The Cleveland Browns have been arguably the biggest winner in Free Agency. After having addressed their holes on the defensive side of the ball, they look primed for a serious Super Bowl run in 2021.
was picking free agency winners and I landed on the Browns, Jets, and Washington….
2021 is wild.
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 18, 2021
Andrew Berry proved once again to be one of the best GM’s in the league. In his first year, Berry completely revamped the 2019 Browns that went 7-9, to a squad that went 11-5. The Browns had 10 different HC’s since the change of the millennial. Berry came in and his first hire was new HC Kevin Stefanski, who went on to win Coach of the Year.
The story in 2021 was no different. The Browns were let down on the defensive side of the ball last season. And Andrew Berry acquired a haul of players to plug most of their holes on the defensive side. With 9 draft picks in the 2021 draft, the Browns will be serious contenders in the AFC. With that said, here are the grades for the Browns signings:
— BrownsTherapy (@BrownsTherapy) March 19, 2021
John Johnson III (S)
— NFL (@NFL) March 15, 2021
Apart from Ronnie Harrison, the Browns’ safety unit was horrific. After losing 2020 second-round draft pick Grant Delpit early in pre-season, depth at the position was shallow and it showed during the 2020 season
The Addition of Johnson will do wonders for the Browns’ secondary. Johnson was the on-field shot caller for the Rams, which were the No. 1 defence in 2020. John Johnson is one of the most complete safeties in the NFL. Even though his interception numbers aren’t great, Johnson is a force in the run game and got 31 stops in 2020 to prove it.
His addition will also allow defensive coordinator Joe Woods to fully commit to his 4-5-2 defence which will employ a third safety rather than a third linebacker. Johnson declined more money to come to the Browns in 2020 and will definitely be an instant fan favourite for the dawg pound.
Browns safeties earned the worst cumulative grade in the league last season at 48.2
John Johnson III: 85.3 PFF Grade in 2020 (3rd) pic.twitter.com/jFVHUn1lQ8
— PFF (@PFF) March 15, 2021
FREE AGENCY GRADE: A+
Takkarist McKinley (Edge)
— Dawgs By Nature (@DawgsByNature) March 16, 2021
The Browns needed someone to pair along with Myles Garrett at the other end of the line. While Takk may not be the complete answer, he’s a solid No. 3 option to rotate in on the edge with some upside to improve in a new situation.
McKinley was a first-round draft pick in 2020 for the Falcons but never seemed to live up to his potential. Regardless, he earned pass-rushing grades of 65+ in all 3 seasons as a Falcon. Having been signed to only a 1-year deal, Takk will be a low-risk high reward move for the Browns who could look at other edge rushers in the market.
FREE AGENCY GRADE: B-
Troy Hill (CB)
— NFL (@NFL) March 18, 2021
Troy Hill was the 2nd player of the Rams secondary to take his talents to Cleveland. The Browns had an elite corner in Denzel Ward but were very weak at slot corner. However, with Greedy Williams out for the whole 2020 season, the Browns Cornerback unit was exploited by other teams, ending the season as the 23rd best pass defence.
Troy Hill may have been overshadowed by teammate and All-Pro Jalen Ramsey. But Hill was a stud in 2020. The dynamic 29-year-old intercepted 3 passes, scored 3 touchdowns, and allowed only 6.8 yards per target as a slot corner. Hill has been consistent over the years, ranking eighth among qualified corners allowing a passer rating of just 61.3 on throws into his coverage in 2019.
With a deal that will cost only $6M across 4 years against the cap, the Browns acquired one of the biggest steals in free agency. Hill will be a big help for top cover man Denzel Ward in 2021
FREE AGENCY GRADE: A
Rashard Higgins (WR)
Rashard Higgins is re-signing with the Browns on a one-year deal, per @RapSheet
Higgins: 73.4 PFF Grade in 2020 (46th) pic.twitter.com/0vAq5jnSr0
— PFF (@PFF) March 18, 2021
Rashard Higgins showed out to be one of QB Baker Mayfield favourite targets after Odell Beckham Jr. went down. The Cleveland Browns resigned Higgins, who had 37 passes for a career-high 599 yards and four scores in 2020. Higgins ended the year with an overall grade of (73.4).
He finds ways to get open and looks to be a strong No. 3 option in the passing game at worst. Bringing him back for $2.4 million in 2021 qualifies as great value for the Cleveland Browns. Along with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, the Browns will boast of the elite wide receiver cores in 2021
FREE AGENCY GRADE: B
Anthony Walker (ILB)
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) March 19, 2021
The linebacker position was another area of concern for the Browns defence in 2020. One need that they addressed by signing former Indianapolis Colt Anthony Walker
Anthony Walker doesn’t possess the range or coverage ability of former Colts teammate Darius Leonard. But Walker is an excellent run defender and capable linebacker who has started 46 games over the past three seasons and averaged 107 total tackles a season over that span.
The addition of Walker will not single-handedly revolutionize the linebacker unit for the Cleveland Browns. But at only $3.5M against the cap, Walker will be a great value for money addition for the Browns.
FREE AGENCY GRADE: B
Cleveland #Browns secondary as of today:
– Denzel Ward
– Greedy Williams
– Ronnie Harrison
– Grant Delpit
– John Johnson III
– MJ Stewart
– Sheldrick Redwine
— MoreForYouCleveland (@MoreForYou_CLE) March 15, 2021
The Cleveland Browns stamped their authority over the league in 2020. And now with a bolstered defence to help stars like Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward, it won’t be a surprise to see the Browns make a deep playoff run in 2021.