Which Browns players are worth keeping for 2017?

Fans of the Cleveland Browns are used to closing the proverbial book on the season before the calendar hits December. 2016 will be the ninth straight losing season for the Browns and the 14th straight season which will end without a playoff trip. They have had only one season with more than seven wins over that time span, and this particular season has seen the team go through 12 games without a single win.

However, as every book closes, a new one emerges in the promise (or curse) of a new season forthcoming. HBT has announced The Plan and we are left figuring out how it might lead us back to respectability. Here the focus shall be on the players worth watching through the end of the season and which ones should be retained moving forward.

Yes, this exercise was done last December as well here with varying results. Terrelle Pryor was expected to be a roster casualty (he had yet to play a snap) and Johnny Manziel was expected to be retained (it was written just after the San Francisco and Kansas City games but before the trip to Las Vegas). We said Taylor Gabriel would be sent elsewhere, and while we were right, he’s proving everyone wrong, fitting in rather well within Atlanta’s scheme.

There were plenty of hits too, but those are not nearly as fun. With a year’s worth of learning, here is this year’s attempt at creating next season’s roster.

High quality = Minimum of a likely starter on at least half of NFL teams
Roster worthy = Minimum of a likely 53-man roster player on at least half of NFL teams
Good luck elsewhere = Might as well try someone else to see what the can provide

Cleveland Browns Offense

Position: Quarterback

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III
Good Luck Elsewhere: Josh McCown, Kevin Hogan

I can certainly be sold on just rebooting the whole quarterback position and starting over. The biggest issue there is that there is not an obvious quarterback to pick with the No. 1 overall selection, so the Browns might best be served keeping RG3 on his team option, Kessler to see if he can build up some arm strength, and drafting another mid-round QB.

Position: Wide Receiver

High Quality: Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman
Roster Worthy: Ricardo Louis
Good Luck Elsewhere: Andrew Hawkins, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton

Coleman’s inclusion as high quality is more speculation that he would be doing more on an established offense. The rest of the rookie wide receivers are likely to stay and see if they can develop over the offseason, which is the correct way to do it, but it is not like Payton and Higgins have shown anything on the field to do such with confidence.

Position: Running back

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell
Good Luck Elsewhere: Glenn Winston, George Atkinson III, Danny Vitale

Johnson is a good pass catching back, so he would have a place on most any NFL team. Crowell can point to the first few weeks to say that the fault of his collapse is the OL, but he could find himself on thin ice this offseason too. All should readily agree that the position could use an influx of new talent though there are bigger needs.

Position: Offensive Line

High Quality: Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio
Roster Worthy: John Greco, Austin Pasztor, Austin Reiter, Spencer Drango
Good Luck Elsewhere: Cameron Erving, Alvin Bailey, Shon Coleman, Jonathan Cooper, Gabe Ikard

Shon Coleman finds himself in the same place as the rookie wide receivers in that he’ll be given another year to prove he isn’t yet another draft bust. Not a promising sign that he cannot crack playing time given the absurd levels of suck the OL has shown. Reiter could have been on the line above but he did not have nearly enough playing time before getting hurt to warrant such. Greco and Pasztor continue to be solid depth, but poor starters. They might just need to be rolled out for one more year (hopefully, only as backups).

Position: Tight End

High Quality: Gary Barnidge
Roster Worthy: Seth DeValve
Good Luck Elsewhere: Randall Telfer

Given the issues the team has had, Barnidge having an incredibly disappointing season when he was THE veteran the FO decided to re-sign is disheartening. He is still a guy to rely on considering his ability. DeValve has shown some glimpses, while Telfer has not. So, it’ll be interesting to see how much time Telfer is given before bringing in a new project.

Cleveland Browns Defense

Shop for officially licensed Cleveland Browns Fan Gear, accessories and authentic collectibles at Shop.ClevelandBrowns.comPosition: Safety

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Ibraheim Campbell, Derrick Kindred, Jordan Poyer
Good Luck Elsewhere:

How about drafting a free safety high in the NFL Draft? Philadelphia’s pick current sits at No. 13 overall and that might be enough to change the Browns safety position as someone like Malik Hooker could be there for the having. (You know, if he decides to change his mind.)

Position: Cornerback

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Jamar Taylor, Tracy Howard
Good Luck Elsewhere: Joe Haden, Marcus Burley, Ed Reynolds, Tramon Williams

Putting Haden there hurt. He is such a good guy, but he has consistently been a poor cornerback for two straight years now and is incredibly overpaid. I doubt he comes back to the Browns at a renegotiated bargain basement price, so expect a team like New Orleans to try to resurrect his old skills. The rest of the group is uninspiring. Given this group’s desire to build from the outside in, expect a possible DB run like HBT did on wide receivers in 2016.

