Cleveland Browns must select 4 flex positions on offense

Jul 29, 2021; Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Kyle Lauletta (17) practices play action during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2021; Berea, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Kyle Lauletta (17) practices play action during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3
Cleveland Browns
Nov 3, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Chris Hubbard (74) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns roster will have 25 spots for offensive players, including only about four flex players. 

When the regular season begins against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 12, 2021, the Cleveland Browns will have prepared an offensive roster will consisting of about 25 players, including the starting 11 and another ten second stringers that are more or less standard, and only four flex players who are chosen from six possible positions.

That is, every team’s offense is usually assigned 25 positions on the active roster. The more or less essential positions are two quarterbacks, five wide receivers, three tight ends, three running backs, and eight offensive linemen, totaling 21 roster spots that have to be filled for virtually all NFL teams.

Thus the front office can only exercise discretion over four flex roster spots. However, they have more potential positions than spots; namely, QB3, WR6, TE4, RB4, OL9, and FB (fullback, which will probably be used by the Browns, but which is not necessarily standard in today’s NFL); and OL9.

Cleveland’s offense is laid out on the last page of this article listing the 21 players who tentatively, at least, seem very likely to be on the roster. Some important names are missing from the 21 anointed ones, however, due to salary cap considerations rather than lack of ability.

Specifically, the Browns would be happy to start offensive-coordinator-on-the-field Chris Hubbard, but they might be tempted to recover $2 million in salary cap if it looks like he is destined to be second string this season. This could go either way. In the long run, it is bad policy to overspend on backups (you’re supposed to be saving to pay the quarterback), but if you truly believe that a Super Bowl run is in the offing, that rule can be violated.

The same situation exists for KhaDarel Hodge, last year’s No. 3 wide receiver before he fell prey to a pulled hamstring. He is also an 800-pound gorilla on special teams when healthy, so he has a powerful advocate in special teams coach Mike Priefer. A vicious tackler with 4.3 speed, it would not be a surprise to see him as an emergency defensive back one of these days also. But he has non-guaranteed money, and a group of talented kids who want to work for one-third the price.

D’Ernest Johnson wouldn’t save a ton of money, but as a veteran he gets paid about a quarter of a million dollars more than a first-year player. Johnson also returns punts and kicks and is a very valuable player, but Demetric Felton is a draft pick and thus the team has a stronger commitment to him as RB3. If Johnson makes the team, he will probably rank higher on the depth chart than Felton.

If the Browns keep all three, it signifies that they are going for broke and trying to win it all right now. If not, they are playing the percentages for a long-term healthy franchise.

Those three are the top candidates likely to be salary cap cuts, but they are very likely to be playing somewhere in the NFL one way or another. Chris Hubbard is a unique player, one of the only players who is genuinely respected in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. There would be a genuine concern that if he is cut, he would become an automatic starter for the black and gold. Perhaps the Browns could find an NFC trading partner wanting to trade a veteran defensive back in a similar contract situation.

The next page discusses the main options for the four flex positions for the offense. There are six options, and the Browns get to choose four among them. Next week DPD will work a similar exercise for the defense.