Not drafting a defensive end in 2021 is hurting the Cleveland Browns now

Browns Clowney (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Browns Clowney (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns are seeing why a defensive end in 2021 would’ve helped things.

Let’s get this out of the way, Greg Newsome and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are not bad picks and are solid building blocks for the future. This isn’t about saying those are bad players, it’s merely pointing out that the Cleveland Browns needed a defensive end in the draft in 2021, and they passed on them in the first and second rounds and are now struggling to find a second starter in 2022.

It’s easy to say in hindsight, but it’s not just hindsight, I said last year that they needed to address the defensive end position, and relying on someone like Jadeveon Clowney was a short-term fix to a long-term problem. Now with the free agency period seeing its best players signed and the draft coming to a close, the Browns are now looking at a rather depleted front four.

Now the Browns have made moves to improve the front four, like adding Taven Bryan and Chase Winnovich, while bringing in Alex Wright and Perrion Winfrey through the draft but none of them should be seen as guys who can reshape the front four. Not yet, anyway. There’s always a chance, sure, but the odds aren’t in their favor. Relying on third and fourth-round picks like that is usually not the way to go.

Had the Browns gotten Gregory Rousseau, Azeez Ojulari, or Darrell Taylor, they wouldn’t be so hung up on trying to get Clowney back. After all, PFF graded Rousseau as a better player than Clowney. So not only would you have a more affordable option but you’d have a better run-stopper too.

Yes, going with Rousseau over Greg Newsome may hurt the cornerbacks some, but considering the team had three other very good ones last year, and only two very good ends, it makes sense to re-prioritize the positions.

The Cleveland Browns have slim pickings in replacing Jadeveon Clowney

The Browns have attempted to make up for the mistake of not taking Rousseau by going full rebuild in free agency and the draft. While I love the Winnovich acquisition, the signing of Bryann, and the drafting of Winfrey, it all feels like a desperate attempt to replace the production of one guy with three.

They may do the job and then some, that’s not in dispute. Yet, last year we had a conversation time and time again to address the need in the draft and avoid relying on Clowney, who at best, is streaky and inconsistent.

Now that decision is biting the Browns in the rear. Again, this isn’t a knock on Newsome or Owusu-Koramoah. Both guys are going to be borderline Pro Bowl guys and in a year or two, the team may have both those guys and a long-term defensive end across from Myles Garret.

That’s possible.

Our sister site, Dawg Pound Daily, listed two other names the Browns can get in free agency and neither are enticing, naming Jerry Hughes and Jason Piere-Paul as options. They could be huge deals for the Browns if given the chance, and the young players on the roster may finally put it all together or show they were drafted way beyond their talent level.

That’s all very possible.

That’s just not where we are at the moment. Right now the team is still struggling to cut salary to afford a better off for Clowney, an offer Clowney may not even want.

Come next year, it’s not like Clowney will even be an option, the Browns will have to start paying the contracts for those new deals they signed recently, and that means key, older pieces, are going to get cut. So Clowney isn’t even likely to be here in 2023 if he comes back in 2022. Thus making the need to draft a defensive end in 2021 all the more important.

Sure, it’s a case of could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, but it’s also an important thing to remember that free agency is a patch job, and to not rely on it to build a team.

Next. Grading the Cleveland Browns draft class for 2022. dark