CLEVELAND — There is a palpable excitement about the Cleveland Browns heading into the 2019 season after they acquired All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and veteran pass rusher Olivier Vernon through trades with the New York Giants on the first day of the new league year Wednesday.
And while general manager John Dorsey is confident that the Browns improved their roster during the early hours of the new league year, he knows there is still much to be done before coach Freddie Kitchens and the team takes the field for a regular-season game in September.
“Expectations, I hear a lot about that, but I know this -- good football teams, they win in the fall,” Dorsey said in a conference call with the Cleveland media Thursday. “What we have done is we have added some talent. Now, the chemistry part has to take over with it. Teams win in the fall. They do not win in March, and that is good teams.
“With regards to Freddie, Freddie is one of those individuals who I love because he is so straightforward and honest. He is direct. He is going to set expectations high. There is that accountability level. He will make players be accountable. He is the same guy every day. That is who he is.”
During his press conference at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine last month, Dorsey told reporters that the Browns were not yet ready to “go for it” with lavish free-agent spending and working trades for marquee players.
However, they saw opportunities to improve and made the deals for Beckham Jr. and Vernon, in addition to signing veteran defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to a three-year contract worth a reported $39 million.
Also, the Browns bolstered their linebacker corps, tight end depth and competition along the offensive line with the signings of Adarius Taylor, Demetrius Harris and Eric Kush, respectively.
“At the end of the day, we have been consistent in saying that we are going to try to create competition at as many positions as we can going into training camp,” Dorsey said. “With the addition of certain players that we have acquired, I think we will be competitive and we will begin to try to be competitive in the AFC North.”
The Browns made strides in competing within the AFC North Division during the 2018 season, thanks to the development of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield broke the NFL rookie record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Under Kitchens, the Browns’ interim offensive coordinator for the second half of the 2018 season, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
“With Baker, he showed last year that he can step up to certain challenges,” Dorsey said.
“The object of this thing is to surround him with as many good football players as you possibly can. It seems like Odell and Baker have a relationship formed. I am not sure where it formed, but they tell me that they have a relationship and that it is a good relationship. I am excited to see what the whole bunch can do.”