Browns Release Offensive Lineman Who Opted Out of Season

Getty Images Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.

The Cleveland Browns waived offensive lineman Malcolm Pridgeon, who opted out of last season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Pridgeon signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and spent the final 15 weeks on Cleveland’s practice squad. Pridgeon started his collegiate career at Nassau Community College before transferring to Ohio State.

Shortly after the Browns’ season ended, Pridgeon was one of the main figures in an ESPN story that profiled what happened to players who opted out of the season.

“Of course I wish I was out there,” he told ESPN. “I can’t look back on it. That causes stress that I don’t need. … I feel like if someone was in my shoes, they would’ve made the same decision I made.”

Pridgeon, who has yet to play an NFL snap, knows there’s a chance his decision could have an impact on his career.

“I feel hurt,” Pridgeon said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get picked to play on the team after I opt-out.”

The Browns were hit hard by opt-outs prior to the season, particularly on the offensive line. Drew Forbes, Drake Dorbeck and Colby Gossett — all offensive lineman — joining Pridgeon on the opt-out list, while veteran defensive tackle Andrew Billings also decided to stay on the sideline.

Browns Promote Ben Bloom to Run Game Coordinator

The Browns have yet to make any big splashes this offseason, but a key coach did get a new title. Ben Bloom was bumped up to run game coordinator after serving a “key role in the development and leadership,” per a release from the Browns.

“This means a lot,” Bloom said. “It’s a great organization — head coach, coordinator, front office and ownership — everyone’s been terrific to work with. It means a lot they’re willing to give me a new title. I appreciate the opportunity to continue working and do my best to help the team win.”

While the Browns defense struggled at times this season, the unit was solid at stopping the run, ranking ninth in rush defense last season, allowing an average of 110.8 yards per contest.

“We’re all proud of what we were able to do this year,” Bloom said. “That’s a testament to the players working really hard and fighting through levels of adversity, and the whole coaching staff and football staff making it work together. The goal is to always get better. We think there’s plenty of room for growth and improvement. We’re in the process of identifying those things specifically now and making plans to continue to grow and improve.”

Browns Likely to Invest in Defense This Offseason

GettyMyles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns made some big additions on the offensive side of the ball last offseason, adding to an already talent-laden unit. Cleveland picked Jedrick Wills in the first-round and signed veteran tackle Jack Conklin to boost the offensive line. Tight end Austin Hooper — who signed a four-year, $42 million contract — was another big investment for the Browns.

Andrew Berry: "I couldn't be prouder of our entire group."General Manager Andrew Berry addressed the media via Zoom on January 20, 2021. Andrew discussed this season's accomplishments, Baker Mayfield's contributions to the team's success, his approach to contract extensions, building up the defense, his work this offseason, and what he learned from this challenging and unpredictable season. #BrownsMedia #PressConference2021-01-20T17:18:13Z

Browns general manager Andrew Berry didn’t outright admit that he would be looking to bulk up the defense in his season-closing press conference, but sounded very open to the idea.

“We can have improvement anywhere,” Berry told reporters. “Understand that obviously we think we can certainly boost the defense as we go into 2021. It is probably too early to make any declarative or definitive statements, but certainly understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team.”

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