Cleveland Browns free agency tracker: Grades for every signing

Oct 26, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams free safety John Johnson (43) reacts in the end zone during the second half against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams free safety John Johnson (43) reacts in the end zone during the second half against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns are off to a hot start in free agency for the second season in a row

Andrew Berry has already made quite the name for himself as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He introduced himself to the NFL in 2020 by signing Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper early in free agency and in his second season, he again has made a big move right out of the gates.

Cleveland reportedly came to terms with safety John Johnson III, who spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. Johnson signed a three-year deal worth $33.75 million which is a very good value for the talent he brings to the table.

A third-round pick out of Boston College, Johnson has 350 tackles, eight interceptions, and 32 pass defenses in his career. He’s smart, versatile, and most importantly, young. Johnson is just 25 years of age, meaning he’s only beginning to enter his prime.

Johnson’s signing won’t be the last move made the Browns, and you can find out everyone they added with our free agency tracker — complete with grades and reactions for each move.

Refresh this page to see up to date information on who Cleveland added this offseason

Signed safety John Johnson (3 years, $33.75 million) – Grade: A+

Cleveland needed to get better in the secondary and they did exactly that. Johnson is an experienced starter who can be moved around like a chess piece. His addition will also allow defensive coordinator Joe Woods to fully commit to his 4-2-5 defense which will employ a third safety rather than a third linebacker.

Johnson will be playing alongside Grant Delpit and Ronnie Harrison, but there’s a chance they could still look to add more talent to the depth chart considering the problems they had staying healthy in this department in 2020.

A great move on day one, the Browns made a splash and this signing gets an easy A+.

Signed defensive end Takkarist McKinley (one-year deal,  $4.25 million) — Grade B

Last season, the Browns tried more than once to land Takk McKinley as a waiver claim and it kept falling through. Now, they land him on a one-year deal which gives them a player with first-round talent. The problem is, he hasn’t lived up to his potential and his departure from Atlanta was unceremonious, to say the least.

Still, this is a low-risk/high-reward type of move that still doesn’t prevent them from going after a defensive end in the draft.

Re-signed wide receiver Rashard Higgins (One-year, $2.38 million) — Grade: A

Higgins is a favorite target of Baker Mayfield’s and he comes in very cheap compared to his talent. Great signing.

Re-Signed WR/KR JoJo Natson (One-year, undisclosed) — Grade: C

This is one that doesn’t make a ton of sense. Natson has a ton of speed but he was never special on returns. D’Ernest Johnson seemed to be a better option there. On top of that, they tried too hard to use his speed with the fake reverse plays. It would be a surprise to see him make the 53-man roster.

Signed cornerback Troy Hill (Four-years, $24 million) — Grade: A

This is a great move. Troy Hill is a solid coverage cornerback who has seven picks over the past three seasons and took two of those to the house in the 2020 campaign. He’s also the second member of the Rams secondary Andrew Berry has stolen away from L.A. Solid move and a great value here. Berry is very good at this.

Signed linebacker Anthony Walker (One-year, $3.5 million) — Grade B-

Walker is a solid signing but he’s not going to single-handily upgrade what they had in 2020. He does, however, have the ability to start and is stout against the run. Another good move by Berry.

Signed defensive tackle Malik Jackson (One-year, undisclosed) — Grade: B+

Jackson is not the player he once was but he can still contribute as a rotational three-technique. With the defensive tackle position being less than impressive in the upcoming draft, this move makes a lot of sense. It could also mean Jordan Elliott will spend more time at the one-technique in the future.

Tendered wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge (Restricted Tender) — Grade: B+

Cleveland placed a tender on KhaDarel Hodge, a restricted free agent. Hodge has shown flashes of being a playmaker and this move makes a lot of sense. It allows them to match any deal offered to Hodge, meaning he can test the market while they have the ability to keep a player who knows their system.

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This doesn’t guarantee Hodge will be with Cleveland in 2021, but this means it will be their choice whether or not he is.