5 priorities for John Dorsey's offseason: Browns Monday takeaways
By Dan Labbe, cleveland.com | Posted February 04, 2019 at 10:29 AM | Updated February 04, 2019 at 10:36 AM
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Super Bowl is over. That means the offseason is officially upon us.
The Browns are finally not the center of the NFL Draft universe. That’s a good thing. They still have plenty of picks, though. They also have a bunch of money to spend.
Expectations are high for 2019 and, while winning the offseason is often fool’s gold, having a strong offseason can set a team up for a strong regular season.
GM John Dorsey got his quarterback last year in Baker Mayfield. Here are five priorities for Dorsey this offseason.
1. Joe Schobert followed up his Pro Bowl season by getting better in 2018.
One of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ and former linebackers coach Blake Williams’ best moves here was looking at Schobert, an outside linebacker throughout college and during his rookie season, and deciding he’s a MIKE.
Schobert should have made the Pro Bowl this year, too. He was better this year than last year. He still made a ton of tackles. He also made impact plays all over the field. He was getting into the backfield. He was forcing turnovers. He was strong in coverage. He quarterbacked the Browns’ defense. And you noticed when he was out with that hamstring injury.
Schobert is a former fourth-round pick who has had to prove himself at every level and he’s proven that he deserves a new contract.
2. Extend Damarious Randall
The Browns traded for Randall last offseason and picked up his fifth-year option. Trading for a player at the tail end of a rookie contract and making a decision on his long-term future after getting a look at him is textbook in modern NFL team-building.
The Browns moved Randall to his natural position and he immediately became a key piece in changing the culture. He's shown himself to be a piece of the future.
3. Find the future at left tackle
The interior of the line is in great shape. Chris Hubbard got better as the season moved along on the right side. Who could have guessed that Greg Robinson is what the line needed on the left side to really stabilize?
Robinson, a former No. 2 overall pick, was a late signing and missed a chunk of training camp after suffering a concussion. The entire left tackle situation was handled poorly leading up to the season, with Joel Bitonio getting moved to left tackle days after former offensive line coach Bob Wylie declared him “Plan Z.” That changed less than a week before the opener when undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison took over.
Robinson is a free agent. The Browns would be wise to bring back the 26-year-old and see if he has turned his career around. They would also be wise to bring in competition, either via the draft or with an affordable free agent.
4. I’ll just keep harping on this point. Make the pass rush better.
Give Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi help.
The Browns were never able to get a consistent pass rush opposite of Garrett. Emmanuel Ogbah, who injured his ankle early in the season, was unable to deliver the 1-2 punch the Browns were hoping for. This is an important year for him.
There are multiple ways to attack this. Adding Chris Smith in free agency last year was big. He was the team’s best part-time pass rusher. Trying to find another player like Smith will help.
This is also an area worth investing some of that draft capital.
Then there's simply player development. Chad Thomas was inactive for the week’s final eight games. That can’t happen again in 2019. Can you get something out of Anthony Zettel or Brian Price?
However, you do it, find pass rushers.
5. Keep building the wide receiver room
The Browns have the pieces in place to continue building an effective wide receiving corps around Mayfield. The Browns don’t have to sign a big-name free agent or use their first-round pick on a receiver, but it wouldn’t hurt to make an investment in the position.
You have an effective slot receiver in Jarvis Landry. If they bring back Rashard Higgins -- and they should -- they keep a reliable target for Mayfield. Antonio Callaway is a work in progress, but the talent is there. Breshad Perriman is that speedy deep threat, but the sample size isn’t very big.
This is the time to take some chances. The Chiefs had weapons everywhere but still signed Sammy Watkins. The Rams traded a first-round pick for Brandin Cooks. The Patriots traded for Josh Gordon.
Adding difference makers at wide receiver is never a bad thing.