Around this time last year, Cleveland Browns fans were convinced their team was a Super Bowl contender.
Andrew Berry rebuilt the defense and landed his second solid NFL Draft class to build on his playoff-caliber roster.
Fans and pundits alike predicted win totals in the low-to-mid teens, with division and conference titles in play.
#Browns Andrew Berry said they believe they have a lot of core pieces on the roster and now they'll spend the next few weeks reviewing the roster and staff to see how they can get better.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) January 11, 2022
But the 2021 season did not live up to the hype, which might explain less grandiose expectations for 2022.
Fans angrily debate some player moves, and the scenario conjures up memories of pre-Berry era chaos and culture.
So we’re grading the Browns’ offseason so far to see if it is as bad as some think, or as good as others contend.
Opening Trade Routes
Andrew Berry added a new trick to his roster-building repertoire this offseason: big trades.
On a purely football-centric evaluation, the Browns’ offense should be significantly better for it.
Love him or hate him, Deshaun Watson brings better field awareness and more diverse options to Cleveland.
Amari Cooper is still just 27 years old, and a proven No. 1 wide receiver, which the #Browns desperately needed on the heels of the OBJ debacle. Andrew Berry makes his first big move this offseason #Browns
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) March 12, 2022
Berry gave up a chunk of cap space and draft capital, which will affect the value of this trade down the road.
But landing Amari Cooper for only a 5th-round draft pick is certainly one of the best offseason moves across the NFL.
And the Chase Winovich trade could be a bigger deal than anticipated if Berry doesn’t add a veteran edge rusher.
Trade Grade: A-
Diminished Free Agency
After rebuilding his offense in 2020 and his defense in 2021, it only made sense to blow up special teams.
But signing a return specialist and a punter doesn’t make the Browns’ free-agent class stand out.
Jakeem Grant could be a bigger addition than expected as the senior veteran in the young wide receiver room.
JAKEEM GRANT pic.twitter.com/BDJLluO0Uv
— alex 💙💛 (@highlghtheaven) December 13, 2021
But unless Jadeveon Clowney signs a deal soon, Berry might not add a single starting player via free agency.
Quality depth is important, and Berry added some productive and worthy role players.
And Berry could set up the Browns for a 2023 compensatory draft pick if they lose free agents next season.
Free Agency Grade: B-
Drafting From Behind
There was a collective gasp followed by silence in Browns’ draft parties when Berry traded back in this year’s draft.
Cleveland was already at a disadvantage with no first-round pick, and then they gave up their only second-rounder.
But Berry added important pieces to the 2022 cornerback and defensive line rotations.
#Browns have signed 7 of 9 2022 Draft picks: CB Martin Emerson Jr., DE Alex Wright, WR David Bell, RB Jerome Ford, WR Mike Woods II, DE Isaiah Thomas and G Dawson Deaton.
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) May 12, 2022
If that wasn’t enough to satisfy Browns fans, Berry might have found Jarvis Landry‘s replacement at #99.
Oklahoma State teammates, Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas could soon play side-by-side in the NFL.
And 7th-round center Dawson Deaton’s draft profile is remarkably similar to first-rounder Tyler Lindenbaum.
2022 NFL Draft Grade: B-
Miscellaneous P.R. Affairs
Without a doubt, the Cleveland Browns opened themselves up to criticism with the Deshaun Watson trade.
And between the future draft capital lost and his 5-year mega-contract, the spotlight will not easily fade.
But right now, it is Cleveland’s handling of Baker Mayfield drawing the most attention.
#Browns are signing FA QB Felix Harper from Alcorn St. He was in minicamp for rookies on a tryout basis. Team currently has 5 QB’s on the roster, including Baker Mayfield (Deshaun Watson, Jacoby Brissett, Josh Dobbs, Mayfield and Harper)
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham9) May 15, 2022
To be fair, the team gets undue grief over the matter, much as they did when facilitating Odell Beckham Jr’s exit.
Losing a popular player like Jarvis Landry won’t help, but the Browns are trying to rebuild the locker room.
Whether that means new workout and rehab facilities or a commitment to improving camaraderie.
Miscellaneous Grade: D
Overall: B- with A+ Potential
Following a season of turmoil with a potential public relations nightmare of a trade shifts priorities.
In exit interviews last season, several key players spoke about a lack of cohesiveness in the locker room.
The end of Covid restrictions brings down the physical barriers and allows the team to improve the facility.
#Browns CB Denzel Ward says Deshaun Watson and Myles Garrett are planning trips for guys to work out together this offseason
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) April 20, 2022
And players say team leaders are already discussing get-togethers and team-bonding experiences.
Improving that team-first and “all-for-one” mentality will focus the Browns on football and deflect criticism.
And that might be enough to turn a “B-” offseason grade into an A+ season for the 2022 Cleveland Browns.