The Cleveland Browns have many contributors at the end of their contracts entering free agency; who stays and who goes?
Entering the 2019 offseason, the Cleveland Browns have multiple players who have started games and provided significant contributions on the field from top to bottom who find themselves at the end of their contracts. With that being said, who do the Browns choose to re-sign and who do they let walk out of Berea?
QB Tyrod Taylor
Prior to the 2018 season General Manager John Dorsey pulled the trigger, sending a 2018 third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for Tyrod Taylor as an attempt to ease the burden of the transition from college to the pros for Baker Mayfield.
Taylor struggled through the first two games of the season, then hurt his wrist in the third game. Mayfield relieved him and the rest was history as the Rookie of the Year favorite caught the league and the city by storm.
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With that being said, Taylor is definitely on his way out of Cleveland. Silently wanting a trade after losing the job, he will soon be granted his departure; the means of Taylor’s departure could, however, get interesting.
Due to the lack of promising quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, many teams may be looking for a bridge quarterback: enter the possibility of a tag-and-trade scenario. Most likely the team will do Taylor, one of their team captains, a solid and give him the opportunity to walk to whichever team he chooses, but the possibility that the Cleveland Browns could be looking to take advantage of a weak quarterback market exists.
Higgins would still be under his rookie contract if it had not been for Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown making the decision to cut him prior to the 2017 season, where he was then activated from the practice squad after just one week.
Higgins finished his 2018 campaign with 32 catches, 572 yards and four touchdowns. From the start of training camp to week 17, Higgins was Mayfield’s favorite target and often displayed the most consistent and reliable hands on the team; both of these traits that Higgins carries are extremely valuable and will inevitably lead to Higgins getting an extension to stay in Cleveland.
The former 2015 first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens signed a one-year deal with Cleveland after Rashard Higgins went down with an ankle injury in mid-October. What many thought would be a week-by-week rental until the receiving core got healthy, Perriman proved his doubters wrong and became the deep threat that Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense desperately needed.
Plagued by drops and injuries in Baltimore, Perriman finished the season healthy and with no drops, frequently making clutch sideline catches, deep balls, and quick hitters into tight windows; he finished the season with 16 catches, 340 yards and two scores on just 25 targets. On the verge of losing his place in the league, Perriman revived his career in Cleveland. He should stay in Cleveland, but the money will be the talking point for the 6’2, twenty-five year old speedster.
Cleveland became Orson Charles’ fifth city in his six-year NFL career. Filling in as the Browns fourth tight end and starting H-back, Charles was often effective as a run blocker but was not a dependable target in the passing game.
Charles was put on the Injured Reserve in mid-December after an ankle injury ended his season. Due to his pigeon-holed skill set and the direction that the Browns’ offense is moving, Charles will probably be looking for a new team as the H-Back was easily filled by Seth Devalve, who is still under contract, after his injury.
Similar to Perriman, Greg Robinson came to Cleveland after a disappointing start to his career. The former second-overall pick in the 2014 draft was widely labeled as a bust as he was traded to the Detroit Lions from the Los Angeles Rams, and then cut by the Lions after an injury.
Robinson was thrust into action after the struggles and injury of rookie Desmond Harrison and proved to be a solid blindside for Mayfield. Excelling in the passing game and showing signs of improvement as a run-blocker, Robinson was a key part in an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the last half of the season. Again, money will play a big role in retaining Robinson, as a dependable blindside will come with a cost, but Dorsey should not have any problem handing out a few extra sheckles to keep Robinson and retain continuity to one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
DT Trevon Coley
Signed to the practice squad, then parlaying his 2017 training camp into a starting role in the depleted 2017 roster, Trevon Coley has started 29 games over the past two seasons. However, this speaks more to the depth on the defensive line than to the talent and skills that Coley brings to the table.
Many mock drafts have the Browns pursuing a defensive lineman early in the draft and it would not be surprising to see them draft more than one and pursue depth at the position in free agency as well. With that being said, expect an overhaul in the defensive line room and do not expect Coley to be in Cleveland in 2019.
CB EJ Gaines
After playing for Gregg Williams for two seasons with the Rams, EJ Gaines came to Cleveland on a one-year “prove it” deal under the defensive coordinator that he had familiarity and success with. While on the field, Gaines played well, the problem was that his health only allowed him to play only six games. He finished the season with one interception and three passes defended.
With the pending free agency of Briean Boddy-Calhoun and the success that Terrance Mitchell and TJ Carrie displayed on the field for the Browns this season, Gaines’ future in Cleveland remains uncertain and it is hard to imagine he would want to return to a crowded defensive backs room and would prefer to sign somewhere else with a better opportunity to see the field.
DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun
Briean Boddy-Calhoun has become a fan favorite during his time in Cleveland and Cleveland would love to see him re-signed. An undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota, Boddy-Calhoun joined the Browns in 2016. BBC has started 22 games for the team in his three-year career, displaying the versatility to play both corner and safety.
This type of flexibility he can bring to a defense will make him valuable not only to the Browns, but to other teams as well. Bringing BBC back would obviously make the Browns’ defense better and deeper, but as with Gaines, he could too pursue other options with teams that would give him the opportunity to start more frequently than he did with Cleveland.
However, Cleveland views him as an asset, Dorsey has already stated that he will not spend “like a drunken sailor” this offseason, leading me to believe that Dorsey’s priority will be retaining current players he sees as valuable to the Browns organization.