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 and their general manager position with Andrew Berry, but there are a lot of things left to do this offseason. I have examined each of the team’s offensive position’s to-do list this offseason. We finish up the defensive side of the ball in this series by looking at the safety position.
The safety unit was a revolving door throughout the season. Damarious Randall was supposed to be the leader of the safety group but his season turned out to be a dud. He had locker room issues that caused him to be benched last season, along with just an average level of play on the field. The Browns signed Morgan Burnett to be the starting strong safety next to Randall at free safety. Burnett was OK, but he was lost for the second half of the season with an injury. Jermaine Whitehead was supposed to be a versatile defensive back, but he ended up being cut after threatening fans on social media after playing poorly on the field. Eric Murray was another versatile defensive back, who was supposed to be a valuable piece for the secondary. Murray was solid, but he played in only nine games due to injury. There were some under-the-radar bright spots in the safety group. Juston Burris was used on an inconsistent basis throughout the season, though when he was on the field he played well at strong safety. Sheldrick Redwine did not get any run early on in his rookie season, but as the safety unit thinned out towards the end of the season, Redwine received more playing time including five starts. He played better than expected and had some nice spurts of strong play. Overall, this position never was able to set and get comfortable. No player was able to stick in the starting lineup and run with it, which was obviously a problem.
1. Let Damarious Randall go in free agency
The Browns should not even attempt to bring back Randall. He will likely push for a long term contract that includes a big payday, which he is not worth. But beyond that fact, his performance last season was such a disappointment. His on-field play was inconsistent at best with his 2018 performance-level nowhere to be seen. In addition to this poor play, he was also benched by coaches due to a locker room issue. There is just no good reason for the Browns to bring him back.
2. Find two starting-level safeties
The Browns need two starting safeties, a free and strong safety. I do not see a starting-level safety currently on the roster and I am not inclined to bring Randall back. The free-agent market is incredibly deep at the safety position, so the Browns are in a great position to add at least one of these spots through this avenue. Anthony Harris, Justin Simmons, Devin McCourty, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tre Boston, Jimmie Ward, and Vonn Bell are just a few names who could fill one of the starting spots at the backend of the defense. I think the Browns sign at least one top tier safety this offseason. The team could add two and be done with the position or look to add their other starter through the draft. The Browns starting lineup at safety needs a complete facelift this offseason.
3. Re-sign Eric Murray
Murray is a valuable defensive back who fills multiple roles for the defense. Though he missed quite a bit of time last season, he had a solid season when he did play. He was used in the slot for the majority of the year, so he would be a valuable player to keep given that T.J. Carrie was let go on Monday. The Browns need depth in the secondary, so keeping Murray allows the Browns to keep a versatile defensive back as a backup role player. However, the Browns should not overpay him more than a backup should get.
4. Re-sign Juston Burris
Burris is another valuable player, who played well when given the chance to take the field. Burris would be another good backup player who the Browns can continue to develop and maybe eventually turn into a starter. He also showed the ability to move around on defense, giving the Browns another versatile defensive back to utilize as a role player. Just like Murray, Cleveland should not overpay him more than a backup should get.
5. Learn the new defense
The Browns are installing a completely new defense under new defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Woods runs a whole different type of defense than Steve Wilks ran last season in Cleveland. So, the Browns will need to get their safeties in tune with the new scheme going into next season. We saw so much confusion and missed coverages last season under Wilks. The Browns have to be better in teaching and installing the new defense so the players are comfortable in what they are doing.