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As of Wednesday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns more or less finalized their 53-man roster for the upcoming NFL season. Granted, things could shift on the fringes of Cleveland's roster, primarily based on some players cut by other teams. The team could place a few players on IR or still cut certain players to make room for waiver claims. The Browns have a few short-term IR candidates, such as WR Michael Woods, RT Jack Conklin, and DE Chase Winovich, allowing them to get creative.
But, before we get started, a quick housekeeping note. I'm riding again in this year's VeloSano to help in the ongoing battle against cancer! If you or anyone you know have been impacted by cancer, I'd appreciate your financial support by donating to my fundraiser page and sharing, if possible!
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When it comes to key faces on both sides of the ball, things are more or less locked in place for Cleveland. Some of the moves today came as a surprise to some, both in regards to cuts and players that made the final 53. Today, we'll break down a move that was surprising, one that wasn't and, finally, figure out where else the Browns need to add strength in order to make a serious run at the playoffs this season.
Saying goodbye to Johnny Stanton for the last time shocking to some
Fullback Johnny Stanton IV is no stranger to being waived by the Browns. The 27-year-old has spent plenty of time bouncing between Cleveland's practice squad and the main roster in the latest stop of his NFL career. But, according to Browns insider Brad Stainbrook, this time Stanton will also be waiving goodbye back to the Browns as it's expected that his tenure with the team is over. Stanton soon after took to Twitter to confirm it himself.
While Stanton was a fan favorite to many, it shouldn't be a surprise that he was finally let go for good by Cleveland. The fullback position is a dinosaur in today's NFL and is going extinct. It made sense to have Stanton on the roster when Baker Mayfield was with the Browns, it gave the shorter quarterback more time in the pocket with Stanton acting as an extra blocker. Stanton also opened up plenty of lanes for Nick Chubb, the primary threat on offense last season, to operate as well.
But, when Deshaun Watson returns from suspension, Cleveland will want to be a bit more dynamic on the offensive side of the ball. They can now use two running back sets with Chubb alongside Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson with Watson helping unlock both players in terms of running and passing. Not only that but, Watson can also be lethal in play action sets with Chubb as well.
That's where Stanton became somewhat redundant and where change needed to be made. There could've been a chance Stanton made the team as a hybrid fullback and tight end. But, when targeted during the preseason, Stanton was fairly inconsistent as a pass catcher. With how aggressive the Browns appear they want to be on offense this season, the roster spot filled by Stanton could be better utilized.
Keeping Anthony Schwartz on Cleveland's final 53 isn't a shocker
Anthony Schwartz's time on the field during preseason this year has been a nightmare and, so far, he hasn't been able to wake up. Schwartz was targeted 12 times over the three-game span, and racked up three receptions for 28 yards, with six drops. He also had an additional unaccounted-for target,, which was intercepted because Schwartz allowed himself bumped off of his route.
While he was a sometimes fun option for Baker Mayfield to take the top off of a defense, Schwartz has been wildly disappointing during his tenure in Cleveland. Sure, the former third-rounder has shown flashes of potential – especially with his lightning-quick speed. But, despite the speed, Schwartz has mostly showcased that he is unable to be a reliable receiving option. The mixture of stone hands and an inability to comprehend the playbook is a death sentence for most receivers' careers in the NFL. Schwartz, despite his potential, is no exception to this.
With all that said, it was fair to wonder if Schwartz had job security after the performance he put in this preseason. But, when asked about Schwartz's job security leading up to final roster cuts, head coach Kevin Stefanski seemed to squash any notion of saying goodbye to the receiver.
“No," said Stefanski. "Respectfully, we are going to make sure that we deal with things that are important, which are our players and how they respond to these things.”
"Any and all receivers, they work very hard at this game," said Stefanski to an earlier question about Schwartz. "You understand that there are going to be dropped [passes]. That is how it works. It is something that comes with being a receiver so you just have to work through it."
So, when the deadline for 53-man rosters came and went, it of course wasn't surprising to see Schwartz still in tow for Cleveland. It's understandable to have concerns about how unreliable Schwartz is. But, outside of Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell, Cleveland can't be too particular at this juncture at the receiver position.
The lack of depth, along with the fact Schwartz won't be a free agent until 2025, gives the Browns a cheap option on the depth chart that still might have some long-term potential. That potential of course is Schwartz's saving grace. But, if he's able to tap into it and stay healthy, he'll shake the notion of being just a track star playing football. Hopefully, this season is the year things turn around for him.
Former Super Bowl champion O.J. Howard would make a ton of sense as a late addition to Cleveland's roster. Photo credit: Joshua Bessex/Getty Images
Where do the Browns go from here and where can they improve their overall depth?
Again, the Browns didn't make a ton of splashy moves and that's never expected to be the case during final roster cuts. Unlike Stanton, no one is really surprised Josh Rosen didn't make the final 53-man roster with the Browns. But, while Cleveland has its primary crew in place with serious playoff aspirations, the team does feel somewhat incomplete heading into this upcoming NFL season.
Plenty will harp on the fact that the Browns don't have a ton of depth at wide receiver. It's why they're likely going to have to lean on Schwartz early into this year's campaign. But, they always could go after New York Giants receiver Darius Slayton, who could be had for cheap. Slayton is a deep-threat option who shared that he expected to be cut or traded after New York's preseason finale against the New York Jets.
Slayton would be much more reliable than Schwartz at this juncture and could give Cleveland a legitimate deep threat. But, when the deadline came and went, Slayton was still on the Giants. Just because Slayton hasn’t been traded yet doesn’t mean he won’t be, eventually. It could take some time for a trade to materialize.
But, a player that was cut on Tuesday that could help Cleveland is former Super Bowl-winning tight end O.J. Howard. According to Brad Stainbrook, the Browns are expected to pursue Howard and it makes sense why they would. Cleveland uses multiple tight end sets to accentuate their potent running game and Howard could join the likes of David Njoku and Harrison Bryant. Not only that, but, Howard showed in the preseason that he still can be a reliable red zone threat as well, which can also give him a new lease on life.
Other than that, adding some offensive line depth can always help Cleveland hold down the fort until Watson returns from his suspension. But, it's too uncertain to predict where the Browns will be when that happens. With how talented the rest of the AFC is, this might be a lost season for Cleveland overall.
Featured image credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at email@example.com. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!
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