Chase Winovich‘s change of scenery appears to have animated him, and he could make a splash, too.
But if Jadeveon Clowney returns to the locker room, he’ll outshine either as Berry’s best free-agent move.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 17, 2019
Well… at least until Jakeem Grant crosses the goal line with a punt or kickoff return.
So far, Berry has 62 players locked up for the 2022 season, with offers pending to a few more and 7 upcoming draft picks.
And if Cleveland makes a playoff run, there will probably be a surprise contributor or 2 from the lower ranks.
Here are 2 surprise Browns players who could make an impact in 2022.
1. Safety Richard LeCounte
NFL Draft analysts ranked Richard LeCounte as a top 3-5 safety heading into his 2020 senior year.
But life threw him a curveball in the form of a horrific motorcycle accident in midseason.
His recovery lasted through the combine, where he posted dreadful numbers, especially in the 40-yard dash.
Andrew Berry plucked him off the board with the 169th overall pick (5th round).
Highest-Graded Preseason Rookie DBs:
1. Patrick Surtain II, Broncos – 94.8
2. Richard LeCounte, Browns – 90.4
3. Andre Cisco, Jaguars – 84.1
4. Marco Wilson, Cardinals – 83.7 pic.twitter.com/ualvuQVmqi
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) August 17, 2021
Despite 2 interceptions in 3 preseason games, LeCounte played sparingly on defense as a rookie.
But the hope is his observations, practice, and growth last year prepared him for a bigger role in 2022.
We expect LeCounte to fill the void of MJ Stewart’s departure as the 4th safety in Joe Woods’ defense.
LeCounte’s nose for the ball and field speed will show up on highlight films before long.
2. Linebacker Jacob Phillips
Before Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, there was Jacob Phillips.
And after JOK made a splash as a rookie Browns linebacker, Phillips returned from his preseason injury.
Without much fanfare, Phillips racked up 3 pass defenses and a sack in the last 4 games of 2021.
And on a per-game basis, he put up better pressure and coverage numbers than his rookie teammate.
— Jeff-LJ-Lloyd (@Jeff_LJ_Lloyd) May 19, 2021
Phillips is set to spell Sione Takitaki on the opposite side of Anthony Walker.
That gives the Browns a pair of speedy, hard-hitting, and rangy outside linebackers behind their edge rushers.
Berry might add another linebacker via the draft or free agency before the season starts.
But a healthy Phillips will be hard to knock out of a starting role.
Other Potential Surprises
Chase Winovich could prove to be the steal of Andrew Berry’s offseason.
After getting pushed out of a bigger role in New England, he already appears energized with his change of scenery.
It should not surprise anyone to see Winovich fill the 3rd-edge role we hoped to get out of Takk McKinley last year.
Another player who spent most of his rookie season watching and learning is Tony Fields.
Chase Winovich came in 😤😤 pic.twitter.com/O8btKsv4hK
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 21, 2020
Fields was a tackling machine at outside linebacker for Arizona and West Virginia.
And he could find himself with little competition for the Browns’ fifth or sixth linebacker spot.
Miller Forristall is the third tight end at this point, and in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, that could mean something.
Although former division III player, 6’4″ 248-pounder Nick Guggemos might become a fan favorite for the job.