2 Undrafted Players Make Browns Roster, Breakout WR Cut

Mohamoud Diabate, Browns

Getty Linebacker Mohamoud Diabate of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns announced their 53-man roster on Tuesday, August 29, which included a couple of undrafted free agents and excluded one breakout preseason star.

Linebacker Mohamoud Diabate and safety Ronnie Hickman are among the final 53 after exceptional summers, per the Browns’ official website. Diabate signed with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent out of Utah this spring. Hickman followed the same path to the Browns roster, though from Ohio State.

The Browns chose to roll with five safeties and 11 defensive backs in total, which helped Hickman earn his roster spot, though a case can be made that the rookie was deserving even if the team had rostered fewer D-backs. He finished the preseason with four solo tackles, three defensed passes and three interceptions, per ESPN.

Diabate was also a playmaker throughout the month of August, tallying 11 solo tackles and a forced fumble and making impacts all over the field. He joins a group of seven rostered linebackers, which will be led again this season by 2022 team captain Anthony Walker Jr.

Breakout Star Austin Watkins Jr. Was Among Those Players Cut by Browns Tuesday

GettyWide receiver Austin Watkins Jr. of the Cleveland Browns scores a touchdown during an NFL preseason game against the New York Jets in August 2023.

Presumably among the more difficult cuts for Cleveland was the one made to wide receiver Austin Watkins Jr., who authored an exceptional preseason in which he caught at least one pass in all four of the team’s contests.

The 25-year-old rookie, also undrafted after graduating from UAB in 2020, signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. He spent time on that franchise’s practice squad and also had a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following year, though he never saw action in a regular season NFL game.

The 6’3″, 210-pound wideout linked up with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL before landing with the Browns this summer. Cleveland added Watkins to its preseason roster in July after wide receiver Marquise Goodwin was ruled out of training camp due to issues with blood clots.

Watkins did everything he could on the field across four opportunities, making 16 catches for 257 yards and two touchdowns. However, the wildcard factor of Goodwin’s health ended up costing Watkins the sixth wide receiver slot. Goodwin returned to the team on Sunday after inking a one-year, $1.7 million deal this offseason that includes $400,000 in guaranteed money.

There is still a chance Watkins will end up on the Browns’ practice squad, which would clear the way for him to elevate to the roster if any issue arises with any of the six players ahead of him that results in their inability to play. However, Watkins will need to clear waivers in order for that to happen (meaning no other NFL team decides to claim his player rights), which isn’t a guarantee.

Browns Make Curious Roster Move Ahead of Cut-Down Day

Michael Dunn, Browns

GettyOffensive guard Michael Dunn, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, blocks during an NFL preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles in August 2023.

Cleveland’s decisions on its undrafted crop of players are all easy to follow logically, though the team made a separate call Monday that was more convoluted.

The Browns waived backup offensive guard Michael Dunn, who has played well for the team during his three-year stint, leaving the offensive line without any real depth at the position behind Pro Bowlers Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller.

SB Nation’s Dawgs by Nature authored a potential explanation of the decision that makes sense, assuming it is the Browns’ actual plan.

“It’s worth noting that the team has not announced anything about terminating Dunn’s contract yet. There is speculation, though, that he will be utilized as one of those handshake deals to help the team out with IR moves,” according to the article. “GM Andrew Berry has been creative at the roster deadline here, making it difficult to project the 53-man roster.”

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