Outlining the off-season

Hue Jackson will have plenty of observations to make as the 2017 Browns take shape.

The Browns organization was embarrassed and dismayed by their 1-15 record this past season. Expectations for the second year of the Sashi Brown/John DePodesta/Hue Jackson team — and the sixth year of the Haslam regime — are for a quantum leap toward success.

It’s pithy to say that there’s nowhere to go but up, but so many things still need to break in our favor to make real headway in this competitive 32-team league. Injuries and inertia are two central examples.

Every team sustains injuries, but the Browns need to become one of the teams that get hurt less often and less seriously than others. Ultimately, injuries are no excuse, but they are a painfully real factor. We suffer in lost development, poorer unit cohesion, and games missed outright. There is room for competitive advantage in training methods that better prevent injuries, particularly of the soft tissue variety.

As for inertia, the losing culture persists and permeates so much surrounding the Browns. What will it take to become a preferred destination for players, or coaches for that matter? What will it take for players to expect to win in the end and play not just hard, but with confidence? What will it take for underlying perceptions about the Browns to improve to at least neutral among such groups as the media and the officials? Last year the Browns dipped below the .500 line for the first time, becoming overall a losing franchise, if their AAFC exploits are excluded, which they typical are. Considering the strength of their teams throughout the ’50s and ’60s, that’s remarkable. And it must change.

So, more as a place-marker than anything, here’s a bare outline of the major tasks before the Browns as they set out for a sunnier 2017 and beyond.

complete coaching staff

  • replacement for Pep Hamilton, departed assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach
  • veteran assistants Bob Wylie (OL) and DeWayne Walker (DB) reportedly hired (unofficial)
  • about three more defensive assistants needed (OLB, ILB, asst. DB)

evaluate current roster

  • top-to-bottom review of production, potential, professionalism, & contract status
  • which if any current QBs project to potential quality starters?
  • weakest positional groups: QB, S, OLB

re-sign/extend key players

  • upcoming unrestricted free agents, in order of importance
  1. WR Terrelle Pryor
  2. LB Jamie Collins
  3. OL Austin Pasztor
  4. S Jordan Poyer
  5. P Britton Colquitt
  6. DL Stephen Paea
  • upcoming restricted free agents, in order of importance
  1. RB Isaiah Crowell
  2. LS Charley Hughlett
  3. RB Glenn Winston
  • entering final year of rookie contract
  1. LB Christian Kirksey
  2. G Joel Bitonio
  • deadline to use franchise/transition tag is March 1 (Pryor, Collins, or neither)

decide whether to release others

  • DB Tramon Williams (turns 34 in March): $1 million roster bonus due March 11, $5.7 million 2017 salary (plus per-game bonuses)
  • QB Josh McCown (turns 38 in July): $750K roster bonus due March 11, $3.625 million 2017 salary
  • QB Robert Griffin III (turns 27 in February): $750K roster bonus due March 11, $6 million 2017 salary (plus per-game bonuses)

target some UFAs

  • free agency opens with start of league year on March 9
  • trades also possible at that point
  • focus on players in/entering prime years
  • potential UFAs at need positions:
  1. OLB Melvin Ingram, Chargers
  2. S Eric Berry, Chiefs
  3. OLB Chandler Jones, Cardinals
  4. S Tony Jefferson, Cardinals
  5. CB A.J. Bouye, Texans
  6. QB Ryan Nassib, Giants

draft well

  • incorporate coaching input from Jan. 24-28 Senior Bowl
  • scouting combine, Feb. 28-March 6
  • draft is April 27-29
  • Browns picks include overall 1, 12, 33, 52, 65

install schemes

  • new DC Gregg Williams typically runs a 4-3 base defense; Browns had been primarily a 3-4 team
  • expect Hue to bring in at least one new quarterback

develop & evaluate roster

consider further contract extensions

  • before young veterans play out the final year of their contracts

training camp