While the summer season brings much enjoyment to the average person, for an NFL fan, it represents a desolate wasteland where Sundays just aren't quite as vibrant as in the autumn months. However, with each passing day, we inch closer to the beginning of the 2023 NFL season, which officially kicks off on September 8 this year.
Whether you've had your favorite team's tweet notifications turned on all summer or if you've decided to tune out all football news entirely, you'll be able to learn everything you need to know about your team going into the 2022-23 season right here.
In today's article, I'll be discussing the Cleveland Browns.
I'm working on season guidebooks for all 32 NFL teams, which will all be released within the next few weeks. To check out another team's guidebook, click here:
2021 Season Recap
Cleveland was right in the mix to make the playoffs toward the end of last season, but lost three of their last four games by only two points each to fall out of contention in the final stretch. They made more headlines over their off-field drama than their on-field performance and several key players battled injuries for much of the year.
The Browns went 8-9 to finish tied for third in the AFC North, which saw two of its four teams make it to the postseason. It was a bitter end to the season following the impressive playoff run the previous season, and unfortunately for Browns fans, the team has constantly been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons this offseason.
Significant Roster Moves
The beginning of free agency was exciting for Cleveland after they acquired stud receiver Amari Cooper from the Cowboys for only a fifth round pick. He will try to fill in the gap created by the departures of fellow former LSU Tigers, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The Browns then decided to trade for Deshaun Watson and pay him a whopping $230 million guaranteed despite him having two dozen unsettled sexual assault charges filed against him at the time. Not only was it a huge risk to assume Watson would avoid a heavy suspension (or even jail time), but it also made Baker Mayfield more than slightly upset, and understandably so. Mayfield was then traded to the Panthers for a rather unimpressive haul in return.
2022 Draft Class
Cleveland didn't have a pick in this year's draft until the third round, and used their nine selections to fill a wide variety of position needs. They added depth primarily at receiver and defensive line, and even took a kicker in the fourth round who will start immediately.
The Browns will take on the AFC East and the NFC South in 2023 to go along with their six divisional games. Their other three opponents are the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans, and Washington Commanders. With an opponent prior season win percentage of .495, Cleveland has the fourteenth easiest schedule in the NFL.
Cleveland's primetime games include a Thursday night game versus Pittsburgh and a Monday night game versus Cincinnati.
The Browns return 16 of their 22 offensive and defensive starters from last year and were able to retain most of their key impact players. While they have quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball, their potential will be determined by who ends up under center, which will depend on the severity of Deshaun Watson's inevitable suspension. If Watson receives a lenient suspension, Cleveland could be a real contender in the division and conference.
There were no changes to the head coaching position or coordinators in the offseason. Kevin Stefanski enters his third season as head coach of the Browns.
Oddsmakers have not provided a regular season win total for the Browns given the uncertainty surrounding their quarterback situation. However, bettors are still able to bet on Cleveland's division title, conference title, and Super Bowl odds. As of right now, the Browns are the third most likely team to win the AFC North and eight most likely team to win the AFC. At +3000 to win the 2023 Super Bowl, they are 14th among all teams in the league.
Bucket Squad Predictions
I'm picking Cleveland to finish third in the AFC North at this time. While there are rumors the Watson will only receive a 4-6 game suspension, I think it's still possible he'll be forced to sit out the entire season. Given that hypothesis, I am projecting the Browns to finish 12th in the AFC and to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. However, IF Watson does get a much lesser suspension, I can definitely see Cleveland making a real push for the postseason.
What do you think? Will Cleveland be better or worse than I'm projecting? What offseason moves made by the Browns surprised you the most? Leave a comment down below and be sure to check the "NFL" section of the website for more NFL team guidebooks as I finish them.
Written by Nick Swatson
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Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.