Building the Browns: a look at the 2019 offseason that awaits

General manager John Dorsey aims to complete the build of a playoff team

Daryl Ruiter
February 15, 2019 - 3:21 pm

© Ben Fontana-92.3 The Fan

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The 2019 offseason for the Cleveland Browns officially kicked off when the team signed troubled running back Kareem Hunt on Monday, but the biggest moves have yet to come.

General manager John Dorsey gutted the roster in 2018 and looks to build upon what he put in place in the coming months to position the Browns to be able to end the league’s longest playoff drought in 2019.

Of the 64 players on the current roster, 42 were added by Dorsey – eight draft picks, eight unrestricted free agents, three undrafted free agents, 15 street free agents, three via trade and five waiver claims since he took over as GM in Dec. 2017.  

Here’s a look at what the 2019 offseason entails for the Browns including key dates, needs and available cap space.

Important dates

Feb. 19: First day for teams to designate Franchise or Transition players. The Browns haven’t used the franchise tag since 2012 (Phil Dawson).

Feb. 26-March 4: NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

March 5: Deadline for Franchise or Transition tags to be applied.

March 11-13: Teams can meet with the agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year.

March 13 (4 p.m. eastern): New league year begins. Teams may make trades and sign free agents.

March 24-27: Annual league meeting in Phoenix.

April 1: Offseason workouts begin for teams that have hired a new head coach, including the Browns.

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville.

2019 NFL Draft picks

The Browns have a total of 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft: their own selections in rounds 1-6 - Nos. 17, 49 and 80 in rounds 1-3. The overall numbers on picks in rounds 4-7 will be determined after compensatory selections are awarded in a few weeks.

The Browns also have a third-round pick from New England as a result of the Danny Shelton trade, which will be pick 95, a fifth rounder from Jacksonville for Carlos Hyde, another fifth from New England for Josh Gordon and a seventh from Jacksonville for Cody Kessler. Cleveland’s seventh-round pick went to New Orleans for Devaroe Lawrence and the seventh they received from San Francisco for Shon Coleman went to the Patriots in the Josh Gordon trade.

Salary Cap space

According to figures reported by the NFLPA, the Browns rolled over a league-high $56,581,987 in unused salary cap space from 2018 over to the 2019 league year.

Overthecap.com estimates that the Browns will have approximately $79 million in cap space available based on an NFL cap of $190 million for the 2019 league year. The Browns have approximately $162 million on the books in cap spending for 2019 plus $4.9 million in dead cap the website reports.

The Browns are projected to be among five teams with a surpluss of $70 million or more in salary cap space joining the Raiders ($71.2 million), Bills ($79.1 million), Jets ($95.9 million) and Colts ($109.1 million).

Taking care of their own

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, receiver Breshad Perriman, cornerback E.J. Gaines and left tackle Greg Robinson are the biggest names slated to become unrestricted free agents next month.

Receiver Rashard Higgins and safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun are among three restricted free agents the team has.

Safety Damarious Randall, slated to make just over $9 million in 2019, is in the final year of his rookie contract after the Browns picked up his fifth-year option shortly after trading for him last March and the team would like to get him extended.

Linebacker Joe Schobert, a 2017 Pro Bowler and fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, also enters the final year of his rookie deal that will pay just over $2 million this coming season.

Other decisions Dorsey will need to make regarding extensions for players entering the final years of their rookie deals are on tight end Seth DeValve, receiver Ricardo Louis and safety Derrick Kindred.

Surprise roster move

One could argue the Browns already made it by signing Hunt, but Dorsey has likely only just begun turning heads this offseason.

Don’t be stunned if the Browns decide to move on from linebacker Jamie Collins this offseason. Collins, who is due a $400,000 roster bonus and is scheduled to make $10 million in 2019, has already been paid the $26.4 million in guaranteed money from the four-year, $50 million extension he signed in 2017 and his release would only result in a cap charge of $2.5 million. For as talented as Collins is, inconsistent performances showed why the Patriots decided to trade him to Cleveland in 2016 and if the Browns opt to move on, it should not come as a surprise.

Needs

For the first time in years, starting quarterback is not a priority with 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield taking the reigns of the franchise, however who will back him up needs to be addressed.

Offensively two needs stand out – receiver and the offensive line, primarily what to do at left tackle and depth on the line.

On defense, the Browns have needs at every level. Adding another impact pass rusher – either at defensive tackle or defensive end – is a priority. The linebacker corps needs evaluated and it is highly likely that Dorsey will seek an upgrade or two there, then there is the secondary where there is no such thing as enough cornerbacks.

Let’s make a deal

Dorsey made 14 trades in 2018 that included the acquisitions of Taylor, Randall and receiver Jarvis Landry as well as seven future draft picks and he’ll probably make a few more in 2019.

Building the Browns

Including Hyde, who was traded to the Jaguars in October, Dorsey signed eight key unrestricted free agents in 2018 but his most significant moves came through the draft and trades.  

Expect Dorsey to take a similar path this offseason.