Position: Linebacker

High Quality: Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey
Roster Worthy: Nate Orchard, Emmanuel Ogbah, Joe Schobert
Good Luck Elsewhere: Corey Lemonier, Cam Johnson, Demario Davis, Dominique Alexander, Tank Carder

Legitimate excitement out of the play from Collins and Kirksey this season. The only problem is that the OLB might be a more crucial role. Orchard, Ogbah, and Schobert have been meh. Not worth scrapping, not worth expecting them to be the starting answer. Just meh. Davis was one of the first additions of this new regime, and will likely get a second year. This doesn’t mean he should.

Position: Defensive Line

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Danny Shelton, Jamie Meder, Carl Nassib
Good Luck Elsewhere: Xavier Cooper, Tyrone Holmes, Stephen Paea, Gabe Wright

Shelton could be placed in the high quality bin. I’d like to see him get that push a little more consistently before he gets it though. Ashland Eagle Jamie Meder provides solid depth, and Nassib joins the Meh Club despite a solid start to his rookie season.

Cleveland Browns Special Teams

Position: Kicker, Punter, Long-Snapper

High Quality: None
Roster Worthy: Charley Hughlett
Good Luck Elsewhere: Cody Parkey, Britton Colquitt

The new special teams coach is going to want to bring in his own guys.

Your Turn

There have to be players who you do not agree with their categorization. Let me know where I have it wrong and why in the comments, while keeping in mind the Before You Comment guidelines. Enjoy.

  • RGB

    Haden’s contract elevates from $13M this season to $14M for 2017 and 2018. I don’t see the Moneyballers swallowing that kind of cash. They’ve been pretty adept at acquiring picks, so let’s hope we get some good ones for him. Good luck, Joe.

    Joe Thomas (If they keep him…), Joel Bitonio, John Greco, Austin Pasztor, Austin Reiter have the potential to be a decent OL, but depth is abysmal. I think drafting a stud OL with the Philly pick is paramount.

    The defensive backfield could takes years to fix…

  • tigersbrowns2

    hmmm … no love for Parkey & Colquitt … I’ll bet they’re both here next year , new ST coach or not.

    you pretty much got everything right … so , S , CB , DL & OL should be the priority & QB & RB wild-cards , right ??


  • KaiHaaskivi

    Hey Bode,
    What about Drango on the OL?
    Also, has anyone considered making Haden a safety, similar to what Woodson did? I have absolutely no insight if that would even work with his skills (lack thereof), but thought I would ask.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi RGB … “the defensive backfield could take years to fix” … not if they can snare a top-notch S or CB in free-agency & then take a S & CB within the 1st 2 rounds.

  • mgbode

    Parkey and Colquitt could be back. There’s a higher bar for “roster worthy” with them though as teams only carry one per team.

    Full disclosure: I thought it was 50/50. I went the way I did so I could express my frustrations again πŸ™‚

  • RGB

    I don’t think Haden is as fast or durable as Woodson was.
    It could work, though, but not for $14M/yr.

  • mgbode

    Thank you. I had Drango on the Roster Worthy line in my XLS. A copy/paste error that I appreciate you pointing out.

  • mgbode


  • tigersbrowns2

    i can see Drango starting at RG next year … how long is Greco signed for ?

  • nj0

    On Barndige: Not that you really said otherwise, but, lest we forget, the old front office re-signed him. Yes, Barnidge is one of the few individuals who can truthfully say that he got Ray Farmer to do some work during his time in Berea.

  • KaiHaaskivi

    Wasn’t pointing out the error. Sorry if it came off that way. I was genuinely interested in your thoughts. I don’t get to see the games (thank goodness) on TV, so all I can do is gather opinions.

  • mgbode

    No, it was an omission in the final draft. I truly mean that I appreciated it. I have no ego about these things.

    Drango is a decent guy if he’s an injury replacement. I hope we get better starters at RG and RT (and even that is projecting probably more than we should on Reiter from a small sample).

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi NJO … also on Barnidge : i noticed when Kessler played QB it seems he rarely targets Barnidge & when McCown got in there Barnidge’s targets went up …. seems to me Barnidge is one of the playmakers on this squad … get him the ball.

  • mgbode

    Greco has another year under $3m – a good backup middle OL for that price

  • nj0
  • mgbode

    the old FO signed him, but Sashi is the one that did the contract while working for the old regime

  • BKJD

    Parkey has been very consistent after a disastrous first game. Length of his kickoffs can be a problem, though. Unless something better comes along he’s worth keeping.

  • Pat Leonard

    Great article Bode. I know it was hard for you to put Higgins on the chopping block, but I agree. He’s been rather disappointing in his limited time on the field.

  • Pat Leonard

    Accurate. Not sure why Kessler doesn’t look his way more often, but of course one of the main problems is getting Kessler to release the ball early enough to make this matter.

  • Pat Leonard

    He sure looks like he’s ready. He hasn’t been spectacular but has been pretty good for a rookie. Should only improve from here. I wonder if he would also get a look at RT. He’s played well as the 6th lineman when we go jumbo and has performed well as a tackle in limited duty. I might like him better there, but not sure.

