Browns Quietly Put Together Impressive 2023 Offseason

Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry fields questions from local media about Deshaun Watson during a press conference at the NFL team's training facility in Berea on Thursday.Watsonsuspension 6
Cleveland Browns GM Andrew Berry fields questions from local media about Deshaun Watson during a press conference at the NFL team's training facility in Berea on Thursday.Watsonsuspension 6 /

The Cleveland Browns sent shockwaves around the NFL last offseason when the franchise traded a slew of high-end draft picks to Houston for the polarizing quarterback Deshaun Watson. Regardless of any personal feelings toward Watson, it was a lofty investment, especially factoring in his fully guaranteed deal worth $230 million.

Deshaun Watson Trade Changed Course Of Franchise

The blockbuster trade left general manager Andrew Berry without any premium draft picks in 2022 and 2023. The good news? Berry made great use of the remaining picks and the cap space afforded to his roster following Watson’s monstrous signing bonus.

The best move last offseason came when Berry sent two late picks to Dallas in return for Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper. The savvy general manager snagged instant contributors Martin Emerson, Alex Wright, and Cade York at the 2022 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, with the team’s new starting quarterback facing an 11-game suspension, the Browns witnessed a rocky 2022 season. Veteran journeyman Jacoby Brissett performed admirably as a placeholder, but Cleveland sat at 4-7 heading into Week 13.

Watson assumed the top spot on the depth chart for the remainder of the season. Although the former Clemson Tiger looked lost at times, the Browns split their final six games with Watson at the helm. Given how disjointed the year was in Cleveland, a 7-10 record provides heaps of optimism heading into the 2023 campaign.

Browns Quietly Put Together Impressive 2023 Offseason

Somehow, Berry found a way to one-up his previous offseason. The most glaring hole on the roster was the defensive line: emphasis on the was! Dalvin Tomlinson inked a four-year, $57 million deal with the Browns in March, but he wasn’t the only former Viking headed to Ohio…

Star pass rusher Za’Darius Smith requested a trade from the Vikings, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah obliged. The Browns swapped a couple of Day 3 picks in future drafts in exchange for the gifted defender. Smith brings 50+ career sacks to a unit that tied for the fifth-fewest in the league in 2022.

The Browns continued the overhaul upfront at the 2023 NFL Draft. They stole Siaki Ika and Isaiah McGuire in the middle of the event, and both should compete for snaps in training camp. Along with a re-fortified front line, Cleveland also added safety Juan Thornhill via free agency to shore up the back half of the defense.

The defensive trenches underwent a facelift, but the same is true for the other side of the football. The Browns drafted two in-state products on Day 3 with gargantuan offensive tackle Dawand Jones and veteran center Luke Wypler. The former Buckeyes’ came off the board significantly later than expected, allowing Cleveland to benefit. Jones needs to stay locked in, and Wypler could get stronger, but each guy has a chance to start one day.

The Browns drafted a big-body receiver in the third round when they selected Cedric Tillman out of Tennessee. He is a go-up-and-get-it type of pass catcher. Aside from the draft, Cleveland added Elijah Moore in a pick-swap with the Jets. Moore suffered from inconsistent quarterback play in New York but showed flashes of brilliance earlier in his career.

Browns: Time To Put Up Or Shut Up

The roster lost some key members in safety John Johnson, running back Kareem Hunt, and defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney. However, the trio underwhelmed in 2022, and the moves made since their departures place Cleveland in a better spot moving forward.

Now, it all falls on head coach Kevin Stefanski and franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. The talent is there for a playoff run in 2023; the excuses are no more. With a full offseason under his belt, Watson must earn that quarter of a billion dollars… or face the wrath of Browns’ fans everywhere.