This will be a busy offseason for Cleveland Browns General Manager Andrew Berry.
Following a disappointing 8-9 season, it isn’t quite back to the drawing board completely.
However, there are roster questions that need addressed.
There are a handful of unrestricted free agents looking for their next contract.
Plus, the NFL Draft will once again allow Berry to work some draft-day magic.
Before that all starts, the front office must first identify the true core of this team and go from there.
Let’s dive into who the core of the Browns will be for the coming years.
1. Nick Chubb
Offensively this conversation starts with Nick Chubb. In a year where quarterback play in Cleveland suffered, Chubb remained his usual self. The only complaints regarding him this season were about the lack of touches he saw in certain games this season.
Of course, that’s not really a complaint about him, rather, the play-calling.
Peyton speaking for.. EVERY HUMAN WATCHING 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/RKiKOeMt9n
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 4, 2022
A monster year from Jonathan Taylor of the Colts netted him a spot at the top of this year’s running back rankings.
However, at 1229 yards on 228 attempts, Chubb finished second in total rushing yards this season.
That means in each of his four NFL seasons, Chubb has placed top-ten in total rushing yards.
That kind of consistent dominance from the running back position is hard to come by today.
So many guys become flashes in the pan even when on top, such as LeVeon Bell and Todd Gurley.
Pro Football Focus slotted Chubb as the fourth-highest graded Cleveland player this season.
Highest-graded #Browns in the 2021 season (min. 425 snaps):
1️⃣ Joel Bitonio, OG- 93.6
2️⃣ Myles Garrett, EDGE- 92.0
3️⃣ Wyatt Teller, OG- 84.4
4️⃣ Nick Chubb, RB- 81.7
5️⃣ J.C. Tretter, C- 79.4 pic.twitter.com/XgS3x9XTVC
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) January 11, 2022
Maintaining a solid running game will be crucial for the hopeful revival of Baker Mayfield.
But even subpar QB play can be disguised (sort of) by an incredible running game.
If Chubb remains a Brown, Cleveland will have just that.
Another non-surprise here, Myles Garrett is absolutely a key piece for the Browns moving forward.
If there’s one thing franchises need more than good quarterback play or a solid running game, it’s having a consistent pass rush.
The sheer presence of Garrett on the field is enough to have opposing offensive lines adjusting their gameplan.
This Twitter thread on Garrett explains why PFF ranks him as a better pass-rusher than TJ Watt.
Despite less sacks for Garrett, Myles’ impact on the field remains on a level of its own.
TJ Watt tied the sack record, & missed time doing it.
So why does PFF have Myles Garrett with a better PFF grade, & on 1st team All-Pro over him?
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) January 11, 2022
As stated before, PFF is not the end-all-be-all of football discussions.
Many disregard their rankings entirely. However, watching a handful of defensive possessions for Cleveland will tell you all you need to know about Garrett.
He’s an imposing physical beast that gives outstanding effort on every snap.
He also had the highest pass-rush win-rate from the edge position this season.
2021 Pass Rush Win Rate leaders
At edge: Myles Garrett
At defensive tackle: Aaron Donald
Overall, regardless of where lined up: Micah Parsons
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 10, 2022
The saying goes “defense wins championships”.
Keeping Garrett as a core piece for the future is a good way to try and make that Super Bowl run.
Add a shutdown corner to the list of priorities for front offices. Wide receivers are shifty as ever.
Plus, if someone is getting flagged on a throw into the secondary, it’s usually on the defender.
Great defenses need one, if not two, guys who can match up with those types of receivers.
Denzel Ward is that guy in Cleveland, with Greg Newsome II emerging alongside him as well.
The #Browns CB room has a bright future. ✨
🔹60.3% 78 76.6 10 9.3
🔸55.6% 63 73.8 9 12.1
🔺59.6% 57 77.0 9 10.1
— The Hottest Take (@Hottest_TakePod) January 7, 2022
The guys throwing the football to these receivers aren’t too bad either.
Corners need to be able to stick to guys in man-to-man.
Ward provides that ability at a high level.
— PFF (@PFF) January 12, 2022
Ward becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Reports indicate the low-end of a new deal would be in the range of $19-million per season.
Still, Berry and the front office seem to be big fans of the cornerback.
That’s a good sign towards an extension getting done this summer.
#Browns GM Andrew Berry on Denzel Ward's season/future: "Denzel put together a fine year. He made a number of really big plays for us at critical moments. He put together a really strong season for us so we're pleased with that."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) January 11, 2022
These three have a chance to be a part of something special in Cleveland for years to come.
Putting this year in the past, but learning from it, will be the best way for this group to move forward.