BEREA, Ohio — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from the Monday, May 23, 2022, episode of The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show.
Football season is still months away, but the offseason programs are starting to ramp up for the Cleveland Browns this week.
The Browns have had players in the building over the last few weeks for the early phases of the offseason program, but Organized Team Activities (OTAs) officially start this week in Berea.
Here are four things to watch as OTAs get underway.
Deshaun Watson watch
On Tuesday night, two women that have accused Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct will be appearing on HBO’s 'Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ to discuss their accusations against Watson. The episode debuts at 10 p.m. ET.
By the time the episode airs, Watson will have his first OTA with the Browns in the rearview mirror during what will be a very interesting summer as he acclimates to Cleveland. Watson is in the process of learning a new offense under head coach Kevin Stefanski and doing so alongside new teammates. The biggest question that persists is how many games he will be available for this season?
The NFL is reportedly in the process of wrapping up its investigation into whether or not Watson broke the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. If it believes that he did, then a suspension for the quarterback is on the way. The general feeling is that Watson will be suspended, but the question remains how many games it will be for. It would make sense for a decision to be rendered prior to training camp getting underway in late July.
Does the offense look different?
Aside from having Watson, the Browns' quarterback room looks much different than it does a year ago. While Baker Mayfield is still on the roster, it’s clear he’s not in the team’s plans and backup Case Keenum has been shipped off to Buffalo to sit behind Josh Allen. Now, Jacoby Brissett and Josh Dobbs are with the Browns and are the emergency plans behind Watson.
Brissett, Dobbs, and of course, Watson, are a different type of quarterback than Mayfield (and Keenum) was for the Browns. The rest of the roster looks a bit different too.
Tight end Austin Hooper was released earlier this offseason and not replaced, and Amari Cooper is now the team’s leading wide receiver. These things may signal a change in how the Browns operate offensively. After the team spent more time than any other in the NFL with multiple tight end sets over the last couple of years, that number may drop as more three wide receiver sets are used with Watson under center.
Last year, there were a number of teams in the NFL that saw players openly protest OTAs. The Browns were at the forefront of that, thanks in part to starting center J.C. Tretter. Now a free agent, Tretter doubles as the president of the NFL Players Association. He was adamantly against players having to give up much of their summer to be in the building, especially coming off of an offseason in which OTAs didn’t exist due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year figures to look much different for the Browns as far as attendance goes. So far, quite a few of the players on the roster have been in the building during the offseason, and that’s not expected to change with OTAs.
That said, the Browns aren’t expecting perfect attendance, as Mayfield is not expected to be present. If he’s still on the roster by the time mandatory minicamp rolls around next month, things could become pretty interesting.
How do the rookies look?
The Browns didn’t make a draft pick until the third round in last month’s NFL Draft, thanks in part to the trade for Watson. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be counting on some of their drafted players to make an impact early on in their careers, though.
Wide receiver David Bell was selected by the team in the third round at No. 99 overall, and with the rest of the wide receiver room in the shape that it currently is in, Bell could be asked to be a major contributor early on in his career. The same can be said for defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey, who was drafted in the fourth round and will bolster a room that is seen as the weak spot on the defensive side of the football.
The rookie that many are most curious about, kicker Cade York, is probably the one that will also be learned about the least during team workouts in Berea.