The new year league in the NFL is just a couple days away, but the work is already beginning as the legal tampering period is about to open for free agency. The Cleveland Browns come in with one of the biggest available cap spaces in the league.1 So, the Browns will have an opportunity to improve their roster through free agency before they hit the 2019 NFL Draft. Cleveland had a revival year this past season with the hopes for the future at an all-time high since 1999.
But, the Browns still have quite a few holes to fill to be a championship contender. The Browns will build their team through the draft, but free agency will also be an avenue where the team can specifically look to fill needs. So, what are the biggest needs on the team? Here are how I rank the Browns biggest needs going into free agency and some possible options the team could look at in free agency to address each need.
- Interior Defensive Line
The Browns biggest need is the interior defensive line. Currently, the Browns have just one quality interior defensive lineman in Larry Ogunjobi. Ogunjobi is a player who can be a real playmaker in the interior, but he has absolutely no help from his fellow interior defensive linemen. The Browns could use at the very least two new players to this position, including a starting quality player.
Possible FA targets: Ndamukong Suh would be a nice veteran signing who can immediately start, but also allow the Browns to take a young defensive lineman in the draft to develop while Suh is on a short term deal. Henry Anderson would be a younger answer who the Browns could add for a longer deal and really add some nice long term production at the position.
With the release of Jamie Collins, this position became an even bigger priority for the Browns. The Browns linebackers have not performed up to par over the last few seasons, except for Joe Schobert. Cleveland could be looking to nab two linebackers, but at the very least the Browns need to get a starting quality linebacker somewhere this offseason.
Possible FA targets: Thomas Davis would be a possible short term answer to fill in for a couple of years, especially with his familiarity with Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Anthony Barr may be the best fit and player on the market to upgrade this position for the Browns. He will probably warrant a big-time contract.
- Offensive Tackles
Even though the Browns re-signed Greg Robinson this offseason, Cleveland is still in need of an upgrade at both tackle positions. Robinson and Chris Hubbard were adequate at tackle, but they do not summon a lot of confidence going forward. This need may be better addressed through the NFL Draft as the Browns look like they may be comfortable with both as starters for the short term.
Possible FA targets: Trent Brown would be a big ticket tackle the Browns could add and plug in as the starting left tackle for the Browns to upgrade over Robinson. Daryl Williams would be another option to immediately come in and be an upgrade over Hubbard.
- Wide Receivers
The Browns are still in need of a No. 1 wide receiver and depth at the position. The Browns will not find a No. 1 wide receiver in free agency, but they can definitely find some productive depth to help Baker Mayfield next season. With Breshad Perriman’s status up in the air, the Browns could use a big-time speed threat to open up the offense.
Possible FA targets: Tyrell Williams and John Brown are two receivers who would definitely fit the speed receiver need and give the Browns someone who can create home run plays.
- Special Teams
The Browns are solid at punter, but the Browns could definitely look to upgrade at kicker. I think free agency would be the only and best way for the Browns to find a better kicker over Greg Joseph.
Possible FA targets: The Browns will have a couple of really good kickers to choose from in free agency. Stephen Gostkowski and Jason Myers are immediate upgrades over Joseph.
- Tight Ends
This need rose over the weekend after the Browns release of Darren Fells. The Browns need a No. 2 tight end behind David Njoku. With the Browns offensive scheme, the No. 2 will need to be a better receiving threat than Fells gave last season. The Browns could look to add two tight ends if they want to nab a blocking tight end, too.
Possible FA targets: Jared Cook would a great signing as a No. 2 tight end receiving threat for the offense. He would allow the Browns to really be confident in using their two tight end sets. Tyler Eifert would be an interesting flier for the Browns as he would be low risk/high reward type signing.
The Browns have their No. 1 cornerback in Denzel Ward and I really like Terrance Mitchell as the No. 2 cornerback. But, the Browns need more depth, especially with all the injuries the position had last season. The team could look to find a more consistent No. 2 corner if they are nervous about the sustainability of Mitchell.
Possible FA targets: The class of free agent corners is not great. Bashaud Breeland and Ronald Darby are interesting options as they are coming off injuries, but have the talent to be some of the better corners in the league.
- Edge Defenders
This position fell down my list after the acquisition of Olivier Vernon this past week. But, the Browns could always look to add more depth on the edge especially in the area of pass rushing. Free agency may be a good way to find this need.
Possible FA targets: Justin Houston would be a big name signing who would immediately make the Browns pass rush one of the more terrifying in the league. Za’Darius Smith would be a great young addition who could help the Browns pass rush, too.
- Interior Offensive Line
This position moved up my list just a bit after the trade of Kevin Zeitler last week. I do not have this position higher because I believe Austin Corbett can fill in and be a productive starter at right guard. If Corbett can do that, then the Browns are good in the interior of the offensive line. Nonetheless, the Browns could look to add a veteran offensive guard to the team if they want insurance at the position.
Possible FA targets: T.J. Lang would be an option as a veteran offensive guard to plug in right away if Corbett struggles.
The Browns are completely set at the two starting safety spots with Damarious Randall and Jabrill Peppers. But, the Browns could always use more depth if they want.
Possible FA targets: Jimmy Ward would be an interesting target as he could replace Briean Boddy-Calhoun as a player who can play both corner and safety.
The only thing this position needs is a backup quarterback behind Baker Mayfield. A veteran would be a good addition to be the No. 2 quarterback.
Possible FA targets: Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the perfect match for the backup quarterback spot because of his familiarity to Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
- Running Backs
The Browns already addressed this position this offseason with the addition of Kareem Hunt. Cleveland has a full backfield and I just don’t see the Browns using free agency to find another running back. The Browns could look for a late round running back to develop.
Possible FA target: I do not think there is a real target for this position.