Browns Cuts Leave Surprising Hole in 53-Man Roster

Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski better have a new plan up their sleeves...

Releasing Demetric Felton and Jaelon Darden has left a surprising hole in the Cleveland Browns' 53-man roster.
Releasing Demetric Felton and Jaelon Darden has left a surprising hole in the Cleveland Browns' 53-man roster. / Jason Miller/GettyImages

We all knew the Cleveland Browns were going to have to make some really tough decisions to get their roster down to 53 players on Tuesday, but some of the moves the've been making are confusing.

The latest is what they've done on special teams, releasing Demetric Felton and Jaelon Darden, which means none of the perceived favorites to handle kick and punt return duties are available anymore.

The Browns lost Jakeem Grant to another preseason injury, and then they decided decided Jaelon Darden isn't worth keeping around in the wide receiver room and that return prowess isn't enough to make Demetric Felton the RB3.

So now, who handles return duties?

Well if we look at the last two seasons, there are only two players left on the roster who have done any real work as returners.

In the punt return game that's Donovan Peoples-Jones, who returned 12 in 2021 and 18 in 2022. For context, Felton handled more than that (32) in 2021 alone.

And in the kick return game, nobody is left on the roster who had a single return in 2021. And from 2022 David Bell had 1 kick return, and Jerome Ford handled 30.

So does that make DPJ the clear favorite for punt returns and Ford the clear favorite for kick returns? I wouldn't be so sure.

Maybe it makes sense to have Peoples-Jones back there for punts. Plenty of teams decide its worth having starting wideouts show off their explosiveness in those situations, not worrying about workload or injury risk too much.

But Ford on kickoffs? We know how much wear and tear builds up for running backs over the season. Nick Chubb will need some relief, and that means Ford is supposed to get plenty of work there. Can we really risk beating him up on kick return? Not to mention he's currently hurt already, and hasn't had a chance to return kicks in the preseason.

The only other answer that makes any sense on the roster is Hassan Hall, who has (at least as of writing) yet to be released. He's the only player besides Felton who had more than one return in the preseason.

Maybe Andrew Berry is planning to sign a new returner when the dust settles from Tuesday's deadline, or maybe he's decided Hall's return ability is enough to warrant a roster spot. But whatever the plan is, it's come as a big surprise for Cleveland fans.

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