The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2002 and they’ve worked to improve the defense in free agency.
It was a long time coming and that’s an understatement. The tradition that was the Cleveland Browns disappeared following the 1995 season and re-emerged as an expansion club in 1999. In a 21-season span, there was one playoff appearance (2002), another winning season (10-6 in 2007) and a combined 101-234-1 regular-season record.
But led by NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski (via Michael Baca of NFL.com), the Browns not only finished 11-5 in 2020 but captured a Wild Card spot and humbled the AFC North champion Steelers in Pittsburgh in the playoffs. A tough 22-17 loss at Kansas City in the divisional round but looks like a team that may finally be on the right path.
Still, the Browns have not won a division title since 1989 and have never been to the Super Bowl. And it’s been more than 30 years since the team went to the playoffs in consecutive years. This offseason, general manager Andrew Berry has added five players via free agency and all on the defensive side of the ball.
The Browns are focused on improving the defense this offseason.
There’s safety John Johnson III and cornerback Troy Hill — both from the Rams — and former Falcons’ first-round pick Takkarist McKinley. There’s also productive linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (Indianapolis Colts) and veteran defensive tackle Malik Jackson, late of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s hardly a surprise. Cleveland had its issues on defense and especially when it came to stopping the pass. Joe Woods’ unit allowed 47 offensive touchdowns, 31 through their air, and Cleveland was ranked 22nd in the league in terms of aerial yardage allowed per game.
Baker Mayfield and his teammates scored a solid 408 points but the team surrendered 419 points. Perhaps the one game that stood out the most was the playoffs loss to the Chiefs in which the Browns’ defense allowed 438 total yards — with quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines for most of the second half.
Stefanski’s attack was as balanced a unit as any in the league. With Mayfield mastering the offense, wideout Jarvis Landry coming up big, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt spearheading the NFL’s third-ranked running attack and the offensive line coming into its own, this was a formidable group. But the Browns won’t be going much further in the postseason if the team doesn’t step up on defense. And don’t bet against that judging by their free-agent additions alone.