The Cleveland Browns figure to spend a great deal of focus in NFL free agency on shoring up the offensive side of the ball. And yes, that’s the right move.
Indeed, the Browns have a bunch of different holes to fill, including on the defensive side of things. And sure, they have more recognizable names on the offensive end, chief among them being Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Still, concerns persist.
Cleveland ranked just 22nd in points scored per game last season and struggled to get any sort of top-end traction through both the air and on the ground. Though they ranked fourth in rushing yards per attempt, that standing didn’t hold once they entered the end zone.
Everything starts with the offensive line, where the Browns need to do a better job of protecting Mayfield and buying him time while also opening holes for their running backs. Many expect them to draft offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa in the first round to help plug up this gap. That’s a start. It isn’t everything.
Free agency will be a valuable tool through which the Browns retool. And bear in mind, this isn’t 2012. They won’t be interested in middling names, like when quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the apple of their eye. Nor will they look to pilfer suboptimal options from one team, like when poaching former Philadelphia Eagles was randomly a thing.
No, the Browns have the timeline and urgency to go big-game hunting. Think along the lines of offensive guard Brandon Scherff from the Washington Redskins or offensive tackle Jack Conklin from the Tennessee Titans.
If they’re looking to split defensive focus, they could target another pass-catcher to simplify the lives of Beckham and Landry. Tight end Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons would do the trick. They could even triple-down on their big-name-receiver setup and go after wideout A.J. Green from the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the most coveted players on the open market.
All of the aforementioned names will be expensive. The Browns can’t afford to care. They bet big on their present one summer ago by getting OBJ and Landry at all. Their obligation now is to go for it—to angle for a return to the playoffs. And they’re not getting there without being ultra-aggressive in free agency.