this offensive system and how much he’s grown in his respective role.”

From the start of training camp, coach Freddie Kitchens has called the defensive line a potential top strength of the team. Cleveland opted to keep nine players on that unit, including three Pro Bowlers in Garrett, Vernon and Richardson.

Two of the Browns’ six linebackers are rookies, but the veterans in the group, Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, have played more snaps than most over the past few seasons. They’re poised to do the same in 2019.

The Browns 11-man group of defensive backs includes six safeties. Throughout training camp and the preseason, the Browns sported plenty of three-safety looks, and a number of the players have versatility to play at multiple spots in the defensive backfield.

“I think it shows you where the game of football is evolving to because now the passing game is a big component of that, so you can’t have enough of those guys in the secondary,” Dorsey said. “Those back-end guys are going to have to contribute on special teams and they demonstrated that in the four preseason games that they were really good special teams players and they can help this special teams unit moving forward because it gave you an element of speed and that’s what you’re looking for on special teams nowadays.”

The Browns can make additional roster moves in the coming days via waiver claims and free agent signings. They’ll also look to construct a 10-man practice squad.

“Hopefully as we go to work here this evening, maybe we can pick up those stones and see if we can find a player or two moving forward to help the team,” Dorsey said.

Breaking down the Browns’ 53-man roster by position:

Quarterbacks (3): Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert

Running backs (3): Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, D’Ernest Johnson

Wide receivers (5): Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, Damion Ratley

Tight ends (3): David Njoku, Demetrius Harris, Pharaoh Brown

Offensive linemen (10): Greg Robinson, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Eric Kush, Chris Hubbard, Austin Corbett, Drew Forbes, Kendall Lamm, Wyatt Teller, Justin McCray

Defensive linemen (9): Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Chris Smith, Chad Thomas, Larry Ogunjobi, Sheldon Richardson, Devaroe Lawrence, Trevon Coley, Daniel Ekuale

Linebackers (6): Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, Genard Avery, Adarius Taylor

Defensive backs (11): Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, Greedy Williams, T.J. Carrie, Tavierre Thomas, Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Jermaine Whitehead, Sheldrick Redwine, Eric Murray, Juston Burris

Specialists (3): K Austin Seibert, P Jamie Gillan, LS Charley Hughlett

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