Cleveland Browns in Danger of Getting Axed
At a time of year where we spend most of our time talking about which players will make the team who weren't previously on the roster, it's easy to forget those who end up on the other end of the equation: The guys who were on the roster last year who might not be fortunate enough to make the cut this time around.
The Browns did most of their high profile housecleaning way back in the early spring before the lockout, so there aren't many well-known players left in camp who are on the roster bubble. But there are still a number of lesser contributors who are currently hanging in the balance, waiting to see whether they'll get a chance to stay with the Browns or if they'll instead be cut and have to try to catch on elsewhere.
For this piece, I've looked at a few players who might fit the above description in that they may not make the roster at all, as well as a few players who are mostly a lock to remain with the team but are very much in danger of losing their starting jobs.
Note that for the purposes of this piece, I am only looking at players who were on the 2010 roster or practice squad who are in danger of losing their roster spot or starting job, not rookies or undrafted free agents brought in during 2011 who are in danger of not making the cut.
Please feel free to share which players you think are in danger of losing their starting jobs or their roster spots in the comments below!
1. Browns Players in Danger of Not Making the Roster: Offense
Before we get into more detailed examinations of players who are in danger of losing their starting jobs, let's take a look at the list of players who were with the Browns in 2010 but are in danger of not making the 2011 roster at all.
Interestingly, most of the players who potentially might fall into this category are defensive players. On the offense, there seem to be very few players of this sort who could end up on the roster bubble.
The first of those is TE Alex Smith who, being as far down the depth chart as he is, may be in danger of being dropped off the 2011 roster. However, while technically Smith is in a possible trouble spot in terms of where he ranks, the Browns have not yet indicated that his job is in jeopardy. The odds that it is seem even lower when you consider that the Browns have specifically stated that they might carry four TEs this season, indicating that Smith's job could be safe.
The only other offensive players of note who seem to be in this position are some of the WRs. It's unlikely a guy like Carlton Mitchell is going anywhere, and Jordan Norwood has been surprisingly good thus far in camp, so it's unlikely he'll be leaving us either. Jonathan Haggerty's position is a bit more tenuous, though with all the injuries to the WR corps already, the Browns will likely be hesitant to send anyone packing until they know the injury status of the players higher up on the depth chart.
Beyond that, there aren't many other candidates of this sort on offense. The expendable players from the O-line have already been cleared out for the most part, and the Browns aren't carrying much in the way of RBs or QBs that is expendable, especially when accounting only for players who were on the 2010 roster as we are doing here.
2. Browns Players in Danger of Not Making the Roster: Defense
When it comes to 2010 Browns in danger of not continuing to be Browns in 2011, the candidates are much more numerous on defense (or in some cases, defense/special teams) than on offense.
To begin, let's look at the players who are primarily special teams hitters who may not have enough use on defense to make the cut. Most notably, that would be FS Ray Ventrone and LB Titus Brown.
Both Brown and Ventrone have been significant contributors on special teams defense, but haven't been able to prove that they have the skills to qualify for a spot on the Browns defense to date, even in a backup role.
The Browns have already shown they won't hang onto players just because they're special teams standout hitters if they can't contribute on defense as well. We learned this when they made no attempt to stop free agent Blake Costanzo from walking away and signing with the 49ers earlier this week.
Costanzo is widely considered one of the better special teams hitters in the league, so if they were willing to let him walk because he couldn't help them on defense, there's a good chance that Ventrone and Brown will suffer the same fate if they can't at least nail down a defensive backup role to round out what they have to offer.
Beyond that, there aren't too many players even on defense who are likely to be axed who were with the Browns in 2010. A few however, like Kaluka Maiava and Travis Ivey, could be in some trouble depending on how they perform in camp and how their competition fares.
Some long shots to lose their spots could be Coye Francies or Mike Adams, though those are unlikely given that one of the rookies or UDFAs would really have to show them up to steal their spots, and even if they were to be surpassed by a newcomer, they would likely both still be kept on for depth.
3. Browns Players in Danger of Losing Their Starting Jobs: Offense
Now let's take a look at a few players who won't be losing their spots on the roster, but could be very much in danger of losing their starting jobs.
