5 Browns Free Agents Most Expected to Depart This Offseason

5 Browns Free Agents Most Expected to Depart This Offseason

The Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL have their sights set on free agency, which opens on March 13. It’s going to be a busy foreseeable future for Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who must address the organization’s 23 pending unrestricted free agents with only $2.4 million in cap space at his disposal, per Spotrac.

Who Will be a Free Agent From the Browns After 2023? - Sports Illustrated  Cleveland Browns News, Analysis and More

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the Browns won’t be re-signing everyone. While lackluster performances are one reason why certain free agents won’t return, others are just too expensive to work things out — regardless if they want to stay or leave.

Here are the five Browns free agents who are most likely to walk this offseason.

1. RB Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt has become a mainstay in the Browns’ backfield, spending each of the last five seasons with the franchise. Having said that, his time in Cleveland could be coming to an end.

The former Pro Bowl running back was inefficient at generating yardage in 2023, averaging a career-worst 3.0 yards on 135 carries across 15 games (2 starts). Yes, he still racked up a personal-best nine touchdowns, however, the fact that eight of his nine touchdowns came within seven yards of the end zone shows that Hunt doesn’t hold that much value outside of the red zone.

Heading into free agency, there just isn’t much of a reason to re-sign Hunt, who turns 29 in August. He’s getting to the age where RBs experience a major decline and it’s possible that he could generate even fewer yards per carry once the 2024 campaign rolls around. The Browns also have Nick Chubb, Jerom Ford, John Kelly, and Pierre Strong all under contract, meaning a fifth RB isn’t exactly needed — especially with the 2024 draft right around the corner, too.

With how quickly running backs can wind up on the shelf, I won’t be surprised if Hunt is signed as an insurance option this offseason. It just won’t be with the Browns.

2. WR Marquise Goodwin

It’s beginning to look more likely that Marquise Goodwin should contemplate hanging up his cleats.

The 2023 NFL season was one of the ex-Texas Longhorn’s worst performances to date. Even though the Browns’ wide receiver depth was far from stellar, Goodwin couldn’t carve himself a role on offense, only turning 4-of-13 targets (30.8%) into 67 receiving yards and a first down. His 9.6 passer rating when targeted is significantly worse than if a quarterback throws nothing but incompletions (39.6).

It’s been nearly seven years since Goodwin almost hit the 1,000-yard mark and now that he’s 33, it’s hard to imagine him ever returning to that level. It doesn’t matter how well-liked he is in Cleveland’s locker room because the fact remains that he won’t help produce any on-field results at this stage of his career.

At the end of the day, the Browns must let Goodwin test his worth in free agency. There’s just no way to justify bringing him back for another season unless management is craving more disappointment.

3. TE Harrison Bryant

Tight ends David Njoku and Harrison Bryant entered the 2023 season as two of QB Deshaun Watson’s top weapons. Unfortunately, only one of the duo managed to live up to expectations.

Hint: it wasn’t the former Florida Atlantic Owl.

Bryant’s fourth NFL campaign was his worst thus far. Despite playing in all 17 games, the 25-year-old TE finished with his worst stat line to date, recording new career-lows when it came to targets (20), receptions (13), receiving yards (81), and yards per reception (6.2). It seems like he also fell out of the coaching staff’s favor, given that he went from playing 48% of offensive snaps in 2022 to 33% last year.

For comparison, Njoku racked up a career-best output of 81 receptions for 882 yards and six TDs while suiting up on 82% of offensive snaps. He also earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time despite having to overcome gruesome facial burns suffered at the end of September.

Bryant’s shortcomings would’ve been more negligible had he been a more efficient blocker. Although his PFF pass-blocking grade was the best it’s ever been (80.7), his run-blocking mark of 49.7 wasn’t helpful to a Cleveland team that ran the ball the fifth-most in 2023.

Harrison is still young enough to turn his career around, but it’s clear that the Browns aren’t the right fit for him. It’s best to just let him walk this month.

4. DT Jordan Elliott

Jordan Elliott has been a polarizing player across the Browns fanbase ever since he was drafted 88th overall back in 2020.

The former Texas/Missouri product was abysmal throughout his first three NFL seasons but seemed to turn a page when paired alongside Dalvin Tomlinson last season. Although he wasn’t perfect, Elliott still recorded a career-high 2.5 sacks while adding 14 solo tackles and a broken-up pass across 17 games (14 starts).

But even with his best performance to date, I won’t be shocked if Elliott doesn’t return next fall. For starters, it remains to be seen if his 2023 performance was an anomaly or the new norm. The last thing Cleveland needs is to re-sign him to a multi-year deal only for him to revert to his old ways.

Secondly, Elliott still struggled to stop the run. His 45.2 run defense grade on PFF ranked 105th out of 137 interior defenders missed 13.0% of his tackling attempts.

The Browns can likely replace Elliott with cheaper options either through the draft or free agency. He’ll likely want to cash in on his career year this offseason, so let’s just allow another organization to take the risk that comes with that next contract.

5. QB Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco only joined the Browns in December but that didn’t stop him from quickly becoming a fan favorite.

After Deshaun Watson’s season prematurely ended due to injury, Flacco did everything in his power to will the Browns into the playoffs. The former Super Bowl MVP led Cleveland on a 4-1 run across five regular-season starts, throwing for more than 1,600 yards while connecting on 13 TD passes (to eight interceptions). The 323.3 passing yards per game were also a career-high, playing a role in his being named the 2023 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

The playoffs didn’t end on a high note, but Flacco’s regular-season heroics have Browns fans wanting to see him re-signed. While he’s openly admitted to enjoying his time in Cleveland, a reunion is far from guaranteed. After all, Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reports that the veteran signal-caller is going to test the open market. He only has a few years left in him, so it isn’t shocking that he wants to test his worth.

Considering how QB-needy teams could easily overpay for his services, I don’t expect the Browns to get into a Flacco-bidding war. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is still under contract and there’s always the NFL Draft, meaning I don’t expect Flacco to return unless he’s willing to accept a team-friendly deal.

Related Posts

‘Most Underpaid’ Browns Player Likely to Cash In After Pro Bowl Year

The Cleveland Browns haven’t shied away from spending over the past couple years to build a playoff roster, which makes the players they have on value deals that much…

Do the Tennessee Titans have the pieces to pass the “Championship Formula”

The Tennessee Titans are a fundamentally different team in 2024 than they were in 2023, and it is time to do an audit on this new and improved roster….

Stefon Diggs ‘Taking One More Bite of the Financial Apple’ With Texans

Stefon Diggs finds himself in a pretty cushy situation with the Houston Texans. Firmly in the driver’s seat as far as his financial future in the NFL, Diggs has…

Will the Saints have the chance to trade up and select the best tackle in the draft?

The New Orleans Saints will likely take an offensive tackle in the first round of the NFL Draft. Could they move up and take the first tackle…

Vikings fans seem bitter about Kirk Cousins leaving for Falcons

The Falcons swung big this offseason, handing out the largest contract of NFL free agency, inking Kirk Cousins to a $180 million deal. Raheem Morris and Terry…

Jason Kelce discloses he once tried to lure Joe Burrow to play college football in Cincinnati

Recruiting forms a key part of building the best football teams at both the collegiate and professional levels. Jason Kelce, the former center for the Philadelphia Eagles, has…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *