The Cleveland Browns had yet another underwhelming, lost season as they went 6-10. The season led to massive changes within the organization including at head coach and general manager. The Browns addressed their coaching position with the hiring of Kevin Stefanski, but there are a lot of things left to do this offseason. I have started examining each of the team’s position’s to-do list this offseason. Up next in the series is the offensive line position.
This position was a disaster last year and the worst performing unit on the Browns offense. The Browns offensive line derailed an offense that was already struggling with play calling. This unit was just not good enough for the overall offense to be successful last season. Though, there were two bright spots on the offensive line. Center JC Tretter and left guard Joel Bitonio were both good this past season. Sadly, the offensive line is compromised of five players, not just two. At right guard, the Browns saw two different linemen take starting snaps this season. The season began with Eric Kush, but he was pretty much a disaster, leaving the Browns to have to make a midseason switch in Week 9. In came Wyatt Teller. Teller was better than Kush, though that is not saying much. Teller was still not good enough to be comfortable as the starter.
Now, let’s get to offensive tackle, where it was a dumpster fire. At left tackle, Greg Robinson was inconsistent and just not good enough at the position. He was also benched for a week for an undisclosed reason and thrown out of another game. At right tackle, Chris Hubbard was even worse than Robinson. Hubbard was bad for pretty much the whole season. He was not inconsistent, he was just bad throughout. The Browns also had two backups play meaningful snaps this season at tackle. Justin McCray started at left tackle and right tackle at least once last season. Though, he did not perform well in those starts. His value is as a backup swing lineman. Kendall Lamm also started two games at right tackle, playing OK, but his value would be as a backup tackle.
1. Find a left tackle
The gamble on Greg Robinson somehow turning his career around and being the Browns franchise left tackle was a low odds bet at the start. So, it is not a surprise that we are here. Robinson, who is now an unrestricted free agent, is a serviceable tackle, but not a tackle who should be given the reigns as a full-time starter. The Browns must find their left tackle this offseason. The 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded at offensive tackle with some top tier ones at the top. With the 10th pick in the draft, the Browns should be in prime position to nab one of the top tier tackles with their first-round pick. If the Browns want to go the free agency route, Anthony Castonzo is a solid option, but his price will be high, plus he would be entering his tenth season in the NFL, making a shorter-term option. In the end, the draft is probably the best way to go for the Browns to address this need.1
2. Release Chris Hubbard and find a new right tackle
Chris Hubbard has not cut it at right tackle. His play declined over the course of his career with the Browns. So, the Browns need to make a change. Hubbard can be cut this offseason without a major hit to the salary cap. The Browns need to find a long term right tackle this offseason. As I said earlier, the 2020 NFL Draft is loaded at offensive tackle, so the Browns could be able to find a starting level tackle in Round 2 or 3. But, free agency may be the avenue if the Browns want to split up addressing the two offensive tackle spots. The prized free agent would be Jack Conklin, who would fit in as a long term answer for the Browns. He will come with a hefty price, though. Nonetheless, the Browns need a new starting right tackle.
3. Evaluate the right guard position
The Browns went through two starting right guards last season. Eric Kush was not the answer clearly. Wyatt Teller came in and played better than Kush, but he still did not perform at a starter level. Teller, though, is a young lineman still developing. He has the skill set you like in a zone blocking lineman. However, the Browns may not want to stake their right guard position on a possible development. So, the Browns could look to free agency or the draft to fill this need. Brandon Scherff would be the homerun signing in free agency, with Joe Thuney right behind Scherff, though Thuney has been a left guard his whole career. Drew Forbes is the wildcard here. Can he develop this offseason to make a run at the starting job? The team went to great lengths to keep the rookie around throughout an injury-plagued campaign, but that was John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens. The right guard spot will be an interesting position to monitor this offseason.
4. Implement the zone blocking scheme
The Browns are moving to a zone-blocking scheme, which will greatly affect the offensive line. They will be learning a whole new scheme and will be taught new things to key on. Getting the offensive line together and implementing this new blocking scheme is immensely important to the success of the offense. Bill Callahan will have his work cut out for him in putting all of these expected new pieces together on the line, along with putting in this new scheme.
5. Add depth
Beyond addressing the starting spots as I pointed out earlier, the Browns need to also add depth to the offensive line. The team has suffered numerous injuries across the line. It needs to create depth at each position so that it can better handle the injuries without a major slide in performance. So, the Browns not only need to address the top of the depth charts but also the back end to secure better insurance for possible injuries. The unit needs a big overhaul this offseason.