CLEVELAND, OH — With the 2021 NFL Draft roughly a month and a half away here in Cleveland, could the host Browns be sending some mixed signals?
Cleveland, who finished the 2020 season on the road in defeat to the Super Bowl runner-up Kansas City Chiefs, have been one of the most aggressive teams in the early round of free agency in signing former Los Angeles Rams defensive backs in CB Troy Hill (four years, $24 million), John Johnson III (three years, $33.75 million) and former Atlanta Falcons first-round pick, Takk McKinley ( one year, $4.25 million) in an effort to address holes in the secondary and at edge rush opposite Myles Garrett.
So, what do these early signings mean for the Browns? With DB and DE addressed in free agency, does this mean that Cleveland could possibly stand pat at No.26 and hope that the best player available such as Alabama DT Christian Barmore or Tulsa LB Zaven Collins falls to them, or do they possible trade up and hope to grab arguably the top LB in the draft in Penn State’s Micah Parsons?
The lack of a true ILB hurt the Browns in both the run and passing game, and while Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki and Jacob Phillips played admirably, Cleveland just doesn’t have “that guy” who can quarterback a defense.
This is not an attack at all, but the Browns need their version of Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis to help hold things down in defense.
Personally, if one were to read the tea leaves, Cleveland has a short two to three-year window to win the Super Bowl, as well as key players entering their prime in QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, DE Myles Garrett and CB Denzel Ward. With the signings of Hill, Johnson and McKinley, it is clear that Cleveland is in a win-now mode. With Ben Roethlisberger now in the twlight of his future HOF career down in Pittsburgh, questions about former NFL MVP QB Lamar Jackson and his ability to win in the post-season down in Baltimore, and second-year top overall pick in Joe Burrow coming back from season-ending ACL surgery, the time for the Browns to make a move in the AFC North is now.
If I were to guess, if Parsons is still on the board–or were to slide down to them at No.26, as noted recently by some draft experts due to being raw in coverage and sitting out a year up in Happy Valley, then the Browns should literally rush the podium and hand in the card with his name on it. If hes gone earlier than expected, I expect Cleveland to target either Barmore–who at 6’5 and 310–is a monster vs. the run and can generate QB pressure from the A-gap, while also being a solid replacement for the now-departed Larry Ogunjobi.
Whatever comes to pass in a few weeks here in Cleveland, for once the Browns are picking towards the end of the draft, instead of worrying about who to take at No.1 overall, or what position to take.For once, it feels good to us Browns fans to know that we can actually sit back and enjoy watching other team’s go thru all the draft-day drama that Cleveland football fans have had to suffer through for years on end.
Parsons, Barmore and Collins could all be the missing piece to the resurgent Browns. And for once, it’s good to know that Cleveland is finally in a position to witness real football again.