3 remaining difficult decisions for the Cleveland Browns this offseason

What's Next for the Cleveland Browns? Tough Choices: Za'Darius Smith, RB Draft, and Skill Positions for Deshaun Watson

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After getting off one of the wildest roller-coaster rides I’ve ever been on, it’s finally time that Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns shift into offseason mode. This team reached a high after the Jets game on Thursday Night Football where Joe Flacco threw for nearly 300 yards in the first half and the Browns clinched the top wildcard spot. And then it all came crashing down as the Houston Texans beat up the Browns and Flacco threw two pick-sixes in the second half of the game.

Truthfully, this team was on borrowed time as soon as it was announced that Deshaun Watson was going on injured reserve, but somehow they managed to win 11 games with four starting quarterbacks and multiple other starters missing much of the season because of injury. I know after the blowout that Kevin Stefanski likely won’t get coach of the year, but what he did was one step short of miraculous. 

We’ve already seen some tough decisions come down the barrel as much of the offensive staff was relieved of their duties including Alex Van Pelt, the offensive coordinator.  It won’t get any easier this offseason as the Browns try to keep this roster loaded for the 2024 season.

Browns difficult decision No. 3: Letting Za’Darius Smith Walk

One of the bigger moves last offseason was acquiring Za’Darius Smith from the Minnesota Vikings. After Jadeveon Clowney decided to finally walk away, the Browns needed another strong defensive end alongside Myles Garrett.

While Smith was a great fit this year for the price, signing him to anything less than a one-year deal doesn’t make sense to me. He had a good season and is a very comparable player to Clowney. He creates a lot of pressure in the backfield but does struggle to finish the deal and get the sack. Smith is also an elite run defender and does a great job setting the edge and covering the backside.

At this point, I don’t see Berry wanting to spend the money it would take to keep Smith around. The Browns will have a few holes to fill via free agency, so look for him to get a veteran with experience, but under the $10 million per year number which likely wouldn’t interest Smith. 

Letting Smith walk away has everything to do with money and nothing to do with his play, but unfortunately, there is a team that is going to be willing to overpay him, and Berry will need to let him walk.