The Cleveland Browns had a busy week of free agent signings.
It may not have been as headline-grabbing as what the Patriots did, but overall it is being called a success by several sources.
The only AFC North team that's meaningfully improved in free agency is the Cleveland Browns. pic.twitter.com/x1Gc0btwMd
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) March 21, 2021
Here is a recap of the free agent additions and subtractions from the 2020 roster.
Free Agent Additions
- John Johnson III, safety (Los Angeles Rams)
- Tak McKinley, defensive end (Las Vegas Raiders)
- Troy Hill, corner back (Los Angeles Rams)
- Anthony Walker, linebacker (Indianapolis Colts)
- Malik Jackson, defensive tackle (Philadelphia Eagles)
- Rashard Higgins, wide receiver (Cleveland Browns)
- Jojo Natson, wide receiver (Cleveland Browns)
- Malcolm Smith, linebacker (Cleveland Browns)
- Cody Parkey, kicker (Cleveland Browns)
- KhaDarel Hodge, wide receiver (Cleveland Browns, RFA tender)
Free Agent Subtractions
- Terrence Mitchell, cornerback (Houston Texans)
- Kevin Johnson, cornerback (Tennessee Titans)
- Tavierre Thomas, cornerback (Houston Texans)
- Larry Ogunjobi, defensive tackle (Cincinnati Bengals)
- Vincent Taylor, defensive tackle (Houston Texans)
- Kendall Lamm, offensive tackle (Tennessee Titans)
- Adrian Clayborn, defensive end (free agent)
- Andrew Sendejo, safety (free agent)
Defense Was The Priority In Free Agency
Everyone knew this would be the case so the Browns did not disappoint here.
GM Andrew Berry, who keeps everything close to the cuff, told us as much after the playoff loss to the Chiefs.
#Browns GM Andrew Berry: "I think it's a fair observation to say that the resources this past offseason were primarily to the offense…we can have improvement anywhere. Obviously, we think we can boost the defense"
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) January 20, 2021
The John Johnson III signing from the Los Angeles Rams is described by PFF as one that “may be the best single signing any team has made” in 2021.
Browns, S John Johnson III agree to three-year, $33.75 million deal. (via @MikeGarafolo) pic.twitter.com/oRuUMis6wp
— NFL (@NFL) March 15, 2021
PFF gave the Browns an overall rating of excellent.
Not only did they like the JJ3 signing, but PFF also commented on the Browns signing away another key member of the Rams secondary in Troy Hill.
“Cleveland’s secondary was ugly in 2020, and signing 40% of the best secondary in football, the Los Angeles Rams, is a good attempt to address those woes.”
Signing another former first rounder in Takk McKinley to help Myles Garrett is also a big boost for the 2021 roster.
Even the players that were re-signed garnered high reviews from PFF as well as the free agents the Browns let go.
On the latter PFF said:
“Even the subtractions seem to be shrewd moves, moving on from edge rusher Adrian Clayborn — who has been a consistently solid defensive lineman in the NFL — as he comes off his lowest-graded season since 2012.”
It was not as splashy as the signings of Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin, or Case Keenum last offseason, but by all accounts GM Andrew Berry did an excellent job yet again.
What The Browns Gained Without Breaking The Bank
On paper, the defense has improved in 2021.
As always, there are question marks and more potential additions because free agency is an ongoing process.
The Browns continue to be in a solid financial position so no one knows what Berry’s future plans are.
In addition to free agency, Berry has to consider the upcoming NFL Draft as well as negotiating Nick Chubb‘s contract extension and dealing with 2018 first-rounders Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward‘s fifth year options.
All are priorities as the Browns move through the offseason.
For all of the reasons listed above, the overall grade for the Browns after nearly a week of free agency is an A.
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