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Ranking the Cleveland Browns' top 2021 offseason needs

The Cleveland Browns enter the 2021 offseason looking to improve on last year's 11-5 regular-season record.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from Jan. 20, 2021.

The arrival of March means that the start of the 2021 NFL calendar is just two weeks away.

RELATED: More Cleveland Browns coverage from WKYC

With that in mind, let's take a look at the Cleveland Browns' biggest needs entering an offseason in which they'll attempt to improve a roster that amassed an 11-5 regular-season record in 2020.

Defensive end

Through three seasons in the league, Myles Garrett has established himself as one of the NFL's top pass-rushers, but that didn't stop the Browns from ranking 15th in sacks last season. Olivier Vernon, who posted nine sacks last season, is set to hit free agency and is still recovering from a torn Achilles, leaving a void opposite Garrett in Cleveland's starting lineup.

The No. 26 pick of the NFL Draft seems like an obvious spot for the Browns to address their pass-rushing problem, while J.J. Watt, Carl Lawson and Trey Hendrickson provide intriguing free-agent options. Considering Cleveland's need for both a new starter and overall depth at the position, look for the Browns to address defensive end through multiple means.


Greedy Williams missed all of 2020 with a shoulder injury, while Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson are set to hit the free agency market. While Cleveland expects Williams to return in 2021, his injury history leaves the Browns in need of a reliable alternative option opposite Denzel Ward.

Like defensive end, look for Cleveland to address the cornerback position early and often this offseason. That could prove especially true in free agency, where a number of intriguing nickel back options are set to hit the open market.

Wide receiver

Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are already two of the highest-paid players on the Browns' roster, but Cleveland's offense could use some more downfield speed. That would ring especially true should the Browns opt to part ways with Beckham, whose future with the team has been speculated about dating back to the 2019 trade that brought him to Cleveland.

How much the Browns are willing to further invest at wide receiver will likely depend on how they handle Beckham and whether they re-sign Rashard Higgins. One way or another, though, expect Cleveland's receiving corps to be faster in 2021.


After missing his rookie season due to a torn Achilles, Grant Delpit projects as the Browns' starting free safety, opposite strong safety Ronnie Harrison. But between the severity of Delpit's injury and his unproven track record, it would make sense for Cleveland to further invest at the safety position to give itself both depth and alternatives.

While the Browns likely won't spend a high pick or target the top free agents at the position, it would make sense to sign at least one versatile, high upside safety. Harrison -- who played well after being acquired from the Jacksonville Jaguars last year -- is entering the final season of his contract, which could throw another wrinkle in Cleveland's plans at the position this offseason.


The Browns' analytically-minded front office doesn't place a high emphasis on linebackers, but that doesn't mean it can afford to ignore the position either. Cleveland's most consistent linebacker from a season ago, B.J. Goodson, is set to hit free agency, while rookie Jacob Phillips battled injuries and Sione Takitaki's performance was up-and-down in 2020.

In all likelihood, the Browns will continue to take swings on athletic linebackers with a bigger emphasis on coverage than anything else. Improving its linebacker corps might not be Cleveland's top priority, but it remains necessary nonetheless.


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