Q: Care to venture a guess on the percentage of plays this year where the Browns will utilize a slot receiver that isn’t a tight end or Kareem Hunt?
A: You know I do. And I’m going with 15 percent. That seems low — it’s much smaller than I thought off the top of my head — but after crunching the numbers I think it’s reasonable. The caveat is the number would spike in games in which the Browns spend a lot of time in the two-minute offense.
Here’s how I arrived at 15 percent for a true No. 3 wideout. Coach Kevin Stefanski loves to use two-tight end sets, so let’s go with two tight ends 55 percent of the time. He also likes a fullback — the Browns just traded for Andy Janovich — so I’m saying a fullback will be on the field 15 percent of the snaps. Providing two tight ends and a fullback overlap 7 percent of the time, that’s 63 percent of the time with either two tight ends and/or a fullback.
The remaining 37 percent is split between two running backs and three receivers. With the talent and versatility of Hunt, I’d say he’s on the field for the majority of that time, leaving only 15 percent for a true No. 3 receiver. And even that may be high.
Q: Everyone seems to treat the left tackle position as either “Trent Williams” or “Draft a rookie.” Why not sign Williams for 3 years with 80 percent of the money in Year 1, 15 percent in Year 2, and draft a left tackle this year? No matter who starts at LT, you’re not overpaying for the position.
A: I’m good with the two-pronged approach to addressing the huge need at left tackle. And I’d certainly consider Williams. The issue is that acquiring him would require a trade. Are the Browns willing to give up a high draft pick then pay Williams as an elite left tackle? The decision gets simpler if Washington cuts Williams, which doesn’t seem likely at this point.
Another scenario would be signing free agent Jason Peters and drafting his eventual replacement. Peters is 38 years old but can still play. He’d be cheaper than Williams, 31, and could groom the draft pick for a year or two. If this were the route the Browns chose, they wouldn’t have to draft a tackle at No. 10. They could trade down in the first round or up from No. 41 and take someone from the second tier of tackles, such as Houston’s Josh Jones, USC’s Austin Jackson or Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland.
Q: Any chance the Browns take a look at Everson Griffen? Maybe a one-year deal?
A: He has to be on their radar, especially given the connection with the Browns coaches who spent years with him in Minnesota.
Griffen is 32 years old but had 13, 5.5 and eight sacks the last three seasons with the Vikings. If the Browns could sign him to a one- or two-year deal worth $10 million a year (it might not take this much), they could cut defensive end Olivier Vernon and save $5 million. But without a suitable replacement like Griffen, the Browns can’t afford to dump Vernon. They just don’t have anyone to pair with Myles Garrett in the starting lineup.
Q: This was floated out there for a draft day trade. Minnesota trades the 1 they got from Buffalo for Stefon Diggs, plus Anthony Harris, the safety we have been linked to, for Odell Beckham Jr. I say no because I’d rather see what a healthy Beckham can do in Kevin Stefanski’s offense. You in or out?!
— Keith Parsons
A: I’m out. But I had to think about it for a while.
I agree with you that I’d hate to see Beckham leave the Browns without him being healthy for a season. I still view him as a top-10 receiver in the league, and losing him would leave a significant hole on the offense, which would need to be filled in the draft. My other primary reason for not making the deal is that I think Harris can be acquired for a fourth-round pick. So I’d advocate keeping Beckham and trading a midround pick for Harris, then signing Harris to a long-term deal.
For me, the top reasons to consider this deal are the depth of receivers in the draft and Stefanski’s offense being balanced enough not to necessarily require a pair of high-end wideouts. If Stefanski believes he could operate successfully with Jarvis Landry and a rookie at wideout, then I’d consider making the trade. But the Browns have given no indication they plan to move Beckham.
Q: Is there any chance Damarious Randall stays with the Browns?
— Jai Singh
A: I just don’t see it.
Randall, a versatile free safety, is a likable guy and a legitimate starter in the NFL. I just think he burned too many bridges last season, even if there’s been a regime change. Randall is a joy to talk to but can be a pain to coach, and I think the last two defensive staffs would agree on that. The Browns may not find an upgrade for 2020 but they seem committed to moving on without Randall regardless.
Q: Your thoughts on Greedy Williams’ development during Year 1?
A: I thought Williams was fine, especially given the difficult of the cornerback position. He wasn’t perfect but he showed me he deserves to be a starter in the league and has plenty of potential.
With Denzel Ward on the other side, opponents went after Williams a lot, and he held his own. Giving up key sideline completions in the loss to the Patriots stand out as negatives, but he rebounded. As would be expected given the scouting reports from his days at LSU, Williams’ tackling was inconsistent. But I thought he showed enough willingness and physicality to get the job done.
The biggest disappointments were the four games missed with a hamstring injury and the lack of an interception. He kept saying the turnovers were coming, but they never arrived.
Q: The Browns have signed two safeties however neither of them are as good as Damarious Randall. What is the update on his status with the team? Could he return on a one-year deal? Also could the Browns offer Jason Peters a one-year deal?
A: I understand the interest in Randall, especially when he played so well in 2018 — I thought he was a borderline Pro Bowler. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing him back on a one-year deal but I get the sense that ship has sailed.
And the Browns should definitely consider Peters on a short-term deal.
Q: Can center Evan Brown play guard as well?
A: I doubt it. Not only did the Browns list him as a center, he’s only 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, which is undersized for a guard. Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller are 6-4.
I think Brown will be purely an option as a backup center.