When a team like the Cleveland Browns fails to make the NFL postseason, the players can experience two different emotions in their off time. The first is joy and relaxation after a long, tough season. The second is panic and uncertainty about their future. Today, we examine the Browns players who should be feeling the latter.
Anytime a team only wins four games, there will be turnover on the roster. In fact, every team, including the Super Bowl winner, will experience roster turnover. The amount of roster turnover usually tells you how close you are to competing the next season.
Luckily for the Browns, they have a solid core in place and will not be receiving a complete facelift this offseason. With five Pro Bowl players and many other young talents under contract, the Browns have built a nucleus.
Obviously, the Browns will need to find the right coach and quarterback to pair with that nucleus; otherwise it is all for not.
Even with a solid base to work from, the Browns will want or need to jettison some guys who played key roles during last season. During my analysis, you will see a lot of advanced analytics referenced. This is because the Browns front office uses them, and by studying the 2013 results, we can accurately see who is on the bubble.
Remember, no coaches remain in Cleveland to vouch for players anymore. The only things left are stats and memories.
Here are five players who should be very worried about their 2014 roster spot because they are on the bubble for one reason or another.
Inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson has seen it all in his time in the NFL. Well, he has seen everything except winning. After surviving back-to-back pectoral tears, he has emerged as a leader on the defense and a very solid linebacker.
Normally, this would ensure the Browns would have him return, especially since he is under contract through 2016.
Unfortunately, Jackson is 30 years old and due to make $2.6 million next season along with a $4 million roster bonus. Age and economics are the leading causes of roster cuts.
He told Mary Kay Cabot of the The Plain Dealer that he would be “absolutely” shocked if he were not on the roster next season.
Unless he is open to restructuring his current deal, then he should not be shocked at anything. Especially with Browns CEO Joe Banner steering the ship.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if inside linebacker Craig Robertson were not on the roster in 2014. First of all, he is an unrestricted free agent and can sign anywhere he pleases. From the Browns' perspective, they must decide if he is worth re-signing strictly for depth purposes.
The one thing that is certain is that Robertson will not be a starter in Cleveland in 2014. At the beginning of last season, he was on his way to a huge payday, but by the end of the year, he may have played himself out of a starting role anywhere.
Robertson was the main culprit in a defense that was absolutely ravaged by teams' third and fourth options through the air. He became the target of offensive coordinators and a guy who opposing tight ends and running backs could pad their stats against.
According to Football Outsiders, the Browns ranked second-worst in the NFL at defending the pass against tight ends and running backs. Both of which are Robertson’s main assignments.
During training camp, the coaching staff had a three-man rotation at guard between Shawn Lauvao, John Greco and Jason Pinkston. They were attempting to determine who would rise to the top and become their starting guards.
All that went down the drain when both Lauvao and Pinkston went down with injuries. Oniel Cousins was forced into a starting position and played poorly enough that as soon as Lauvao returned, he was inserted back into the starting lineup.
It is no secret that the Browns offensive line was bad this year. They were 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense and averaged just four yards per carry. They also allowed the third-most sacks in the league with 49.
The advanced analytics paint a picture of an offensive line that was ineffective at just about every position. The Browns middle/guard category of the offensive line on Football Outsiders was ranked 22nd in the NFL in adjusted line yards. The center, Alex Mack, made the Pro Bowl, so this falls heavily on the guards.
They also failed to be effective despite 67 percent of the Browns' run plays going through their zone of the line.
Lauvao is also a free agent, and the Browns have a much cheaper alternative on the roster. Pinkston is signed for one more year and is only due $645,000.
The Browns traded for, and then extended the contract of, the man they thought would be their steady third-down receiver for the next four years. Wide receiver Davone Bess didn’t quite pan out in his first year with the team.
Bess missed the final two games of the 2013 season after being placed on the reserve/non-football illness list. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer reported that he had been dealing with a serious family issue all season long.
Just two days after being excused, Bess posted a picture on his Instagram account, which looked very much like he was lighting a blunt of marijuana. The photo was quickly deleted. The story probably would have gone away; however, Bess has posted several other photos on Twitter and Instagram in a very similar fashion, only to have them deleted as well.
This probably wouldn’t be as big of an issue if he had been even slightly productive in 2013. According to Football Outsiders, he was the second-worst receiver in the NFL at defensive-adjusted yards above replacement (among receivers with at least 50 catches). Basically, DYOR is a stat measuring the effectiveness of a receiver’s time on the field.
If you need a more basic stat, then how about the fact that he was fourth in the NFL in drops and is set to make $3.067 million next season.
Since Davone Bess was the second-worst receiver in the league when it came to DYOR, I will give you one guess as to who was dead last. Yep, no one finished further from the top than wide receiver Greg Little.
He was finally able to make his way off the NFL drop leaders list, but it may have just been because no one was throwing him the ball. When he did have opportunities, he failed to capitalize. In Week 16, he dropped an easy touchdown pass and was benched for Brian Tyms, who had never caught a pass in the NFL.
The few times he did make plays in 2013, it seemed they were immediately followed by a taunting or excessive celebration penalty.
Little is due $753,750 in 2014, and there is almost zero chance he will be back on the roster. What makes his lack of production even more glaring is that the NFL’s leading receiver, Josh Gordon, lined up across the field from him and is only set to make $825,604 next season.