The most obvious candidate on offense is of course WR Mohamed Massaquoi. While Massaquoi was technically the No. 1 receiver in 2010, he was No. 1 in name only, and with his injury and an increase in talent across the receiving corps as a whole, he's now got not only virtually no chance of being the No. 1 guy, but is also hugely in danger of losing the chance to start at all.
Both of the receivers who got starting opportunities along side Massaquoi last season, Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs, appear to be better candidates than he does in 2011. Add to that the fact that rookie Greg Little is likely to grab a starting spot and that both Jordan Norwood and Carlton Mitchell (Norwood in particular) have been making some noise, and MoMass looks like he's in big trouble.
And on top of the competition from other players, he suffered a significant injury early in camp. Massaquoi likely wouldn't be cut, but his chances to snag a starting role get slimmer every day.
Aside from Massaquoi, there aren't too many starters from 2010 on offense who are in danger of losing that privilege this season. Ben Watson was the only consistent starting TE in 2010 and his job is not in jeopardy. The same obviously goes for RB Peyton Hillis and QB Colt McCoy, both also the only consistent 2010 starters at their respective positions who remain on the roster to date.
It's tough to classify anyone on the offensive line this way either. No one on the left side is in any danger of being demoted, and as for the right side, there were no consistent starters in 2010 who are still around even to be in a position to suffer a possible demotion.
Yates, Lauvao, and Pashos were all injured last season, so even if any of them are hurt again or just lose their jobs, it couldn't exactly be considered a demotion since none of them started a significant number of games last year.
4. Browns Players in Danger of Losing Their Starting Jobs: Defense
As was the case on offense, there aren't too many defensive starters from 2010 in danger of losing their jobs in 2011. Most of those consistent starters who remain on the roster from last year like Ahtyba Rubin, Joe Haden, T.J. Ward and Sheldon Brown will start again this season, and others who remain on the roster from 2010 didn't have a consistent starting job last year to lose this year.
Still, we can take a look at a few others who were backups or occasional starters last season who are competing for a starting job this year that they might not get.
Let's start with S Mike Adams. Adams was largely a backup last year, so we can't truly say he has a former starting position to lose. While he played in 15 games last season, he only started two. Still, earlier in the offseason he did appear to be a candidate to start opposite T.J. Ward.
However, when free agent Usama Young was signed, Adams chances to be anything more than a backup pretty much evaporated. And should one of the starters go down with an injury, he'll have underrated rookie Eric Hagg nipping at his heels for the replacement starter's job as well.
At cornerback, Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown clearly have the starting roles locked up. Right behind them is probably Coye Francies, who like Adams, didn't have a starting job in 2010 that he could potentially lose this year.
Francies played in just two games and while he's listed directly behind Haden on the depth chart, he could be in danger of losing even that slot with talented rookie Buster Skrine in the mix as well as a host of UDFAs with pretty decent potential.
5. Browns PLayers in Danger of Losing Their Starting Jobs: Defense (Continued)
At linebacker, the Browns still have a lot of confusion going on. Scott Fujita, Chris Gocong and Marcus Benard (provided he isn't moved to a D-line role) would have priority at the position, but beyond that, things are very, very hazy.
The switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 changes around the roles a lot of players will take on from those they had last year in terms of LB/DE/DT jobs), plus the rest of the LB candidates are mostly either unknown commodities or guys who likely top out as backups.
The one notable player who is in an interesting sort of unknown position is D'Qwell Jackson, who the Browns clearly liked enough to re-sign in the hopes that he could be a major contributor, but whose stock is difficult to assess value for considering that injuries kept him out all of last season.
The defensive line doesn't really factor into this discussion much, as it will be (with the exception of undoubtable starter Rubin) largely made up of players new to the team, at least in terms of starting roles.
Guys like the recently re-signed Derreck Robinson or Jayme Mitchell, for example, will be in competition for playing time but didn't see enough starting action last year to be considered former starters. The only possible candidate would be Robaire Smith, who is as yet unsigned by the Browns, but it's a safe bet to assume that if the Browns bother to re-sign him, they probably plan to make a lot of use of him.