Who Is on the Cleveland Browns' Roster Bubble Heading into Camp?
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Right now, each NFL team can have up to 90 men on their roster. Once training camp ends and the season is set to begin, that number must be pared down to 53. The decision-making process is therefore a tough one for each squad.
That, of course, includes the Cleveland Browns. Though training camp is a month away, that doesn't mean there aren't already players firmly on the roster bubble.
In the following slides, I break down a few players who will need to step up their games come the start of camp in order to remain with the Browns once it ends.
RB Chris Ogbonnaya or Montario Hardesty
If Chris Ogbonnaya can turn heads in camp, then his roster spot should be safe.
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With the addition of running back Trent Richardson via the draft, one of the remaining running backs on the Browns roster will likely not make the cut once training camp ends. Right now, the two on the bubble are Chris Ogbonnaya, a 2011 waiver acquisition, and Montario Hardesty, Cleveland's 2010 second-round draft pick.
On paper, it seems like Hardesty has the most uphill of battles. Hardesty was brought on to be an every-down back, but now that Richardson's in sole possession of that role, Hardesty is a bit expendable. Add into the equation Hardesty's injury history, and it seems like the Browns would be smart to part ways with him.
If Hardesty is out, then Chris Ogbonnaya is likely safe. However, the Browns aren't likely to be so comfortable releasing a player worth a second-round pick.
Ogbonnaya has shown some talent running the ball, and his profile is much different from that of Richardson's. Should Hardesty be cut, then Brandon Jackson would be the No. 2 back and used in change-of-pace and receiving duties, with Ogbonnaya his backup. But Ogbonnaya isn't much of a pass protector and may have to prove his special teams worth to remain in Cleveland.
Though it makes more sense for the Browns to release Hardesty and retain Ogbonnaya, the latter will have to be thoroughly impressive through camp and the preseason to convince the team to do so.
QB Colt McCoy
Colt McCoy's future is largely out of his own hands.
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Quarterback Colt McCoy isn't on the Browns roster bubble for reasons of performance—well, that's part of it, but it's not the only reason.
If McCoy had proven ready to be named the Browns' franchise quarterback last season, then it's highly unlikely they would have selected Brandon Weeden in the first round (or any round, for that matter) of this year's draft. However, that apparently wasn't the case, and now the 2010 third-rounder is fighting to remain on Cleveland's roster.
It's not a matter of outperforming fellow quarterback Seneca Wallace in camp or the preseason that will save McCoy.
It's the matter of the Browns being able to get greater value in trade for McCoy than Wallace, Wallace's relationship with team president Mike Holmgren and the fact that McCoy could head to another team and compete for a starting job while Wallace cannot that will likely drive the team to move him before the regular season begins.
While holding onto both Wallace and McCoy during Weeden's rookie season would be the smartest thing the Browns could do this year, if they want to get as much trade value as possible from McCoy, they need to do it prior to September. There's likely little McCoy can do to get off of the Browns' bubble.
WR Carlton Mitchell
Carlton Mitchell, we hardly know you—and that's a problem.
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The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto reported in early June that rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper has apparently surpassed 2010 sixth-round draft pick Carlton Mitchell, who's had just three receptions in his professional career while spending much of it inactive.
If this continues, then Mitchell is likely not going to remain on the Browns roster this season. Cooper, who will compete for a slot receiving job, is an Oklahoma State teammate of quarterback Brandon Weeden, which means chemistry between the two is ready-made.
Though later in June, ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi said that Mitchell did look better as OTAs wore on, the fact that Cooper is turning heads and the team won't likely carry more than two slot receivers (the other being Jordan Norwood) means that Mitchell needs to make a major impression in camp if a valuable wide receiver roster spot is to be his.
This is clearly not the best offseason for Browns' 2010 draft picks.
FB Owen Marecic
If Brad Smelley proves to be a strong lead blocker, he's got more upside in the Browns' WCO than Owen Marecic.
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Though the Cleveland Browns already had a fullback on their roster—2011 fourth-round pick Owen Marecic—the team opted to select another one, Brad Smelley, in the seventh round.
Though Marecic is more of a battering ram lead-blocker type than Smelley (something pretty necessary with Trent Richardson running the ball), he could be supplanted by Smelley, who is ultimately a better fit in Cleveland's West Coast offense.
Smelley is an adept pass-catcher, but he's not very explosive and projects more to be an h-back than a traditional blocking fullback. However, if Smelley proves stronger than he seems at blocking and makes a few key receptions in preseason, Marecic could find his way out the door.
The other option is that the Browns retain Smelley as an h-back and Marecic as a lead blocker; there's also an outside chance that Cleveland could move Marecic to linebacker, which he also played at Stanford.