Cleveland Browns free agency update: Next targets after landing Austin Hooper

With new regimes you often see players follow coaches and general managers, will the Cleveland Browns see that with Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry?

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CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 14: Kevin Stefanski talks to the media after being introduced as the Cleveland Browns new head coach on January 14, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Any time a team gets a new coach it feels like they find a way to steal a player from where they left.  Sometimes fans love it, and other times fans feel like the coach may have blinders on.  No matter what you think, it is inevitable that there is a good chance of recruiting players from the former team.  Who could the Cleveland Browns take in 2020?

When John Dorsey stepped in at the end of 2017, the Browns certainly saw a rush of “Dorsey” players and coaches. Dorsey traded for Damarious Randall who he was familiar with in Green Bay, and he also brought in troubled Kareem Hunt who he drafted while with the Kansas City Chiefs. Dorsey also brought in Alonzo Highsmith and Elliot Wolf as talent evaluators who he previously worked with during his tenure in Green Bay.

The Browns have already seen tremendous turnover in coaches, many tied to Stefanski including defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who worked with Stefanski in Minnesota.

Let’s not forget the first signing of the Berry and Stefanski era, Johnny Stanton, a fullback originally signed by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Stanton is a freak athlete who fits Stefanski’s running scheme perfectly.  After an injury, last season, look for Stanton to play a big part in the 2020 Browns offense.

As free agency is set to kick off soon, deals have already started reporting as Christian Kirksey agreed to a two-year $8 million per year deal with the Green Bay Packers. Who are the players from the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles you can expect to be tempted to Cleveland from Stefanski and/or Berry? Here is a shortlist that the Browns should consider.

Xavier Rhodes – Cornerback, Minnesota Vikings

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GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 15: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass while being pressured by Linval Joseph #98 of the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter at Lambeau Field on September 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The 2013 first-round pick has been an excellent corner for the Vikings the last seven seasons, earning three pro-bowls and one all-pro season.

While the Browns don’t need to spend big dollars on a corner with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams, the question is would Rhodes be ready to make the switch to safety?  Many corners have made the switch at the back end of their prime to extend their career, but someone as dominant as Rhodes may struggle with that change.

Rhodes might be an unlikely fit, especially if he demands his previous salary of over $10 million per year. Rhodes has started 14-plus games in six straight years but played injured in many of those games. Look for Rhodes to sign a two-year discounted deal with a contender, unfortunately not the Browns.

Linval Joseph – Defensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings

The 31-year-old big man would only be a short-term fix, but Linval Joseph may be exactly what Cleveland needs.  Larry Ogunjobi has asserted himself as a dominant pass-rusher from the inside but has struggled on running downs and keeping linebackers free. Joseph could add depth with Sheldon Richardson and Ogunjobi in 2020 and significantly help the run defense plugging up the middle.

Joseph made over $8 million in 2019, but likely won’t receive anything close to that this year in the open market. If the Browns could sign Joseph to a low dollar short term deal for 25-30 snaps a game, Joseph could be a game-changer for the Browns defensive front.

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Everson Griffen – Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 02: Everson Griffen #97 of the Minnesota Vikings reacts in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at CenturyLink Field on December 02, 2019, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Browns fans continue to wait for the news to break on the cut of Olivier Vernon, while it hasn’t happened yet, it feels inevitable. The move would free up over $15 million in cap space, but also open demand for a pass rusher like Everson Griffen. The former USC standout will be 33 at the end of this year but still appears to have some gas in the tank after registering eight sacks in 2019 and earning a pro-bowl invitation.

Griffen would be another short-term fix for the Browns but could also provide leadership which the Browns will be in desperate need of after leaders Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert exit the building. Griffen would not come cheap as almost evert team is hungry for a pass-rusher, but it would likely be less than what Vernon would cost. Griffen has been durable playing 15-plus games in 5 of the last six years as a starter.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai – Offensive Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles

One under the radar name that Cleveland has been rumored to is Halapoulivaati Vaitai.  Vaitai was a fifth-round pick by the Eagles in 2016 and has always been the sixth man, filling in often for injuries at guard and tackle for the Eagles.

While Vaitai has played in 16 games three straight years, he has only started a total of 14 games which is alarming. Vaitai could be a fit as a swingman if the Browns are able to find a clean way to cut Hubbard and still sign a big-name free agent.  However, it is unlikely to think Vaitai can come to Cleveland and hold down the starting tackle job.  I would be less than excited to see this move by the Browns.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill – Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11: Kamu Grugier-Hill #54 of the Philadelphia Eagles has an Interception in action against the New York Giants on October 11, 2018, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/ Getty Images)

Originally drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth-round, Kamu Grugier-Hill is a likable option at linebacker, but he does lack experience. After playing mostly special teams to begin his career Grugier-Hill has started 16 total games the last two seasons, limited by being placed on injured reserved in December of 2019.

While Grugier-Hill is coming off a fairly serious disc herniation injury in 2019, many believe he could be ready to turn into a budding star.  Signing Grugier-Hill is a risk, as he has not truly proven himself in the NFL, but if the Browns can get Grugier-Hill at a discount in 2020 free agency and he continues to develop, it could look like a steal in a few years. While I’m hesitant given the track record, if the linebacker market gets too rich for the Browns, Grugier-Hill could be a solid backup option.

Jason Peters – Offensive Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles

The last name who will likely be available is veteran left tackle Jason Peters. The all-pro tackle is 38 years old and would also be a short-term fix if the Browns went after him. The downside to Peters besides age is injuries, Peters has only been on the field for 16 games in two of the last five seasons.

Given the Browns struggle at tackle, I support turning every stone for an option to upgrade for 2020. Although Peters should be in contention, I’m hopeful the Browns find a better option that doesn’t include over-paying (not signing), Trent Williams or Jack Conklin.

Next: Browns trade back, load up in 7-round mock

The free agency market is full speed ahead as agreements are already being reported!  Stay tuned to see how active the Browns will be.