Worst 2022 NFL offseason moves that the Browns will regret
The Cleveland Browns had an explosive 2022 NFL offseason. After struggling for much of the 2021 season and missing the playoffs, the Browns decided it was time switch things up. They swung a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans for star quarterback Deshaun Watson that figures to elevate them to one of the top teams in the league.
The Browns also went out and got Watson a top tier wide receiver in Amari Cooper, fortifying a deadly offense. Their defense remains as stingy as ever, and they appear set to improve in 2022 as well. In the crowded AFC, the Browns have found a way to stand out amongst their competitors.
It wasn’t all good for the Browns, though, as there were some questionable calls along the way. The Watson deal has been polarizing, largely due to the possibility that Watson may be suspended for a long stretch of the 2022 season. If he ends up playing, that deal cannot really be critiqued. But there were a couple of other moves from this offseason that were head-scratchers at the time, and may end up hurting the Browns down the line.
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Cleveland Browns worst offseason moves
2. Releasing Jarvis Landry
In a span of a couple of months, the Browns managed to lose their top two receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. They managed to make up for it with the aforementioned trade for Cooper, but the sting of losing both of them could be felt this upcoming season, especially Landry. Landry requested a trade after the end of the season, and was released by the Browns shortly thereafter.
The whole situation surrounding Landry’s release feels like a missed opportunity for Cleveland. They lost their top receiver, who battled through injuries last season to still put together a fairly productive campaign (52 REC, 570 YDS, 4 TD). On the wide receiver depth chart after Cooper now, the Browns have Donovan Peoples-Jones, and not much else.
Even if Landry didn’t want to be on Cleveland anymore, they probably could have found a willing trade partner had they waited a bit longer. The wide receiver market in free agency dried up pretty quickly, to the point where Landry was the top guy available for a point in time. They probably could have picked up a draft pick and saved themselves from a bigger dead cap hit had they been able to find a trade for Landry.
Instead, the Browns were pretty eager to release Landry once they got Cooper, which feels like a bit of a wasteful move on their part. They had a talented receiver on their roster in Landry who they let go in return for nothing. Losing talent always hurts, but losing talent for nothing kills franchises. Losing Landry is admittedly not the biggest deal, but it wasn’t a great play by the Browns front office.
1. Extending Denzel Ward
Denzel Ward has been an above average cornerback during his first four seasons in the NFL. The problem for Ward is that, given he was the fourth overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, he hasn’t managed to reach the lofty expectations many folks have had for him throughout the start of his career.
Despite that, the Browns had to make a decision on Ward soon, as his contract was set to expire after the 2022 season. They obviously weren’t going to let him leave, so an extension made sense for the Browns. They ended up inking Ward to a five-year, $100.5 million deal, which makes him the second-higest paid corner in terms of average salary per year.
The problem with this isn’t extending Ward; the Browns were right to hand Ward a new deal considering his contract status. The problem is the money. Ward’s deal sees him earning more than every corner in the league other than Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers. Safe to say, Ward isn’t the second best cornerback in the NFL right now.
Denzel Ward has been strikingly inconsistent to start his career, although he is coming off a strong 2021 campaign. The problem is he is now getting paid more than the likes of Jalen Ramsey, Marshon Lattimore, and Xavien Howard, all guys who have vastly outproduced Ward over the past four seasons.
As of right now, there’s no doubt that this deal for Ward is a gross overpay, which is a bit of a problem for Cleveland. Granted, Ward is still young and coming off his best season as a pro, but it feels like they are taking a big risk handing Ward all this money when he hasn’t played like a number one corner for large stretches of his career so far. Chances are Denzel Ward will continue to improve, but the problem is that he may never be worth the amount of money he got in this deal, and this could really hurt Cleveland in the future if that becomes the case.