3 Browns Cleveland Can't Afford to Let Hit Free Agency in 2024

With NFL free agency opening next month, the Cleveland Browns can't afford to lose these three players to the open market.

Za'Darius Smith is one of three players that the Browns can't afford to let hit free agency.
Za'Darius Smith is one of three players that the Browns can't afford to let hit free agency. / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
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2. QB Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco, more or less, saved the Browns' 2023 campaign. With Deshaun Watson having undergone season-ending surgery in November, Cleveland was left with long-time journeyman P.J. Walker and unproven rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson as their top two quarterbacking options.

Walker and Thompson-Robinson, however, struggled to produce any results between the two of them. The Browns desperately needed an arm who could produce better results, which is why they signed Flacco to a one-year contract in December.

The move wound up paying off as the former Super Bowl MVP led the Browns to a 4-1 record, playing a big role in their first playoff berth since 2020. While the 39-year-old's 13:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio wasn't perfect, his career-high 323.2 passing yards per game provided a major upgrade over the performance Cleveland was getting under center (Watson included).

Now that the offseason is here, the Browns are left with Watson and Thompson-Robinson as their only QBs under contract. Although Watson is expected to make a full recovery ahead of the 2024 campaign, it's hard to like the idea of DTR becoming the starter again should the veteran be sidelined with another major injury.

Flacco clearly loves Cleveland and could potentially take a pay cut if he's confident that he can win a second Super Bowl ring here. Considering how he's already proven himself to be among the best backup QBs and it's clear that the locker room loves him, the Browns cannot let Flacco walk.