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Previewing the 2016 Cleveland Browns

Nathan Rupert (Flickr album: San Diego Chargers vs. Cleveland Browns)[]

Welcome back to FY’s 2016 NFL team previews! Not interested in this team? Jump to: Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati.

Where They’re Coming From

A lengthy divorce from Johnny Manziel.

The Browns haven’t been able to draft a competent quarterback since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, but at least Manziel had the courtesy of looking like a bust almost immediately after he was drafted. The troubled 2014 first-round pick never took his job seriously, and after two years of red zone picks and even more TMZ pics, the Browns severed ties with “Money” Manziel, and their eternal search for a signal caller continues.

Where They’re Going

Meeting with production companies and pitching Moneyball 2.

Surprisingly, after 16 straight seasons of abject failure, Cleveland finally decided to make a real organizational change this offseason. Their outside-the-box hiring of former baseball executive Paul DePodesta was met with skepticism, but it was the kind of radical change the infinitely inept Browns needed.

Sure enough, Cleveland did something very un-Brownsian this draft: in a weak class, they bypassed taking another QB early and instead, traded their second overall pick for a boatload in return. When you’re drafting history is not great, the more opportunities you have, the better.

We’re still years away from the screenplay having a happy ending, but Moneyball 2 is off to a good start. (Hopefully Steve Guttenberg is still around when it’s time to film, he’s the logical choice to play DePodesta.)

Key Offseason Moves

Additions: QB Robert Griffin III, WR Corey Coleman (drafted), DE Emmanuel Ogbah (drafted)

Losses: S Tashaun Gipson, C Alex Mack, LB Karlos Dansby

What to Watch For

How much talent did the previous regime leave?

It can take a few seasons to fully gauge what a player is capable of at the NFL level, so while the Browns may not know what they have in this year’s draft class yet, they should be able to figure out what (former GM) Ray Farmer left them. Is there a future on this team for Barkevious Mingo or Justin Gilbert? Is Cameron Erving really cut out to play center? Can Duke Johnson be a productive back? Can Gary Barnidge follow up his career year? The rebuild of this roster will go quicker if the answer to those questions are yes.

Who to Watch For

Robert Griffin III, QB

It wouldn’t be a Browns offseason if quarterback wasn’t a dominant storyline, but Griffin is different than the place-holding starters like Jason Campbell or Jake Delhomme that came before him. That’s because there’s still a glimmer of hope that he can recapture the magic from his incredible 2012 rookie season. He also comes with more injury concerns than a 26-year-old who had all of last season off should.

Even if Griffin isn’t the QB of the future (and everything about this franchise’s history suggests that’s the case), he has the important role of helping this young offense improve. Josh Gordon is only 25 years old: if he’s half as good as he was before his suspension, the pairing of him and Corey Coleman on the outside will give the Browns attack some legitimate outside threats moving forward.

This season is all about getting young weapons like Coleman, Johnson, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and others involved. The more Griffin can do that, the better this offense will be when the Browns finally do land “their guy.”

What Could Go Wrong

The team could abruptly move to St. Louis.

Expectations are so low for this team, you really have to get creative to come up with things that could go wrong. As long as nobody suffers a career ending injury and the team doesn’t trade Joe Thomas for Scott Hatteberg, this season can’t be deemed a failure.

Where They’ll End Up

Feeling good at 5-11.

Unlike so many other 5-11 seasons that have come before it, this one will have good vibes attached to it. The future will look brighter, and honestly, fans will probably still be celebrating the Cavaliers championship.

Tags : Barkevious MingoBrownsCameron ErvingClevelandCorey ColemanDuke JohnsonGary BarnidgeJoe ThomasJohnny ManzielJosh GordonJustin GilbertPaul DePodestaRGIIIseason preview
Henry Mardukas

The author Henry Mardukas