  • mgbode

    Yep. I won’t complain if we keep him. As I mentioned in another reply, the bar was just higher for spots where you only keep 1 guy.

  • mgbode

    Thanks. Yeah, the good news is we have so many other needs, the FO almost has to give him and Payton another year to prove themselves (using picks elsewhere).

  • Pat Leonard

    Very true. This is one draft where I truly do not want to see a wide receiver taken (assuming they lock up Pryor).

  • Pat Leonard

    He’s been injured for the entire season, but thoughts on Desmond Bryant? He’s signed through 2017 and is owed a reasonable $4M next year. He’ll be 31 years old next year though and I think the Browns save $3M if they cut him this offseason. I don’t think the Browns need to create any new holes at this point.

  • dwhit110

    Colquitt has been fine, yet unremarkable in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back.

  • dwhit110

    I can’t imagine they’d use the Philly pick for a safety. I’ve got to assume the plan is #1, Garrett; Philly Pick, QB.

    Of course I guess it’s possible that they win a game and lose the first pick, but I really can’t imagine a world where this happens πŸ™‚

  • I kind of agree with this list in principle, but dumping players with 1 year or less experience? Not a great idea. Especially if they get picked up and thrive on some other team. Think Taylor Gabriel, Danny Green, etc..

  • mgbode

    Take a look at the definitions. I don’t think the Browns WILL dump them necessarily, but those players have done nothing to suggest it should not be a possibility. Scooby Wright is gone. What has Payton done to show he is a better WR than Wright a LBer?

  • mgbode

    I don’t know. We have the cap room, so I would guess we don’t worry about that small cost and hope he can infuse our awful DL with something. If he doesn’t show in August though, then he could be on the cutting block.

  • mgbode

    I hope we don’t pick a QB that high from this class.

  • mgbode

    Do you think either of those players become who they became staying in Cleveland? Yes, I include Green in that statement.

  • jpftribe

    The real question is if the Browns are worth keeping. I’d drink more beer and smoke more cigs for a lakefront amusement park I would actually use on Sundays.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, but it would end up being just like in Oakland. After supporting and watching for years, they would leave just when they became good again.

  • I would say yes, but only If the players had the right coaching, support, time, and resources available to them. Also the coaches needed to know the players’ strengths and weaknesses and how to use them effectively. Sadly several of those items never became available to both Green and Gabriel, IMO.

  • mgbode

    those things are in short supply though. for Gabriel, he was tiny & spent most of his time with the Browns injured. hard to see him having that kind of success on this particular team.

    happy for him though. seemed to work hard and has been able to show off his skills.

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  • jpftribe

    under Haslam’s orders.

  • Harv

    Nice, Michael, and didn’t quite realize you were so gimlet-eyed/keep it real. I have few qualms with your rankings, especially when you qualified your high eval of Coleman based on potential rather than performance (he hasn’t once taken a short pass and raced past everyone to the house as we were repeatedly promised) and your harsh take on Haden based on his salary. Haden will be fine covering 2’s and slots for a few years. And the injury thing is no excuse: in an extreme physical sport, ability to avoid injuries or play through them at a high level is one of the most important abilities.

    My only issue is Kirksey. I know how much local love he’s been recently getting based on number of tackles. But in my opinion the league has a lot of ILBs who make plays, blow things up, get crucial stops. On an average defense he would be the second stringer, the guy who knows the deal and is rarely out of position. You might argue he’d make more plays if those next to him were occupying attention; I don’t see it, I don’t think he’s that mean or fast or strong.

  • mgbode

    Thank you.

    And, quite fair on Kirksey. He was certainly on the edge between the tiers. I have seen enough from him on his angles and shedding blockers to imagine better things on a team with DE’s who did more than the wretched guys we ran out there. You could be quite right though that he wouldn’t.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good morning sir … not only is he the leading tackler in the NFL , he is also ranked as one of the top pass coverage LB’s in the league. constant hustle & effort from this guy.
    we need more like him.

    and yes , i will be sitting with his mom at the pro-bowl.

  • tigersbrowns2

    oh , man … i can’t go through that again.

  • BenRM

    I wouldn’t cry too much if Haden is cut. He costs too much for someone who can’t play anymore. Injuries have wrecked the guy, sadly. At the position he plays, if you lose a step, as he has, then you’re done.

  • BenRM

    He probably should be. Does his job is about all you want from kickers/punters.

  • Harv

    Good morning, Son of Sashi. Hope “Dad” is with you there as well.

  • BenRM

    I still do…within the first 3 picks.

  • BenRM

    But if that guy gives you 8 years of decent to good ILB play (Jackson) he’s a good guy to have on the roster.

  • Harv

    goodness, yes. Certainly not suggesting they deep 6 him, just doubting Bode’s categorizing him as a guy who would start on half the other teams. He could start on lots of crappy teams. I think we damaged Browns fans mistake a non-disastrous draft pick for a good player. That’s what happens when for 17 years your best players are a left tackle and special teamers.

  • mgbode