AMAZING NEWS: Cleveland Browns; They brought him back at last.

Cleveland Browns wait to make a free agent in 2024.

It was all said and done in the controversy that erupted around the Cleveland Browns all last week.

Why did the Browns pass on signing Jameis Winston in favor of fan favorite Joe Flacco, who got off the sofa in the middle of the season and carried Cleveland all the way to the playoffs?

Though deserving of close examination, the fact that the backup quarterback position dominated discussions during the first week of free agency highlighted the Browns’ actions thus far, primarily their decision to use the roster from the previous season.
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Re-signing its own free-agent veterans was Cleveland’s most noteworthy move following the trade for Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, a former first-round choice who the Browns had sought for more than a year.

Joe Flacco is finally receiving his due. But he can't return to Browns next  year - The Athletic

However, after top target Christian Wilkins agreed to a four-year, $110 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders and Chris Jones of Kansas City, Leonard Williams of Seattle, and Justin Madubuike of Baltimore re-signed with their respective teams, Cleveland turned its attention to Plan B, which involved bringing back a number of important players from its top-ranked defense.




Za’Darius Smith, a defensive end, was signed by the Browns again for a two-year, $23 million contract. Additionally, they re-signed defensive tackles Maurice Hurst (one year, $3.2 million) and Shelby Harris (two years, $9 million).

The Browns added more guys to help strengthen the defensive front-end depth chart. After Dalvin Tomlinson, Hurst, and Harris as the starting defensive tackles, they added Quinton Jefferson (one year).

During the previous season, Jefferson, 30, started 14 games while recording six sacks for the New York Jets. In addition, Cleveland signed Ohio native Jordan Hicks and Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Devin Bush, who will take the place of Sione Takitaki (who signed with the New England Patriots) and captain Anthony Walker (who signed with the Miami Dolphins) in the team’s inside linebacker rotation. Hicks, 31, who will assume the starting role, has at least 100 tackles in five consecutive seasons.

The Browns also re-signed Michel Dunn, a one-year backup lineman, and Corey Bojorquez, a productive punter, for two more years. In addition to Winston, the Browns grabbed former Baltimore backup quarterback Tyler Huntley, who now joins second-year quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in a suddenly congested quarterback room.

Will the Browns’ nearly identical roster be sufficient to turn them into a serious contender in the talented AFC, though, given that Cleveland is probably done making major moves and that they only have five picks in the 2019 draft—including none in the first round due to the Deshaun Watson trade?

The greatest opponents of Cleveland appeared to get better, at least in the AFC North.

Derrick Henry, a perennial All-Pro running back, was acquired by the Ravens in exchange for a number of role players, including offensive linemen John Simpson, Morgan Moses, safety Geno Smith, and linebacker Patrick Queen. If Henry has any tread left on his tires, Baltimore may have a vicious running game with 2023 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Nor did the rest of the AFC become any less intimidating.

With the addition of quick wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs gained a dependable downfield threat that they were lacking in the previous season.

Danielle Hunter of Minnesota, who had 16.5 sacks in her last season, is maybe the best free agent pass rusher available, and she signed with the Houston Texans, who defeated Cleveland 45-14 in the playoffs.

Remember that quarterback Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, who were eliminated from the playoffs the previous season, will return from a season-ending wrist injury he sustained in November.

However, Cleveland’s defense should continue to be strong and maintain the Browns’ floor reasonably high even in the absence of any significant acquisitions.

Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward and Defensive Player of the Year winner Myles Garrett are still at the top of their games. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, a promising linebacker, Martin Emerson Jr., a cornerback, and Grant Delpit, a safety, are set to enter theirs.

It should also be beneficial to have former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel on board as a consultant. For defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who held a comparable position under Vrabel in Tennessee from 2021 to 2022, he seems to be a reliable sounding board.

Yet Watson’s performance following a season-ending throwing shoulder injury sustained in mid-November will determine Cleveland’s potential. If Watson is able to return to his 2020 form, when he led the NFL in passing as a Houston Texan, that will end the discussion about backup quarterbacks and beyond any free-agent acquisition the Browns could have made. And if that occurs, the Browns might be able to make it back to the postseason and possibly even further by running the ball back.

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