The big question is are they better or worse than last year at this time?
It is well documented that the Browns had one of the youngest rosters in the NFL with half of the opening day roster last September either rookies or second-year players. It was assumed the Browns were building with young players and had a good nucleus of up-and-coming players on the team.
Sure, the team was 5-11, but the general feeling was the Browns had a core of players that would only get better with some pieces added to the equation. The Browns had an ownership change and a front office change. The thought was the new regime might not blow up the roster and start another rebuilding program, but rather just add some pieces to the roster.
However, a new coach, a new GM, a new system and it appears the Browns are rebuilding once again as several starters have been jettisoned or have not been brought back. Fast forward from the end of the season until early April as the Browns are just starting their off-season program and let’s take a look at the roster changes since the end of the season.
As young as the team was last season, it appears they could be even younger in 2013. As of today, 12 players who are 29 or older have either been released or allowed to leave in free agency. The only players resigned from last year were three restricted free agents who are 26 or younger.
Here is a list of players who were on the roster on Dec. 30, 2012 that are currently not on the Browns roster. We’ve listed the player’s age and status as Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), traded or released:
Phil Dawson 38 (UFA 49ers); Sheldon Brown 34 (UFA); Juqua Parker 34 (UFA); Scott Fujita 33 (UFA); Ben Watson 32 (UFA Saints); Reggie Hodges 31 (UFA); Alex Smith 30 (UFA); Ray Ventrone 30 (UFA); Frostee Rucker 29 (UFA Cardinals); Josh Cribbs 29 (UFA Cardinals/pending physical); Chris Gocong 29 (released); Usama Young 27 (released); Brandon Jackson 27 (UFA); Colt McCoy 26 (traded to 49ers); Mohamed Massaquoi 26 (UFA); Kaluka Maiava 26 (UFA Raiders); Josh Johnson 26 (UFA Bengals).
Here is a list of players who are currently on the roster with their age and how they were acquired: Jason Campbell, 31, (UFA); Quentin Groves, 28, (UFA); Paul Kruger, 27, (UFA); Desmond Bryant, 27, (UFA); Kellen Davis, 27, (UFA); Gary Barnidge, 27, (UFA); Chris Owens, 26, (UFA); Kevin Barnes, 26, (UFA); Spencer Lanning, 24, (FA); Jake Schum, 24, (FA); Brandon Bogotay, 23, (FA).
Here are the players the Browns who were restricted free agents that the Browns re-signed: Chris Ogbonnaya, 26, (RFA); Jordan Norwood, 26, (RFA); Christian Yount, 24, (RFA).
With the NFL Draft a little over three weeks away, the majority of players that will be added will be through the draft and undrafted free agents other than late unrestricted free agent signings to fill out the roster as the team heads to training camp.
Here’s a short synopsis of each position changes to date from the end of 2012 to now:
Quarterbacks—Added: Jason Campbell; Gone: Colt McCoy, Josh Johnson; Returning: Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis.
Summary: Unless you feel Campbell is a better backup than McCoy, the position is pretty much status quo.
Running Backs—Added: None; Gone: Brandon Jackson; Returning: Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya, Owen Marecic.
Summary: Position is status quo thus far.
Wide Receivers—Added: None; Gone: Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Cribbs; Returning: Travis Benjamin, Greg Little, Josh Cooper, Josh Gordon, Jordan Norwood.
Summary: So far, the receiving corps has less depth than a year ago without Cribbs and Massaquoi. They will most likely sign another veteran or draft a receiver, but for the most part it appears the receivers they are counting on were with the team last year.
Tight Ends—Added: Kellen Davis, Gary Barnidge; Gone: Ben Watson, Alex Smith; Returning: Jordan Cameron, Brad Smelley, Dan Gronkowski.
Summary: On paper, Watson was a better option than what they currently have but they are hoping Cameron will blossom and Davis and Barnidge will pick up the slack.
Offensive Linemen: Added: None; Gone: None; Returning: Oniel Cousins, John Greco, Shawn Lauvao, Alex Mack, Ryan Miller, Mitchell Schwartz, Jason Pinkston, Jarrod Shaw, Joe Thomas.
Summary: Not much has changed since last season. Pinkston is expected to return after a serious blood clot, but the Browns could still add a guard in the draft.
Defensive Linemen: Added: Desmond Bryant. Gone: Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker; Returning: Hall Davis, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Billy Winn, Brian Sanford.
Summary: The addition of Bryant was a marquee signing for the Browns and the most depth on the team still appears to be at this position. Defensive line is better than last year.
Linebackers: Added: Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves; Gone: Chris Gocong, Scott Fujita, Kaluka Maiava; Returning: Jabaal Sheard, Tank Carder, L.J. Fort, D’Qwell Jackson, Adrian Moten, Craig Robertson, Emmanuel Acho, James-Michael Johnson.
Summary: The team’s biggest signing came with Kruger and the addition of Sheard to the corps. Groves is also expected to contribute. The Browns let Gocong, Fujita and Maiava leave and are expected their additions to replace them. The additions thus far have improved the position the most of any position and they could still add another pass rusher in the draft.
Defensive Backs: Added: Chris Owens, Kevin Barnes; Gone: Sheldon Brown, Usama Young, Ray Ventrone; Returning: Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Eric Hagg, Prince Miller, Trevin Wade, T.J. Ward.
Summary: Near the end of 2012, the Browns released Dimitri Patterson and with Brown leaving as a free agent, the Browns are down a starter and third cornerback. They signed Owens and Barnes for depth, but cornerback appears to be a very thin position behind Haden. Young was released and he was the starter opposite Ward opening the way for Gipson or Hagg. The secondary still needs to be addressed, most likely in the draft. As of right now, it is definitely weaker than it was last year and that’s not good, as they were not very good there in 2012.
Specialists: Added: Brandon Bogotay, Spencer Lanning, Jake Schum; Gone: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges; Returning: Christian Yount.
Summary: The Browns let Dawson and Hodges leave and are trying to find the next kicker and punter through the free agent process. Dawson will be nearly impossible to replace with a rookie, but Hodges had a bad year. Most of the candidates they currently have for kicker or punter are not household names but rather “Who’s that guy?”