3 Big Changes Browns Must Make in 2022 Offseason If They Miss Playoffs

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2021

3 Big Changes Browns Must Make in 2022 Offseason If They Miss Playoffs

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    Nick Cammett/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns are one loss away from spending most of January contemplating what went wrong during the 2021 campaign. 

    Kevin Stefanski's team sits at 7-8 ahead of its Monday night clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers

    Cleveland's offense displayed plenty of flaws in the Week 16 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and that unit will come under scrutiny whenever the offseason begins. 

    Baker Mayfield is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022 campaign, which means the Browns have an important decision to make soon about his future.

    Mayfield's play has not been the only offensive problem faced by the Browns in 2021, and they may be better off fixing the issues around their quarterback than overhauling that position again. 

Bring in Another High-Profile Wide Receiver

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Cleveland failed with its Odell Beckham Jr. experiment, but that does not mean the franchise should give up its pursuit of a high-profile wide receiver. 

    The Browns do not have a ton of money tied up at the position for the 2022 season. Most of that cash is going toward Jarvis Landry. 

    Landry is scheduled to make a base salary of $14.3 million in 2022 in the final year of a five-year, $75 million contract. 

    The Browns may be inclined to get younger at the position once Landry's contract is up, but they should make a run at a top target while the 29-year-old is still on the roster. 

    Cleveland attempted to improve at wide receiver through the draft with Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz over the past two seasons, but they are nowhere close to No. 1 wide receiver material. 

    The Browns could use their first-round selection in the 2022 NFL draft on an offensive playmaker. The Ohio State Buckeyes duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are among the potential first-round picks at the position.

    Cleveland could dip into the free-agent market, but that may prove to be too expensive of a venture, especially with so much money tied up elsewhere on the offense. 

    Kevin Stefanski and Co. committed money to the offensive line, running back and tight end to provide as much support as possible for Mayfield. 

    Now they either need to make a free-agent splash or draft a wide receiver in the first round to complete the full set of weapons around the quarterback. 

Find a Younger Partner for Myles Garrett

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    Kirk Irwin/Associated Press

    The addition of Jadeveon Clowney proved to be one of the better moves Cleveland made in the offseason, but the Browns can't rely on the 28-year-old Clowney to be a long-term solution opposite Myles Garrett. 

    If the franchise focuses on a wide receiver in the NFL draft, it should look to the free-agent market for a younger pass-rusher to complement Garrett for years to come. 

    Harold Landry and Haason Reddick, 25 and 27 respectively, should be at the top of Cleveland's edge-rusher wish list instead of veterans like Chandler Jones and Von Miller. 

    Cleveland needs a younger pass-rusher who will affect offensive game plans for years to come and not just as a one year spot signing, like Clowney. 

    The Browns have done a good job building up the depth in the other two defensive layers through the draft with players like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Denzel Ward, but they have to make a free-agent splash at some point. 

    If the Browns target one of the younger pass-rushers on the market, they could go into 2022 with a more complete defense. 

Prepare to Get Younger at Running Back

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt formed one of the best running back tandems in the NFL, and that should give the Browns confidence in the position in 2022. 

    While the two players are in their mid-20s, they have a lot of carries on their legs, and it would be wise of the Browns to shop for a younger replacement at some point in the offseason. 

    Chubb is under contract longer than Hunt, who is an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 season, but there could be concerns about both players because they suffered injuries during the 2021 campaign. 

    Cleveland could go after a young running back on the second or third day of the NFL draft to begin a rushing game transformation that could take years to come to fruition.

    The ideal scenario for Cleveland is for Chubb to have a lengthy and successful career in the backfield, but the Browns need to make sure they have enough depth at the position to absorb any possible injuries and to plan for Hunt's potential departure after next season.