The Cleveland Browns finished off their 2018 season with a 7-8-1 record. The season had its ups and downs, but overall it was a productive year that has raised hopes for the franchise going forward. Freddie Kitchens is now the head coach of the Browns and this offseason should have a lot different feel to it because of the success the team felt this season. But, before we get to the offseason, let’s go over what transpired this past season in our final report cards. We have examined the front seven of the defense and are now moving to the secondary, starting with the report card of the Browns cornerbacks.
Overall Grade: B-
Denzel Ward: B+
Terrance Mitchell: B-
E.J. Gaines: C+
T.J. Carrie: C+
Briean Boddy-Calhoun: C+
Phillip Gaines: INC
Juston Burris: INC
Tavierre Thomas: INC
Howard Wilson: INC
Top Grade: Denzel Ward
The Browns second first round pick in the past NFL Draft may have been overshadowed by the No. 1 pick, but Ward had a really good rookie season. He showed the talent that earned him a top pick billing. He quickly moved his way into the No. 1 cornerback spot for the Browns, where he should hold it for many years to come. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 44 catches in the 82 times he was targeted this season. He has the chance to be the lockdown corner who mans the Browns secondary for many years to come.
Biggest Strength: Depth
The Browns have a lot of playable depth in the cornerback unit. Ward leads this unit as the most talented corner of the group, but the unit has four other corners who can play a big part of a secondary. Terrance Mitchell, E.J. Gaines, T.J. Carrie, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are all guys who have shown success in their career. The group also is very versatile with many of the corners being able to perform multiple positions in the secondary. The depth is five deep in this unit.
Biggest Need: Health and Consistency
The Browns cornerback position was ravaged with injuries last season. This past season, the only cornerbacks to play in all 16 games were T.J. Carrie and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. The Browns had trouble keeping the same lineup on the field for each game. But besides the health of the unit, the cornerback corps did not show the consistency you would want at this position. Many of the corners had an up and down season with little consistency shown.
2019 NFL Draft Priority: Medium
The Browns depth at corner is good, but the team could look to shuffle it up this offseason. Both E.J. Gaines and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are free agents. The Browns could look to get a younger option at this position through a mid-round draft choice. Or if a top-level cornerback talent drops in the first couple rounds, the Browns are in a position to nab him and pair him with Ward to form a talented starting duo.
2019 Free Agency Priority: Medium
In free agency, the Browns have to address their two free agents, Gaines and Boddy-Calhoun. Gaines is an unrestricted free agent, while Boddy-Calhoun is a restricted free agent. I am not sure the Browns will look to add any free agent corners, but rather just re-sign these two defensive backs. The free agency priority is higher just because the team has to deal with these two free agent corners. I don’t see the Browns looking over the rest of the market to find another veteran corner.
The Browns cornerback position has the talent to be a solid group. Denzel Ward, who I believe has the talent to be one of the best corners in the NFL, leads this unit. Terrance Mitchell really intrigues me because he was good when he was on the field. T.J. Carrie was highly inconsistent, but the fact that he was able to stay on the field for all 16 games makes him a valuable depth player in this unit. E.J. Gaines is another talented corner who we just did not see enough of last season because of injury. And, Briean Boddy-Calhoun is another valuable backup corner with the versatility to move all over the secondary, even to safety.
This position, though, is still a bit of a question mark because of the injuries it had last season. Ward’s concussion problems last season are something to keep an eye on going forward. With as much talent as he has, these concussions are a bit concerning for Ward. Hopefully, Ward can adjust his game to better protect himself, but concussions can sometimes be unavoidable in this game. Let’s hope this is not a trend, but just a blip in his career. I think Ward will be the face of this unit for years to come as he learns and develops his game.
I really like Mitchell and believe he could be the Browns’ No. 2 corner. But, his injury last season clouded his prospects. He performed well when healthy, but he missed a large chunk of the season with an injury. So, it is hard to pinpoint what he can be as a player. The same can be said for E.J. Gaines. T.J. Carrie and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are both valuable depth players in my opinion. I would re-sign both Gaines and Boddy-Calhoun and bring back this same group at corner. I want to see if the unit can stay healthy, so we can truly evaluate what we have at this position. Also, the change in defensive coordinator and an expected upgrade in the front seven can only help this unit. The only reason I would add a corner is if one of the five contributing corners leaves or if the Browns fall into a position in the draft where a top-level player falls to their pick.