Maurice Hurst re-signed with the Browns this off-season.

'B' for Browns: National media resists overhyping team in '24

March 17, 20244 min read

One week ago, the Browns made national headlines when they acquired Jerry Jeudy from the Denver Broncos. Since then, they've made several moves that have impressed the national media, but none of the moves have earned the team an "A" this off-season.

Key Roster Acquisitions:

LB Jordan Hicks brings experience and leadership, while QB Jameis Winston and QB Tyler Huntley provide depth and competition at the quarterback position behind Deshaun Watson. The defensive front was reinforced with the signings of DT Quinton Jefferson and LB Devin Bush, along with versatile fullback Giovanni Ricci, special teams specialist Tony Brown, and running back Nyheim Hines.

Key Re-signings:

Keeping the edge sharp, the Browns were able to re-sign edge Za'Darius Smith, a critical piece of their defensive puzzle. On the front line, DT Maurice Hurst and DT Shelby Harris will once again solidify the depth chart with their abilities to stuff the run and pass rush. In the secondary, veteran S Rodney McCleod will be returning after his injury-shortened '23 campaign. On special teams, punter Corey Bojorquez will be returning, while back-up OT Michael Dunn will provide additional depth and veteran leadership.

Key Departures:

The Browns saw several key players depart, including veteran QB Joe Flacco. The team also lost significant contributors in DT Jordan Elliott, LB Anthony Walker, TE Harrison Bryant, and RB Kareem Hunt. Another handful of players, including LB Jacob Phillips, OT Geron Christian, CB Michael Ford, and C Nick Harris, will wear different colors come the new season.

National Media Grades:

Sporting News: B+

"The Browns, most important, were able to keep Za'Darius Smith and Maurice Hurst for their strong defensive front under Jim Schwartz. Losing supersub Joe Flacco hurts, but they got their new, younger backup in either Tyler Huntley or Jameis Winston. They also got a productive, savvy starter in Jordan Hicks and improved rotational depth with Quinton Jefferson."

CBS Sports: B+

"General manager Andrew Berry extended his run of success when it comes to pouncing on deals involving talented wide receivers for late-round picks. A few years back it was landing Amari Cooper for a fifth-round pick, and now it's reeling in the 15th overall pick in the 2020 draft in wideout Jerry Jeudy from the Denver Broncos. The 24-year-old is talented, and perhaps he can be unlocked while playing alongside Cooper. This was a low-risk, high-reward move for a team that doesn't have much of an ability to acquire external talent because of its cap situation. Signing Jameis Winston to be Deshaun Watson's backup was a shrewd move. They have a younger fill-in than Joe Flacco, which means Winston could be a multi-year answer if Watson suffers another injury or cannot rediscover his Pro Bowl-caliber play."

Pro Football Focus: B

"Smith was still a handful for opposing offensive lines in 2023 and is a perfect fit as a movable chess piece for Jim Schwartz’s defense, making it very understandable he was a priority to re-sign. Don’t let the dip in sack production fool you: Smith is still a menace up front.

Hicks reunites with Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and is a perfect veteran pairing alongside Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Cleveland has now lost linebackers Sione Takitaki and Anthony Walker to the Patriots and Dolphins, respectively, so they add a veteran who still moves well and was playing at a high level in 2023 before an injury knocked him out for a bit to close the year." B-

"I'm not sure if Winston if needed, can play up to the level that Joe Flacco did leading the team to the postseason. However, the re-signing of Smith and trade for Jeudy brings this grade up a bit."

NFL Power Rankings:

According to Pro Football Network, the Browns find themselves ahead of Pittsburgh, but behind Cincinnati and Baltimore in the newest Power Rankings. At #13 overall, the Cleveland Browns have room to improve with still draft picks to select and available cap space for more free agency acquisitions. PFN wrote:

"This isn’t even about the Jerry Jeudy trade, which is interesting but might not be that impactful. It’s about the Browns being young and explosive on offense and defense, with Deshaun Watson possibly heading for a major rebound in 2024."

As for the other AFC North teams, the Steelers are ranked #24, while the Bengals are #5 and Ravens are #3.

Local Media Reactions:


Photo credit: Cleveland Browns official website.

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