Kevin Stefanski said "We go back to square one in 2021,”...and that is a great way to approach it...but for the first time in seems like forever, it is not actually true.
The Browns will finally be able to BUILD off of something, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
As of right now, the Browns Offense will be returning all but possibly 2 key players...Higgins is a FA (although AB and KS say they want him back), the ever present rumors that say the Browns can't support both Landry's and OBJ's contracts (again, denied by AB/KS), and finally Njoku is rumored to be on the trading block (although AB and KS say he is a key part going forward).
While I like Njoku, he really was option 3 at TE and was not KEY in my mind. I truly believe that Landry is totally 100% safe, and moving OBJ is more theory than reality...fun to talk about, but not likely. Higgins is really the ONLY KEY PIECE of the offense that stands a real chance of NOT being here.
What that means is basically the ENTIRE OFFENSE will already be up to speed on the offensive scheme. They will already have muscle memory on the plays. They will already be accustomed to Baker Mayfield and his cadence, as well as his tendencies. They will, from day 1, be a far more prepared squad than the offense we put on the field even at the end of last year.
Then there is Baker. He will, for the first time in his career, have the same HC, same OC, same scheme, and same supporting cast. He will not be required to learn new terminology, new plays, or new faces. He will simply be able to work on himself and the existing chemistry with the players he already knows. This is HUGE for an offense that relies heavily on timing and precision like ours.
On defense, there are likely to be a few changes. But not as much as some are assuming.
On the DL, we already know OV will be gone, as will Clayborn and likely Ogunjobi. With that said, OV was never the type of bookend Garrett needed. He had sacks in only 5 games last year, and more than a single qB hit in the same number (5). Clayborn was a complete disappointment and was rated one of the worst run defenders in the league. Ogunjobi also rated out as a measly 53.0 per PFF. Not exactly the cream of our defensive line. In comparison, Porter Gustin rated 61.3 in limited action. Another year and more time and he may very well be a big contributor. Keep in mind we will also be returning Billings at DT.
The linebacker group will likely lose Goodson...but the core of the LB group will be back, and Phillips will be in year 2 after showing promise in limited play.
The secondary will return Ward, we will get Greedy Williams and Delpit back, as well as Harrison and Redwine. Don't sleep on MJ Stewart who did well late in the season, including the playoffs. Those guys are the core and they will all be back. Sure we lose Sendejo (anyone crying?) and Joseph (again, anyone???), an aging Mitchell and Kevin Johnson...but the only true contributor out of that group was Mitchell.
Show me the KEY players outside of Mitchell and OV that are leaving.
The Browns are already younger, faster, and more prepared than they were last year...and that is before FA and the draft.
With that said, I do NOT anticipate them going after more than 1 or 2 guys max that are over 27. Most likely a veteran DE or DT, but not a CB/S/LB. The youth that is returning predicates that.
Continuity? Yes, it is VERY important...and AB/KS know it. That is why I think you will see them try to keep as many as possible (maybe even Higgins/Mitchell).
So no, KS, we are NOT going back to square 1. We may revisit it for redundancy sake, but we are miles ahead of the team at this point going into the 2020 season.