The Cleveland Browns will roll into training camp next week riding a wave of expectations and hype unlike anything the franchise has seen since returning to the NFL in 1999.
With the addition of Pro Bowl caliber talents like Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to an already stacked roster overflowing with young talent like quarterback Baker Mayfield and edge-rusher Myles Garrett, the Browns are primed to make their 16 season postseason drought a thing of the past.
But while the big names are aplenty, there are still some spots where the Browns could use some help if they hope to make a title run. And with key players like Mayfield, Garrett, running back Nick Chubb and corner Denzel Ward still on rookie deals, it wouldn’t be surprising if general manager John Dorsey went all in and made a few more moves for veteran talents to shore up the depth on the roster.
Here are three free agents that still remain that could make an impact for the Browns.
Running Back Chris Ivory as a Duke Johnson Remedy
There’s no doubt that Nick Chubb is the No. 1 back for the Browns, especially for the first eight weeks of the season as Kareem Hunt serves his eight-game ban for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. But depth could prove to be an issue early in the season, especially with the future of Duke Johnson Jr. uncertain.
Johnson has long been slotted into the team’s third-down role as an active pass-catcher out of the backfield during his four years with the Browns, averaging 59 catches and over 500 yards per season in his career. However, unhappy with his role following the Hunt signing, Johnson requested a trade this offseason.
If the team does decide to move on from Johnson, Dontrell Hilliard would be next up on the depth chart. The second-year undrafted free agent has impressed this offseason, but doesn’t have a ton on his resume to show he’s ready for a bigger role. Hilliard appeared in 11 games last season and did not receive a carry. He did catch nine balls for 105 yards and will be in the mix to return kicks.
Chris Ivory, who last played with the Buffalo Bills, is still on the free agent market and makes sense for the backup role. He’s had more than 100 carries in seven of his nine NFL season — even making the Pro Bowl with the Jets in 2015 — and won’t carry a huge price tag. He’s also caught 25 or more balls out of the backfield from 2014-17.
Jay Ajayi is an honorable mention for this role, but the former Eagle is coming off a torn ACL and might not be 100 percent by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Defensive Lineman Allen Bailey For Depth
The Browns front four is stout. Headlined by Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett, Cleveland is set to have one of the most impactful pass-rush units with Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi and Olivier Vernon also in the fold.
However, the depth chart is thin behind Ogunjobi and Richardson at the tackle spots. As Cleveland.com’s Jake Burns points out, the first rotational player behind the duo is Trevon Coley, whose 50.4 overall grade by Pro Football Focus was good for a 126th-place finish out of 129 qualifying defensive tackles.
Allen mostly played defensive end in the Chiefs 3-4 defense, but with his 6-foot-3, 285-pound frame, he could play multiple position on the line, sliding in as a 3-technique when needed.
Allen has started double-digit games four out of his last five seasons, all with the Chiefs. He posted 38 tackles and six sacks last season.
Dorsey has made a habit of targeting players he has a history with — see Kareem Hunt, Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett — and could do it again with Bailey.
Corey Liuget, formerly of the San Diego Chargers, is another free agent that could fit this role.
Eric Berry Could Shore up the Browns’ Secondary
Eric Berry, another free agent with a link to the Browns through John Dorsey’s time with the Chiefs, could be a player that comes in and play a role in the secondary.
The Browns signed veteran Morgan Burnett this offseason to man one of the safety spots, but he’s coming off an unimpressive stint with the Steelers and was released just one year into a three-year deal with the Browns’ AFC North rival. Burnett played in just 11 games and his 30 tackles were his lowest total since his rookie season.
Berry is three-time All-Pro but has been hampered by injury, playing in just four games the past two seasons. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt thinks Berry’s best fit would be with the Browns.
“Achilles and heel injuries limited Berry to four games (including the playoffs) in the past two seasons, including the 2018 AFC title game, when Berry struggled in coverage against Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Dorsey, meanwhile, ended up leaving Kansas City and taking on the Browns‘ rebuilding efforts. The 30-year-old Berry, who was released by the Chiefs this offseason, would bring leadership skills and savvy to a safety unit that currently includes just two other veterans (Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett). The big question is whether the three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler will be able to stay healthy for an entire season.”
If the Browns take a chance on Berry and he can stay on the field, he could end up being a huge steal.
Follow the Heavy Cleveland Browns page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!