Q: Looking at the wide receiver room and presuming they draft one, as they should, Marquise Goodwin and Anthony Schwartz would appear to be competing for the same roster spot. Is this the sense you get, or do you think there’s a world where everyone else is healthy and Goodwin and Schwartz both make the 53?
— Poison Pill
A: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones are locks to make the roster. David Bell is a virtual lock. That likely leaves two spots, with perhaps a third reserved for a receiver who specializes as a returner. Michael Woods II was in line for one of the openings before his Achilles ruptured during a workout.
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I fully expect Goodwin to make the team. The organization was excited to add him and believes he satisfies a speed need in the receiving corps — one Schwartz was drafted to fill in 2021. As for your question, I can envision a scenario in which Goodwin and Schwartz both stick around. While their skill sets would overlap, you can never have too much speed, and general manager Andrew Berry doesn’t like to cut draft picks. So I’d view Goodwin and Schwartz separately. I think Schwartz is fighting with Jakeem Grant Sr., Jaelon Darden, Daylen Baldwin, Mike Harley Jr. and a potential draft pick.
Q: I have begun to see some expressed concern for linebacker and that is reasonable and appropriate. Anthony Walker Jr. has signed a one-year deal for the third straight year. This at least suggests the organization does not envision him as a long-term fix, and that it doesn’t fear losing him. We’ve also witnessed that pairing smallish LBs leaves us exceptionally vulnerable to teams intent upon running the football. We cannot return to nor move forward with that formula again. Hence, an infusion of at least one immediate-impact veteran LB seems highly desirable. Seems to me the team needs to nab for itself the best available LB at 74, with another just a bit later.
— Mark Leonard
A: I don’t think the Browns will add a noteworthy veteran linebacker. I do think they draft one and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at No. 74, assuming a guy they like is available. They need to get younger and healthier at the position, especially with Walker and Sione Takitaki coming off serious injuries and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Tony Fields II the only linebackers under contract beyond 2023.
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The future of the position seems to be Owusu-Koramoah and a big question mark. A strong pick in the third round could change that. And new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz should have a significant say in the matter.
You also referenced a potential move of Owusu-Koramoah to safety. I understand that he’s undersized for linebacker but have gotten no indication the organization is considering a position switch. Maybe that changes with Schwartz, but I have doubts about Owusu-Koramoah being able to make the switch.
Q: Do you think the Browns will cut Perrion Winfrey?
— Phil S.
A: I wouldn’t rule it out. Is that vague enough for you?
Winfrey was in attendance during the first week of the voluntary offseason program last week after being arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge in Texas the previous week. He’s accused of assaulting a woman he was dating, and the allegations are disturbing.
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With a fringe player, the Browns may have acted immediately and cut ties. We’ve seen that in the past. But Winfrey was a fourth-round pick a year ago and the hope was he’d take a big jump in Year 2 and be perfect in Schwartz’s attacking scheme. With that as the backdrop, the Browns didn’t make a move with Winfrey.
“I won’t comment on that specifically other than to say that Perrion understands what really our expectations are for all players, whether they’re on the field, in our building or away from the building,” Berry said Friday.
Berry was then asked if he would consider cutting Winfrey depending on information that may be learned.
“We’ll deal with that matter internally and make the appropriate decision for the organization,” he said.
It’s clear the Browns want more time to make a decision and/or let the legal process play out. I’d expect Winfrey to remain on the team, but there is a chance he’s cut at some point because of the arrest.
Q: What is the plan with Jakeem Grant Sr.? A 30-plus-year-old returner coming off a ruptured Achilles seems like quite a long shot, especially with none of his new money guaranteed. He could start the season on PUP and not take up a roster spot, but there still needs to be a plan at returner. Donovan Peoples-Jones was good as a punt returner, but other than the TD his average return was 8.6. Jerome Ford was decent as kick returner but these all seem like stopgaps. Nikko Remigio is likely to go undrafted and he probably tops Derius Davis as the best combo return man in the class. Are you hearing an expectation for this to be addressed?
— Poison Pill
A: Berry was highly complimentary of the time and work Grant has devoted to his rehab and said everyone in the organization is optimistic he’ll return to his Pro Bowl form this year. But that’s a huge question mark.
I know the Browns are making contingency plans. The easiest would be to go with Peoples-Jones and Ford again, but I could see their special teams roles being reduced due to their usage on offense. Darden was picked up during last season, is a returner and will compete for that role. I also expect a receiver who has return experience to be drafted.
If Grant makes it back and can fill the roles, great. If not, new coordinator Bubba Ventrone will have options.
Q: Andrew Berry referred to scouting as a “thankless role,” a surprising characterization to say the least considering that a small army of football enthusiasts dream of being NFL scouts. Was this a bit of hyperbole on Mr. Berry’s part or did he inadvertently give insight into the tone inside the room when Browns execs work with their scouts?
— John Palazzo
A: It’s an interesting thought, but I think you’re reading too much into it.
I believe Berry’s point was scouts toil in obscurity, doing the dirty work before he and the upper echelon of the personnel department take credit during the draft. Berry also referred to the lifestyle of a scout, which isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a ton of flying, driving, hotels, bad food and time away from home.