The Cleveland Browns cut down their roster on Saturday, getting it down to 53 players as the first official game week rapidly approaches.
Among the early notable names to be cut were contributors over the last few years, like defensive end Chad Thomas, wide receiver Damion Ratley and running back Dontrell Hilliard.
Thomas might be the biggest shocker among the cuts. The Browns 2018 third-round pick started eight games last season and notched four sacks, good for third on the team. Thomas had fallen on the depth chart early in camp and was unable to impress coaches when Myles Garrett was out with a hamstring injury.
Other names that were relative surprises were fullback Johnny Stanton, who the Browns traded for in the offseason, and undrafted free agent corner back AJ Green, who the team was very high on. Just this week Browns starting corner Denzel Ward had high praise for Green.
“I feel like he has been having a great camp and making plays when he has been in there,” Ward said of Green. “Making plays on ones or whoever he has been out there with.”
Browns WR Rashard Higgins Makes the Cut
One name Browns fans will be happy to see on the 53-man is Rashard Higgins, who had a solid training camp, showing off what made him one of the most anticipated players heading into last season.
However, the hype never translated into production, as he struggled with injuries and fell into the doghouse of former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens.
Under Kitchens, Higgins was expected to compete for the No. 3 wide receiver spot behind Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. But things went awry under Kitchens and that role never truly played out. Down the stretch, he was routinely out-snapped by Damion Ratley — who didn’t make the cut this season — and KhaDarel Hodge.
Higgins was injured in the team’s opener, missing multiple weeks with an MCL sprain. He was never able to get on track after that, finishing the season with just four catches for 55 yards and one touchdown.
In the year prior, Higgins had 39 catches for 572 yards and four touchdowns — all career highs. He also built a strong rapport Mayfield as a security blanket of sorts, with the quarterback speaking up at times about the chemistry he had with Higgins.
Higgins signed a one-year deal with the Browns this offseason for the veteran’s minimum of $910,000, reportedly turning down more money from multiple teams to come back to Cleveland.
“I’m blessed to be here,” Higgins told the Cleveland Browns official site. “Throughout everything, I’ve just gone through a long journey. I call it a long journey just because I’ve been here through everything. I feel like I’m one of the only three — Joel Bitonio and Charley Hughlett have been here — some other guys have been here with me through that long journey of going 0-16. It’s been a long ride. To still be here is a blessing. I’m trying to see change and I believe we’ve got everything we ever wanted to see change.”
Browns Get Roster Down to 53 Players
The Browns had to make 24 total cuts on Saturday to get the roster to 53. Here are the players Cleveland parted ways with, although there’s a chance they could reunite via practice squad deals.
- QB Kevin Davidson
- QB Garrett Gilbert
- RB Dontrell Hilliard
- RB Benny LeMay
- FB Johnny Stanton
- WR Ja’Marcus Bradley
- WR Damion Ratley
- WR Taywan Taylor
- T Brady Aiello
- T Alex Taylor (injured)
- C Jon Toth
- G Michael Dunn
- G Willie Wright
- DE Robert McCray
- DE Chad Thomas
- DT Daniel Ekuale
- LB Solomon Ajayi
- LB Willie Harvey
- LB Montrel Meander
- CB A.J. Green
- CB Robert Jackson
- CB Donovan Olumba
- S Elijah Benton
- S Javonte Moffatt
“We always take and evaluate all the training camp practices, evaluate every snap, every rep and really try and get as good of a feel for our guys as we can,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said, via a press release. “We worked closely with our coaches and solicited their feedback as well as from our pro staff and our scouts. We really spent a lot of time on our roster. Where it’s a little bit different is you don’t get the preseason games, but we feel like we had enough information, enough film to make informed decisions on all 53 guys who made the team based on the practices we had throughout this month.”
Of the 53 players, 33 were part of the squad in 2019. Here’s how the rest of the roster broke down: 11 via free agency, six through the draft, two vy trades and one via waivers.
Cleveland kept five tight ends in the final 53 in Pharaoh Brown, Harrison Bryant, Stephen Carlson, Austin Hooper and David Njoku.
More moves could still be on the horizon for the Browns as they look to swap pieces of their roster, but for now, they appear set.