By Will Price, ’18
Coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history, many figured the only place the Cleveland Browns could go was up.
With the moves the Browns made this offseason, some already have pegged them as a possible playoff contender in 2018.
The Browns acquired Pro Bowl players Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor as well as Carlos Hyde and Damarious Randall, among others.
The Browns, coming off the second 0-16 season in NFL season, made a flurry of trades as the new league year began in March. The results were satisfying for Browns fans desperate for progress for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002.
Landry, a fifth-year player coming from the Miami Dolphins, cost Cleveland a fourth round pick this year and a seventh next year. The move lands Cleveland a marquee playmaker to pair with Josh Gordon. Landry led the league in receptions in 2017 with 112. He’s made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons, and can help rejuvenate an offense that finished 22nd in passing last season.
Taylor has some experience ending playoff droughts, as he led the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 last year. Cleveland gave up the 65th selection in this year’s draft for the eighth year quarterback. Taylor finished 16th in the league in Passing Rating last season, a healthy upgrade from Deshone Kizer, who finished last among qualified quarterbacks. For his talent, Taylor has a rather affordable deal for Cleveland as well, as he’s only owed $10 million next season before becoming a free agent.
Hyde should be a familiar name for Ohio State fans, playing for the Buckeyes from 2010-2013. After being selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, he’s had an up-and-down career for the San Francisco 49ers, but 2017 was the first season he played all 16 games. He also ran for 938 yards and signed for Cleveland on a three year, $15 million contract that sets him up to play in a backfield alongside Taylor and Duke Johnson.
On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland adds Randall from the Green Bay Packers to their secondary. Cleveland received Randall in exchange for Kizer, as well as swapping 4th and 5th round picks in this year’s draft. Randall was a first round pick in 2015, but struggled with injuries and playing time the past two seasons following a promising rookie campaign, The decision to part with Kizer gives both sides a fresh start after a tough year for the Notre Dame graduate.
However, Cleveland departed with a decent amount of talent outside of Kizer. Tackle Joe Thomas, one of the most decorated lineman in NFL history and a future Hall of Famer, decided to retire following 11 seasons in Cleveland. Thomas tore his bicep on October 22nd against the Tennessee Titans, ending an incredible streak of 10,363 consecutive snaps that started during week one of his rookie season. Thomas cited injuries as the main reason for his retirement.
Outside of his retirement, running back Isaiah Crowell signed with the New York Jets this offseason. The Browns traded defensive lineman Danny Shelton and cornerback Jason McCourty to the New England Patriots in exchange for draft picks.
However, Cleveland has an exciting lineup of talent coming to the field in 2018. Cleveland also has the first and fourth picks in the upcoming draft, where they have been linked to quarterback standouts Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen to lead the franchise in the future. The Browns also own six of the top 64 picks in the draft, which takes place from April 26th to 28th in Arlington, Texas.