As the 2022 NFL season creeps closer, the Cleveland Browns continue to make personnel decisions to prepare.
The franchise has made a number of moves to help the team improve on a disappointing 8-9 season in 2021.
Free agency and the draft have been kind, with Deshaun Watson, Amari Cooper, and Jadeveon Clowney agreeing to terms.
Jadeveon Clowney reaches agreement to re-sign with Browns for 2022https://t.co/9IsSksYXVG
— The News-Herald (@newsheraldinoh) May 22, 2022
The signings have instilled hope in Browns fans that the team just might get to a Super Bowl for the first time in history.
Of course, this hope is an annual affair and the organization has continued to disappoint.
For long-suffering fans, it’s only natural to wish that, if the Browns still had so-and-so from years past, they would have a chance.
It’s a fun exercise, although nothing is ever certain.
But, just for the fun of it, this writer put together a very short list of former Cleveland players that I’d like to see on the 2022 team.
Using any player from Browns’ history would be too easy, though it would be a Herculean effort to narrow down a list of three.
To make it a little more challenging, I only selected players from the 1999 season through the present.
The second iteration of the Browns has not experienced much success, but it was still a tough process to narrow down a list of just three players (plus a bonus).
Without further ado, here are some former Cleveland players the Browns could use today.
1) Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Browns Player: 2007-2017
Cleveland already has one of the best offensive lines in pro football even with the loss of J.C. Tretter.
However, last season gave us a glimpse of what can happen when there is inconsistency in the line.
Second-year left tackle Jedrick Wills missed some games due to a balky ankle and the Browns suffered for it.
Despite backups giving it their all, offensive line issues (along with Baker Mayfield’s injuries and instability) were part of the reason Cleveland’s offense went from 14th in the NFL in 2020 to 20th in 2021.
Having a reliable offensive line is key to a franchise that hopes to advance to the NFL’s biggest game.
Imagine if Thomas was still around to anchor the line and protect the blind side?
Quick #Browns history question:
Who made the best Steelers pancakes?
Answer- Joe Thomas pic.twitter.com/WrBFxJ8R68
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) October 24, 2021
Nothing at all against Wills, who by all accounts should turn into an All-Pro.
But Thomas never missed a game until his final season.
Wills is back for 2022 and one can only hope he can stay healthy and begin a consecutive games streak to rival Thomas.
Cleveland’s quarterbacks are depending on it.
2) Phil Dawson, Kicker, Browns Player: 1999-2012
The kicking position has been a huge source of contention for the Browns and its fans for the past several years.
Austin Seibert, Cody Parkey, and Chase McLaughlin weren’t the answer as the Dawg Pound crossed all their fingers and toes whenever the trio lined up for a kick or extra point.
Cleveland hopes to change this aspect of their roster by relying on rookie kicker Cade York from LSU.
The franchise shocked their fans by selecting York in the fourth round of the 2022 draft.
Although York could very well be the answer to the Browns’ kicking woes, one can’t help but wish someone like Phil Dawson was still around.
I want @phil_dawson_4 back. pic.twitter.com/XVYpWzcVeJ
— Michael Killi (@MikeKilli) September 14, 2020
Dawson was the model of consistency for Cleveland for 14 years and set a franchise record for most consecutive field goals made with 29.
He also holds the team record for field goals made in a game with six.
No, Dawson wasn’t perfect.
However, he had an 84.2 percent career conversion rate on field goals when he left the Browns, tops in NFL history at that point among kickers with at least 300 field goals.
In his final two years in Cleveland, Dawson made 13 field goals from at least 50 yards.
Dawson was a second-team All-Pro twice and made the Pro Bowl once in 2012.
When he left the organization for San Francisco after the 2012 season, Dawson was the last remaining member of the 1999 Browns.
3) Gerard Warren, Defensive Tackle, Browns Player: 2001-2004
For the past several years, Cleveland has had a rotating door of interior defensive linemen come and go.
Sheldon Richardson was a valuable addition to the team, though he only stuck around for two seasons.
Larry Ogunjobi was solid as well, putting together 14.5 sacks in four years.
During this offseason, the Browns added Taven Bryan from Jacksonville and Perrion Winfrey in the draft.
The team has some decent rotational pieces, but the interior spots continue to be a work in progress.
Using the way-back machine, former defensive tackle Gerard Warren would be a nice addition to plug in.
Big Gerard Warren. #Browns pic.twitter.com/vZElQr7wmB
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) March 19, 2022
Warren was a first-round selection by the Browns in 2001.
In his rookie year, Warren started in 15 games and had 61 total tackles and five sacks.
For the next two years, he started nearly every game and recorded 53 unassisted tackles and 7.5 sacks total during that time.
In 2004, Warren started 13 games, made 18 total tackles, and collected four sacks.
After the ‘04 season, he was traded to the Denver Broncos where he spent two years before moving on to Oakland and New England.
In four short years as a Brown, Warren had 16.5 sacks from his interior spot
From a pure consistency standpoint, it would be great if Cleveland had Warren’s tackle and sack production to keep defenses honest.
Honorable Mention- Josh Cribbs, WR, PR, KR, Browns Player: 2005-2012
Whether it’s missed kicks, dropped punts, or a yearly search for reliable return men, the Browns have had some bad luck on special teams.
Sports Illustrated’s Rick Gosselin has ranked special teams units around the NFL for years and he put Cleveland’s 2021 unit at 30th in the league.
His reason is primarily related to the kicking game, which is another reason why I added Dawson to this list.
To provide a spark to the unit, I’m adding former Browns’ jack of all trades, Josh Cribbs.
Cribbs was an electrifying talent from Kent State where he was the quarterback for the Golden Flashes.
In Cleveland, he lent his talents to the return game and consistently put up huge numbers.
During his first five years in the league, Cribbs had at least one punt or kick return for a touchdown.
Josh Cribbs #Browns pic.twitter.com/f6gjzQsECS
— Vintage Browns (@VintageBrowns) March 2, 2022
In 2007, he led the NFL in kick return yards, yards per return, and all-purpose yards.
Cribbs put himself on the map again in 2009 when he had four total scores on punt and kick returns including an NFL-best three return scores on kicks.
If the 2022 Browns need help finding a receiver to take the heat off Cooper, Cribbs could do that as well.
Between 2009 and 2011, Cribbs caught at least 20 or more passes including 41 in 2011.
That year he also added four receiving touchdowns.
Last, but not least, Cribbs could rush the ball.
Between 2008 and 2010, he carried the rock at least 20 times including 55 times in 2009.
During Cribbs’ eight years in Cleveland, he was a first and second-team All-Pro once each and went to the Pro Bowl three times.
Additionally, he was voted the NFL Alumni’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2009 and named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.
Cribbs’ steady presence on special teams and as a rotational piece on offense would make the 2022 Browns even more deadly.
Diablo Di Sabato says
HOF NT Bill Willis
HOF WR Paul Warfield
HOF TE Ozzie Newsome
EXACTLY what we need right now as well.