This is the time for NFL players to wonder what their future holds as teams must get down to their final roster of 53 players by the 6 pm mandate on Saturday. The Browns are no different and they must make 22 roster moves within the next 24 hours. Similar to a mock draft and because this is what we do, we’re going to take a projection on what we think the roster will look like, barring trades or players being placed on injured reserve.
QB — (Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer) No surprises here. This group has been set since before the start of training camp.
RB — (Trent Richardson, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya) Once considered one of the strengths of the team, in terms of depth, that changed quickly when Dion Lewis and Montario Hardesty were lost for the season. Jackson didn’t have a lot of success in the preseason and the versatility of Ogbonnaya allows the Browns to keep only three, but they might scan the waiver wire and/or keep a running back on the practice squad. Brad Smelley is a hybrid who can play tight end and fullback and could be kept.
WR — (Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Davone Bess, David Nelson, Josh Cooper) With the suspension of Gordon for two weeks, the Browns almost need to keep six receivers, especially with the uncertainty of Nelson and Bess’ knees. Tori Gurley impressed and could supplant Nelson or Cooper.
TE — (Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Kellen Davis) Two of the three have been sidelined during the preseason, but the Browns don’t have the luxury of keeping four. Dan Gronkowski could stick over Davis.
OL — (Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Jason Pinkston, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, Garrett Gilkey, Rashad Butler) With the two injured guards, the Browns tried to get a veteran guard in a trade that was later voided. This is an area they will look at the waiver wire and might bring in another guard with experience. Cousins is more of a backup tackle and if they find another guard, Butler might be the odd man out.
DL — (Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, Armonty Bryant) Pretty solid group up front and with the three-man front, might not need more than six. Bryant played well in the last preseason game and they would like to keep him, but could lose him if they try to put him on the practice squad. Brian Sanford was traded and then returned to the Browns, thus likely making him the odd man out.
LB — (Jabaal Sheard, D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson, Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, L. J. Fort, Barkevious Mingo, Tank Carder, James-Michael Johnson) Again, depending on the expected return of Mingo, it is a numbers game for the position making Carder or Johnson expendable. Paul Hazel and Eric Martin were two linebackers the Browns claimed at the end of preseason and they could take the place of Carder or Johnson on the roster.
CB — (Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, Leon McFadden, Akeem Auguste) If this is the group that makes it to opening day, two of the cornerbacks will be rookies. Undrafted free agents Abdul Kanneh could be kept over Auguste. The wild card is Johnson Bademosi , who played cornerback as a rookie and could be used there, if necessary.
S — (T.J. Ward, Tashaun Gipson, Johnson Bademosi , Josh Aubrey, Jamoris Slaughter) It’s hard to believe the Browns would keep five safeties and Slaughter could end up on injured reserve.
Specialists (3) — (K Shayne Graham, P Spencer Lanning & LS Christian Yount) Brandon Bogotay was injured and Lanning had a nice finish to the preseason.
Practice squad: The practice squad is always a guess because players must be waived before they can be placed on the squad. Plus, any NFL team can sign a player off of the practice squad at any time to their active roster, but here’s a guess as to current players on the roster the Browns might try to retain if they do not make the 53-man roster: OL Aaron Adams, RB Miguel Maysonet, DB Abdul Kanneh, DB Akeem Auguste, DB Josh Aubrey, WR Tori Gurley, FB Brad Smelley, DL Armonty Bryant, DL Hall Davis, WR Mike Edwards, WR Cordell Roberson, LB Eric Martin, P/K Colton Schmidt and LB Paul Hazel.