Andrew Berry loves his big bargain, one-year player contracts.
But once again, those short-term deals leave the Cleveland Browns with a lot of off-season decisions.
Over 20 free agents are set to leave the Greater Cleveland Area if Berry doesn’t re-sign them soon.
And there are a few others at risk of falling victim to salary cap concerns.
The new league year begins one month from today
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 16, 2022
Berry also has several players wrapping up their deals in 2022 who would like to talk extension.
But we’ll leave them out of this conversation to focus on this year’s roster cuts, free agents, and positions of concern.
Because the Browns have enough big decisions to make about 2022 without worrying about 2023.
Here’s what I think are the 3 most difficult 2022 roster decisions for the Cleveland Browns.
1. Does Cleveland Need To Change Quarterbacks?
Baker Mayfield‘s fourth season should have determined if he is franchise quarterback material or another draft miss.
But his own multiple injuries, a depleted wide receiver corps, and guards playing tackle tilted the playing field.
Mayfield deserves another shot at redeeming himself, even if the injuries don’t explain all his deficiencies.
But there is another matter worth exploring, and that is the condition of the locker room and Mayfield’s role in it.
#Browns Baker Mayfield’s career PFF grades: pic.twitter.com/7aCoHvXy8k
— Browns Analytics Bot 🤖 ➐ (@Browns_Bot) February 21, 2022
Jarvis Landry‘s thinly veiled shots at Mayfield this week amplify concern about a fractured locker room.
How much does Baker Mayfield contribute to any residual tension among teammates, or is this just Landry and OBJ?
If it is bigger, Cleveland might decide losing Mayfield is easier than releasing multiple other players.
And that might save Case Keenum‘s job as he helps another passer learn Kevin Stefanski’s verbiage and style.
2. Austin Hooper Versus David Njoku
Cleveland’s tight end room should stack up against any team in the NFL.
But none of their numbers jump off a stat sheet, and Austin Hooper’s stats were just awful in 2021.
Did Hooper forget how to catch a football this year?
Probably not, and if the Browns do make a change at quarterback, Hooper might bounce back to his All-Pro form.
You can only choose one, who is it? #Browns
Like ~ Hooper
RT ~ Njoku pic.twitter.com/Ne4ZGDFUD3
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) March 3, 2021
David Njoku wants to re-sign, but he will get offers from other teams that might be too much for Berry to match.
Unless he unloads Austin Hooper after June 1st to the tune of a $9.5 million savings.
Tight ends who can pass and block are great commodities, and Berry would love to have Njoku and Hooper.
Harrison Bryant is no slouch, but Berry faces a tough decision about his pair of 2021 starters.
3. Tackling The Offensive Line’s Woes
Pro Football Focus gave the Browns’ offensive line another top-10 ranking for the 2021 season.
But PFF does not reflect the number of big-play breakdowns, specifically sacks on third- or fourth downs.
This happens when you have a backup guard and a guy with one good ankle starting outside.
Injuries to the Browns’ top 3 tackles created a crisis along the offensive line, and depth will be addressed- but how?
Joel Bitonio at left tackle, Blake Hance at right tackle in warmups. Michael Dunn at guard.
— Dan Labbe (@dan_labbe) December 25, 2021
Jack Conklin might be back by September, and Jedrick Wills‘ ankle should have time to heal properly.
Chris Hubbard is a free agent, and if he is healthy, he is in line for a raise from somebody.
Berry can move Wills to the right side and go after one of the prime left tackles in free agency.
Or will he try to draft a stud lineman who can give the other young hopefuls more time to develop?
And then there is…
You are probably wondering about the dearth of wide receivers and defensive linemen?
Well, the article is about the most difficult decisions, not the Browns’ most obvious or biggest issues.
Berry has literally hundreds of wide receivers available via trade, free agency, and the draft to fill his receiver room.
My hope is to see Brandin Cooks and Christian Kirk with a new 2nd rounder, DPJ, and Anthony Schwartz.
Probably should block Jadeveon Clowney
— PFF (@PFF) September 12, 2021
That’s a fire sale trade target from Houston, a free agent, and a draft pick joining 2 guys with potential.
Berry should try to keep D’Ernest Johnson in the fold as insurance and Kareem Hunt‘s 2023 replacement.
And of course, Berry has to rebuild the defensive front 7 around Myles Garrett and JOK.
Re-signing Jadeveon Clowney would be a fine start, but Berry could surprise and go defense at pick 13.
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