The Browns finished 4th in the AFC North with a 4-12 record. Consequently, they were the lone team in their division who didn’t make a postseason appearance. That isn’t so surprising. Since reentering the league in 1999, Cleveland has made the playoffs only once (2002). They're the only team in the AFC North that doesn't have a franchise quarterback, so maybe that's the reason why.
K Phil Dawson signed his $3.81 Million Franchise tender on March 19.
P Richmond McGee, DE Jayme Mitchell, OT Tony Pashos (failed physical) and OG Eric Steinbach were released. Safety Mike Adams signed with the Broncos, T/G Artis Hicks got a deal with the Dolphins, disgruntled RB Peyton Hillis is now a Kansas City Chief and C/G Steve Vallos moved over to the Eagles.
OT Oniel Cousins, OG John Greco, LB D'Qwell Jackson, CB Dimitri Patterson, DL Brian Schaefering, TE Alex Smith and WR Jordan Norwood.
DE Juqua Parker comes over from the Eagles on a 1 year deal and DE Frostee Rucker was lured away from division rival Cincinnati for 5 years.
Cleveland’s major needs before the draft were at Offensive Tackle (preferably on the Right), a Running Back and a Wide Receiver. Of course, they had a need at Quarterback since Colt McCoy doesn’t fit anyone’s stereotype of a Franchise QB, but up until draft day, the Brown’s Front office wobbled on whether they would build a team around the young Colt, or draft his replacement.
Of secondary importance are Offensive Guard, depth at Defensive Tackle and Defensive Back.
Cleveland’s Offense averaged just 13.6 points a game (30th) last season with quarterback Colt McCoy running the show. They were 29th in total yards (288.8), 24th in Passing (193.1) and 28th in Rushing (95.7) last season. Defensively, the Browns ranked 5th in Ponts Against (19.2), 10th in Passing (332.4) and 30th defending the run (147.4).
The Browns went into the draft with the mission of reshaping their offense and that is exactly what they did, selecting Running Back Trent Richardson, Quarterback Brandon Weeden, Right Tackle Mitchell Schwartz and wide receiver Travis Benjamin with their first Five picks in the draft.
RB Trent Richardson: When Mike Holmgren took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in the 2005 season, Shaun Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. Richardson could be that guy for the Browns. He knocks would-be tacklers over, can catch out of the backfield and is an excellent pass blocker.
The Browns traded picks 4, 118, 139 and 211 to move up one spot to take Richardson. You can’t argue the logic here. Trent scored 24 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide in 2011. Meanwhile, the Browns Offense only scored 20. The Cleve;and offense is instantly better.
QB Brandon Weeden: The 28-year old Weeden is expected to start immediately. In fact, the Browns put out feelers on Day 2 of the draft to see if there were any teams interested in Colt McCoy.
OT Mitchell Schwartz:
The Browns found a big guy for Richardson to run behind in Schwartz. Getting a Right Tackle was a priority and Schwartz can play either side, but with Joe Thomas on the left side, Schwartz will start on the right.
NT John Hughes: Hughes gives the Browns depth behind starters Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor and time for the rookie to grow.
WR Travis Benjamin: Travis is one of the fastest guys in the draft who can also return punts and kicks. He caught 41 passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns last year at Miami. He is only 5-10, 172 pounds, but he can stretch the defense and if not start be the X receiver in four-receiver sets.
LB James-Michael Johnson: Johnson will contribute on Special Teams and backup D'Qwell Jackson.
OL Ryan Miller: Miller is expected to challenge for a starting job at Right Guard or Right Tackle.
LB Emmanuel Acho: Acho is an Outside Linebacker who led the Longhorns with 131 Tackles and 14.5 Tackles For Loss last season in College.
DL Billy Winn: Winn started 11 games at Defensive Tackle and one at Defensive End for Boise State in 2011. His size projects him at Tackle for the Browns.
CB Trevin Wade: Wade will play the Nickel and will be used on Special Teams.
TE Brad Smelley: Smelley caught 34 passes for the Tide in 2011. He reunites with Trent Richardson and will compete with five other Tight Ends in Training Camp.
James Madison CB Mike Allen; Akron OL Jake Anderson; Idaho OT Matt Cleveland; Oklahoma State WR Josh Cooper; East Carolina CB Emanuel Davis; Arizona State C Garth Gerhart; Wyoming S Tashaun Gipson; Florida DE William Green; Central Florida LB Josh Linum; Pittsburgh CB Antuawn Reed; Florida State WR Bert Reed; Missouri State WR Jermaine Saffold; Ohio State OT J.B. Shugarts; Ohio State LB Andrew Sweat
The Browns had a decent draft. They upgraded their Defensive Line in Free Agency and through the draft. They got better at Running Back by letting Peyton Hillis walk and selecting Trent Richardson, a move that will pay big dividends. They found a different leader for their Offense in Weeden and that should be the big story on the Lake Erie shoreline in 2012. Rge Broncos will host the Browns two days before Christmas during Week 16 in 2012.
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