First-year Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski spent over a decade with the Minnesota Vikings in various roles before getting the gig in Cleveland. So it would make sense if he had his eye on some former Vikings standouts in free agency this offseason.
Two notable names that have come up are pass-rusher Everson Griffen and safety Anthony Harris — both players who could fill needs for the Browns. Both will be unrestricted free agents this offseason.
While answering reader questions, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reported that she believes both players will be on the radar for the Browns.
Griffen has made the Pro Bowl four times, including last season when he compiled eight sacks. He’s had double-digit sacks three times in his career. Griffen recently opted out of the final year of his deal, making him an unrestricted free agent and one of the best veteran pass-rushers on the market.
Harris is coming off his best year as a pro at free safety, collecting 60 tackles and six interceptions, which tied him for the league lead with Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White in Buffalo.
The Browns will likely have to replace Damarious Randall, who occupied the free safety spot last season but is an unrestricted free agent.
Browns ‘Looking to Replace’ Olivier Vernon
Cabot also revealed that the Browns will “probably be looking to replace” defensive end Olivier Vernon, who was part of a trade last season. Vernon spent much of last season dealing with injuries and didn’t make the impact that was expected, especially for the price tag he carries. Vernon — who made the Pro Bowl in 2019 — is due to make $15.25 million next season. Cabot predicts that Vernon will be released or asked to take a pay cut.
Whoever the Browns bring in to play opposite of Myles Garrett has to be viewed as a capable threat to keep offenses from just rolling coverage towards Garrett’s side. Griffen would certainly fit that billing.
New Browns general manager Andrew Berry made it clear during his introductory press conference that he plans to be “aggressive” his pursuit of adding talent.
“If there is anything that I want to be defined by, it is aggression,” Berry said. “We want to aggressively acquire talent because that is the name of the game from an NFL front office perspective, and we are going to explore every avenue that enables us to do that.”
Offensive Line a Priority for Browns in Free Agency
While adding a star pass-rusher and ball-hawking safety would be great, the first priority in free agency and the draft for the Browns will be the offensive line.
Despite having one of the most talented collection of skill position players in the NFL — from Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to Nick Chubb and Kareem — the team struggled to find consistency on offense. Quarterback Baker Mayfield regressed in his second year, finishing with 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also ranked next-to-last in both passer rating (78.8) and completion percentage (59.4%).
The big names in free agency the Browns will be keeping track of are tackles Jack Conklin and Bryan Bulaga.
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