The Cleveland Browns had a really tough 2012 season. They battled through some nagging injuries throughout the year, as well as the inconsistencies of their young players to get the 6th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and this fan base is just tired of waiting for their team to put something together.
Trent Richardson and Joe Haden are two of the cornerstones of the youth of this franchise, and other young players like Josh Gordon and Jabaal Sheard have shown that they can be big pieces moving forward as well.
New head coach Rob Chudzinski put together a great staff, including hiring offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensvie coordinator Ray Horton. The Browns will move to a 3-4 defensive alignment, and they already have some big pieces to making that move smooth.
Here are the Browns’ top needs, in no particular order.
1. Rush Linebacker
Like I said before, Jabaal Sheard is going to be one of the key young players for this team moving forward, but they need some more pass rush off the edge. The outside linebacker position is a legitimate option for the Browns’ first round pick, where they will basically have their pick from a lot of really talented prospects, including Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo, and some others.
**Signed OLB Paul Kruger (Ravens)**
Terribly sorry, Brandon Weeden fans. Consider me not sold on this guy moving forward. I really hope he proves me wrong, but I don’t see upside in Weeden for the Browns in the future. He’s going to be 30 years old before he develops into a solid NFL starter unless he progresses faster than I think he will this offseason. Norv Turner does a great job with quarterbacks, so he has that going for him, but the new regime in Cleveland will probably want “their guy.”
Sheldon Brown is an unrestricted free agent, and if he leaves, the Browns will definitely need a starter opposite Joe Haden. Trevin Wade and Buster Skrine are some nice young pieces, Skrine specifically, but I think they are more suited to be backup players or nickel/dime backs. The Browns will have an opportunity to get one of the top CBs in this year’s draft, or potentially look to a deep crop of free agents for a new starter.
4. Inside Linebacker
Moving to a 3-4 scheme, the Browns will need some more linebackers. D’Qwell Jackson is the only holdover that I think will have locked down a spot in the starting lineup at the LB position. This should be a priority position for the Browns.
5. Receiver/Return Specialist
Will Josh Cribbs be back next season? I’m not so sure. I think Cribbs will bolt to a team like the Patriots who also have a need for a guy with his abilities. I think the Browns could still use some more depth at receiver anyway, but adding a guy who can return punts and kicks will be a must if Cribbs leaves.
6. Offensive Guard Depth
Jason Pinkston went down with a season ending injury, but John Greco stepped in his place and played well. I think Greco and Pinkston will go into the season as the top two guards for the Browns, but Shaun Lauvao is not a great player at the RG position. The Browns could look to upgrade their depth situation on the offensive line as well as look for a potential starter to challenge their young guys if they don’t feel like Pinkston is healing properly from his injury.
7. Defensive Line
**Signed DL Desmond Bryant (Raiders)**