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With new general manager Ray Farmer and new head coach Mike Pettine building the team, the Cleveland Browns approached the offseason aggressively and are set up to be a contender if the right pieces fall into place.
On paper, the Browns defense should be even better than the ninth-ranked unit (332.4 yards per game allowed) the team fielded last season. Free-agent additions like Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby should help bring leadership, while young players like rookie first-round selection Justin Gilbert should add talent.
Of course, Cleveland will still have to find a way to play efficiently on offense, especially with star receiver Josh Gordon facing a potential year-long ban. Gordon's recent DWI arrest could end any hope of him winning his appeal, which is scheduled for late July, according to ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio.
Adding free-agent running back Ben Tate and rookie runner Terrance West should help bring balance to the unit, but Cleveland's fate likely hinges on its ability to get solid quarterback play.
Fortunately, the Browns shouldn't be forced to start rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel before he is ready due to the presence of journeyman Brian Hoyer. According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, Hoyer has been fully cleared for training camp after last season's ACL tear.
The AFC North sent just one team (the Bengals) to the playoffs a year ago. If the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens stumble again, I believe the Browns will have a decent chance of slipping into the playoffs, especially with the league's seventh-easiest schedule.
As things currently stand, however, this looks like a .500 team.