3 young Cleveland Browns headed for bigger roles in 2023 after first wave of free agency

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cleveland Browns
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cleveland Browns / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
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With the first wave of free agency in the books, we can see some of the Cleveland Browns plans for the 2023 NFL season start to take shape. They were able to retain a few key internal free agents while also going out and making a few splash signings.

Those moves not only tell us what they think about the players who signed new contracts but also how they feel about the younger guys who are returning in 2023.

For example, the decision to re-sign Ethan Pocic not only tells us that they believe he's the future at center, but also that they don't believe Nick Harris has the ability to adequately replace him. They also showed some faith in a few other players, such as these three who will have larger roles in 2023.

Browns rising star No. 3: Jerome Ford, RB

When the Cleveland Browns added Jerome Ford in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the writing was on the wall for Kareem Hunt. While he was great for much of his time with the Browns, he was entering the final year of his contract and battled injuries in 2021.

Then in 2022, Hunt showed signs of wear and isn't expected back in free agency. Also out on the open market is D'Ernest Johnson, who played well in 2021 while Hunt was hurt but fell to the back burner last year. Cleveland hasn't seemed to be making any effort to retain either which is a sign that they think Jerome Ford is ready for more.

As a rookie, Ford had just eight carries for 12 yards but he did show off his shiftiness and ability to avoid tacklers as a return man. He finished with 723 yards on 30 kick returns but isn't likely to resume those duties with Jakeem Grant returning.

Instead, he's in line to be the primary backup to Nick Chubb which should net him far more than eight rushing attempts.