Improved Browns May Add More Defensive Pieces In Nfl Draft

26. CLEVELAND BROWNS (12-6)

LAST SEASON: First-year coach Kevin Stefanski side-stepped numerous obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous injuries to guide the Browns to their first playoff appearance since the 2002 season and first postseason win since 1994. He watched that win over Pittsburgh from his basement after testing positive. Quarterback Baker Mayfield bounced back with a nice season (30 TDs, 9 INTs), easing concerns whether he was a long-term answer.

FREE AGENCY: Lost DE Olivier Vernon, LB B.J. Goodson, S Karl Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo, OT Kendall Lamm. Released DT Sheldon Richardson. Signed DE Jadeveon Clowney, S John Johnson III, LB Anthony Walker, DE Takkarist McKinley, CB Troy Hill. Re-signed WR Rashard Higgins, K Cody Parkey, LB Malcolm Smith, PR/KR Jojo Natson.

THEY NEED: CB, DT, DE, LB, G, WR.

THEY DON’T NEED: QB, RB, OT.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley, Alabama DT Christian Barmore, Georgia CB Eric Stokes, Northwestern CB Greg Newsome II, Tulsa LB Zaven Collins, Miami, Fla. DT Jaelan Phillips.

OUTLOOK: General manager Andrew Berry’s roster restoration has been superb. He’s plugged holes on both sides of the ball, overhauling the defense this offseason. That could continue early in this draft with an eye on the secondary to find a potential starting cornerback in case Greedy Williams has issues with a shoulder injury that sidelined him in 2020. Don't be surprised if Berry, who enters with nine picks, moves up if he really likes one of the top cornerbacks. The surprising release last week of Richardson — two days after Clowney's signing — creates the need to find another run stopper. Berry may also look to add depth to one of the league’s best offensive lines, and potentially a young quarterback to groom as Mayfield's future backup.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL