As the Cleveland Browns prepare to face the third-place Cincinnati Bengals, the winless team has some questions that need to be addressed going into the 2017 season.
Depending on whether or not they win a game this season, the Cleveland Browns as a franchise on—and off—the field are a colossal mess.
Whether it is one quarterback after another getting injured, a defense that can stop anyone or an offense that can seemingly score, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed via free agency and the draft.
Below are my five top questions facing the Cleveland Browns going into the 2017-18 season.
Who will be under center at QB? In what seems to the perennial non-stop question and debate amongst fans and the local media, the biggest question that the Browns need to answer is, who will their quarterback in 2017—and beyond.
With 37-year-old veteran journeyman QB Josh McCown likely done, and the injury-prone Robert Griffin III projected to against the Bengals and battered-and-bruised rookie quarterback Cody Kessler slowly easing himself back from a concussion.
RGIII, Kessler, McCown, Mitch Tribusky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Cleveland needs to decide what direction it wants to go in under center—and for once–stick with it.
Defense or Offense First In The 2017 NFL Draft? Thanks to being armed with two first-round picks—most likely in the top ten, thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles recent slump—Cleveland has a chance to address key areas in April.
Needs such as quarterback, edge rusher, defensive tackle, right tackle, defensive back and center can be addressed in the first three rounds—I, and if the Browns are actually smart and play their cards right for once—they can greatly accelerate the rebuild that they are doing.
Prospects such as defensive tackle/end Jonathan Allen, edge rusher Myles Garrett, defensive backs such as Malik Hooker, Sydney Jones, Jamal Adams, Jabrill Peppers, quarterbacks such as Mitch Tribusky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer and offensive lineman such as Cam Robinson should be in the range of Cleveland’s first four picks in rounds one and two.
Any combination of these players would immediately provide the Browns with a much-needed upgrade.
Can They Afford WR Terrelle Pryor and LB Jamie Collins? Armed with more than $50 million in cap space, the Cleveland Browns are in prime position to actually retain some of their talent, and possibly brining in some quality free agents as well.
One year after allowing Pro Bowl center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz leave in free agency for Kansas City and Atlanta respectively, the Browns can ill afford to allow premier talent to leave again in the offseason.
If there has been one pleasant surprise in an otherwise abysmal season, former Ohio State quarterback-turned-wide receiver Terrelle Pryor has emerged into a bonafide playmaker in his first year at the position.
The 6’4 225-pound Pryor leads the Browns in receiving yards (855), targets (113), catches (62), first-down conversions (42) and receiving touchdowns (4), the Browns need to make retaining Pryor their top off-season priority.
If Pryor is their top free agent, then the newly-acquired Pro Bowl linebacker, Jamie Collins is a close second.
Since coming over mid-season from the AFC-leading New England Patriots, Collins is among the team leaders in total tackles (34), and has provided the type of talent and pass coverage that former first-round pick Barkevious Mingo—now with New England—never did in his four years in Cleveland.
An unrestricted free agent, Collins can leave Cleveland, who can offer him the type of payday that he wants.
Is Cody Kessler The Answer at QB? If any question, that will determine the Browns direction in 2017, that needs to be answered is, is Cody Kessler the answer for the Browns at QB? In case none of you know this about me, but I’ve been on the Kessler bandwagon since day one in feeling that he needs to be given a fair shot to develop, before the Browns decide to move on from him.
Unfortunately, his human turnstile of an offensive line has not helped in giving the front office a chance to evaluate him properly, as he has been battered, beaten and concussed.
While some frown upon his size (6’1) and lack of quality arm strength, Kessler has displayed an uncanny ability for accurately throwing the ball, as he has completed 65.6 of his passes, and leads all Browns QB’s in attempts (192), completions (126), passing yards (1,369) and is tired with the aforementioned McCown in touchdown passes with six.
I feel that RG3 starting this coming Sunday over Kessler, sends a bad message as an organization in terms of developing quarterbacks and a lack of confidence in the former USC standout as a whole.
How Will The Lines Be Addressed? Draft, Free Agency or Both? Thanks to being porous on defense in stopping the run and pass and their inability to protect their quarterbacks this season, the Browns, in my opinion, need to address the offensive and defensive lines first, before addressing quarterback.
Playing in the rugged and physical AFC North, Cleveland needs pass rushers, secondary help and run stoppers to stop the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco at QB, talented WR’s such as Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and A.J. Green, running backs such as LeVeon Bell, Jeremy Hill and Terrance West.
On the opposite side of the ball, they need quality offensive linemen to handle the likes of Terrell Suggs, Vontaze Burfict, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison, if their quarterback has any chance of succeeding.
Armed with more than 50 million in cap space and five picks in the first three rounds, Cleveland has a chance thru a combination of shrewd free agency moves and solid drafting to fill a lot of holes relatively quickly and take steps to becoming competitive and relevant sooner than later.
Names such as Cleveland-born North Carolina QB Mitch Tribusky, Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett, Alabama defensive end/tackle Jonathan Allen and offensive tackle Cam Robinson have already been linked to Cleveland in various mock drafts.
If Cleveland is serious about turning things around, they need to answer the above questions in April to get the answers they deserve.