Landry loss to Chiefs

What next for the Cleveland Browns: Key offseason moves to make after playoff loss

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  • Browns suffer a close defeat against the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round
  • First year Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has the Browns trending in the right direction
  • Cleveland expected to have just under $40 million in cap space

Kevin Stefanski surpassed all expectations in his first year at the helm of the Cleveland Browns franchise, achieving a respectable place in the AFC Divisional Round before just coming up short against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Cleveland Browns made huge progress over the course of the 2020 season and will look to continue this development by having a strong offseason in preparation for 2021.  

But how exactly do the Cleveland Browns achieve this and what actually are their needs moving forward?

Cleveland Browns in 2020

Before assessing the Cleveland Browns’ approach heading into the 2021 off-season, it is important to analyse what went right and wrong this season for them and what areas of their game they can carry into next season. 

One of the big successes this season for the Browns was Stefanski’s scheme and play-calling. Stefanski largely ran a ‘Shanahan-style’ scheme, using the running ability of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to set up an effective play-action game, with Baker Mayfield rediscovering his form under centre.


Mayfield found his confidence grow and rebuild over the course of the season after a difficult time under previous coach, Freddie Kitchens. His passing accuracy improved and his tendency to scramble and escape out of the pocket noticeably decreased as he built a strong rapport behind the best-offensive line in the NFL (per PFF). 

Cleveland also arguably had the best running back tandem in the league with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield. Together they accumulated more than 1900 rushing yards and their ability to pound the ball down the opposition’s throat on a consistent basis was an instrumental factor in the success of the Browns passing game. Their ability to run inside zones and outside zones to such effect kept opposing defences honest enabling Mayfield to thrive in the passing game. 

Delving deeper into the promise shown by the Cleveland Browns offense this season, the turnaround made by the offensive-line cannot go unmentioned. 2019 was a season to forget for the offensive line. Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter were their only two shining lights, showing any kind of promise on the inside. However Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry made it an immediate priority to fix the line and that they did. 

They wasted no time bringing in former Titans right tackle Jack Conklin via free agency and drafting left tackle Jedrick Wills with the 10th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Both were exceptional in their roles of keeping Mayfield largely safe from any duress on the edge and the strides made by right guard Wyatt Teller under the guidance of experienced offensive-line coach, Bill Callahan, made the Browns into one of the most dominant offensive units in the league. 

On the defensive side of the ball however is where the Cleveland Browns really struggled. Their pass-rush and ability to stop the run was effective as always but their issues instead emanated from one the most crucial facets of the modern game. Coverage. Their inability to cover effectively (besides Denzel Ward) was exploited time and time again leaving them with a defence that conceded more than 30 points in nearly half of their games this season. 


Injuries to cornerback Greedy Williams and rookie safety Grant Delpit out of LSU didn’t exactly help the cause but Stefanski and Berry will know that they have to invest heavily in the coverage area of the game if the Browns are to improve upon what they achieved in 2020. This also means not neglecting the area we have come to know as ‘between the numbers’ where the Browns felt the loss of linebacker Joe Schobert after his move to Jacksonville last year. 

Browns free agency priorities

Priorities will lay on the defensive side of the ball for the Browns. However, a number of quality wide receivers are expected to hit the open market, and with money to spend, the Browns will almost certainly show an interest in acquiring solid talent in the form of Corey Davis or Curtis Samuel. Both are considered strong number two wide-receivers and would certainly add fire-power to the offense. 

When healthy, the Browns have a solid core of pass-catchers in the form of Odell Beckham. Jr, Jarvis Landry and rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones, who impressed this year, but adding another piece of talent would really serve to establish this core of players as one of the best in the league. 

The Browns will however be wary of the current cap situation. The NFL salary cap is expected to take a significant drop in 2021 by around $25 million, meaning they will more than likely stay away from any significant deals. Instead, they will turn their attentions to ‘in-house’ matters and carefully consider the extensions they will have to offer to players on the defence. 

This includes significant players on the defensive line such as Olivier Vernon and Larry Ogunjobi and safety Karl Joseph. Speculation on whether the Browns will be interested in extending an ageing Vernon to another big deal have circulated in the NFL world of late and with less than impressive production in his time at Cleveland, it’s not hard to see why they would be hesitant to re-sign him. 

Ogunjobi and Joseph however are a different story. Both have time on their side and still have room to make significant progress in their careers. Expect to see Cleveland not waste any time in re-signing both of these players sooner rather than later. 

What to expect in the 2021 NFL Draft?

With defeat to the Chiefs in this year’s Divisional round, the Browns will pick at number 26 of the 2021 NFL Draft. Picking late will surely put them out of contention of acquiring the services of highly-touted cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Caleb Farley. The Browns front office may-opt instead for one of the other top coverage talents in this year’s draft. Both Jaycee Horn and Shaun Wade will more than likely be in play towards the end of the first round and expect to see the Browns linked to both. 

It is far too early in the off-season to examine a plethora of College prospects and how they would be ideal fits for the the Browns. The moves they make within the Free Agency market and the contract extensions they offer to players currently on their roster will significantly inform the decisions they make in this year’s draft. With that being said, watch for Cleveland to make a big investment on the defensive side of the ball in numerous rounds. On a final note a pick that would not surprise me, is Miami’s Gregory Rousseau, who could potentially become the ideal replacement for Oliver Vernon playing opposite to Myles Garrett. 

Room for optimism?

In a word. Yes. The Cleveland Browns are a rejuvenated franchise with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski directing the ship. The success they achieved in their first year in Cleveland should not be taken for granted given the franchise’s struggles only a season prior. The Browns have a young roster, full of game-changing talent and finally a forward-thinking front office. Expect them to be competing in the NFL for many years to come. 

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