The Browns have talented players and have to figure out which three flex players to keep in addition to 22 starters and backups.
The Cleveland Browns have a deep roster with about 30 talented players who will play meaningful football in the NFL this season, so management will have to work hard to get the defensive roster down to its quota of about 25 players, leaving 25 roster spots for the offense, and three spots for special teams (punter, placekicker, and long snapper), for a total 53 players on the active roster by August 31.
Standard “roster-ology” suggests that the modern NFL defense needs four defensive ends, four defensive tackles, four corners, and four safeties. In the Browns case, they will usually play only two linebackers instead of three, so their 53-player active roster might have six spaces for linebackers rather than the usual seven.
Adding it up, that results in 22 roster spots needed for the defensive starters and their immediate backups. That leaves three additional spaces that could be filled with “flex” players who are not mandated to be in a specific position.
A worksheet, current as of August 18, is appended below in the form of a tweet, along with this fan’s tentative estimates for who is occupying the 22 “fixed” roster spots and who the candidates are for the flex positions.
e Browns have taken on several players on the defensive line with a health history, including Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley, Curtis Weaver, and Marvin Wilson. The first two are proven veterans, and the last pair are young players who have never played in the NFL (Weaver was injured in training camp with the Dolphins last season, and Wilson is a true rookie), both with high ceilings.
In addition, Damian Square is a true professional. If everyone stays healthy, the Browns may want to make a trade to clear roster space. Otherwise, they will be forced to cut someone, and that player will wind up on the Bengals roster for sure.
Jeremiah Owusu Koramoah affects the accounting because he could be charged to either the safety room or the linebacker room. Clevelamd seems to be leaning towards using him as a linebacker. Is it too crazy to think he might try to cover Travis Kelce in his first professional game?
An even crazier thought is that he might actually succeed. Safety looks to be rather thin on the Browns roster unless Koramoah is used to modify the balance of power. Otherwise, it would be really nice to find a trading partner looking for an extra defensive lineman and offering a defensive back. The Browns would also likely accept a future late-round draft pick rather than just giving away a player.
Mack Wilson almost has to make the team. He’s not the greatest all-around linebacker we have ever seen, but he is the enforcer among the linebackers. Twitter buzz seems to think he is a lock to start this season, but his roster spot may not be that stable. The Browns did not draft Tony Fields in order to cut him. Wilson may be LB7 and may need to be one of the flex players.
Some of the young defensive linemen, specifically Curis Weaver and Marvin Wilson, come with such high scouting reports that the Browns almost cannot afford to cut them. Somehow they may try to make a trade to clear roster space on the defensive line.
Conventional thinking would be to add a player to the defensive backfield as a slot corner or extra defensive back to replace the linebacker who was subtracted when the Browns shifted from the 4-3-4 to the 4-2-5.
The practice squad is not a panacea to store players until the Browns want them. Veteran players like Damion Square, M.J. Stewart, Robert Jackson are likely to find immediate employment if the Browns cut them.
Likewise, there is almost zero chance that a drafted player will clear waivers. After roster cutdown, teams with shallow rosters like the Bengals are much more popular destinations than Cleveland. The Browns are not likely to sign new players; rather, it is more likely this year that they will feed other teams.
Hence there is great urgency to get it right. If possible, if the Browns have too many players who are going to be NFL players, maybe they can get something back in the form of a trade rather than just giving them away. Otherwise, they will no doubt have to face some of the players they cut this season in the uniforms of their opponents.