Sunday Notebook: Jarvis Landry is Back, Browns Take Flyer on M.J. Stewart
The Cleveland Browns are still a few days away from getting to padded practices, have been going through conditioning and walkthroughs. At the moment, the Browns don't have anyone on the COVID-19/Reserve list, which is great news. If they can maintain that level, the virus will have had little impact on the team in terms of player evaluation and preparation
Jarvis Landry has been activated off of the Physically Unable to Perform List, recovering from his hip surgery. In a traditional year, Landry's ability to join the team and presumably be full go would feel later, but would still be a relief. The team would've been in the thick of practices and there would be questions about which receiver is taking reps at the second receiver spot in his absence.
The team would be entering their first week of the preseason and Landry likely wouldn't play. Even if he was 100 percent healthy this offseason, he still might not play in that first preseason game.
Landry will have to catch up with conditioning, which won't be a problem. He's missed some installs in walkthroughs, but he's more than proven his ability to pick up a new offense. He's going to be on schedule to take part in their practices, which is what's important. Not only will that help him get ready to have a productive season, but he'll be able to ensure he and Baker Mayfield have their timing.
The Browns claimed M.J. Stewart from waivers, released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A trend carried over from John Dorsey's time as general manager, the Browns are taking a flyer on a high draft pick. Greg Robinson and Breshad Perriman were former first round picks that found roles with the Browns. Stewart is a 2018 second round pick that hasn't found a role with the Bucs.
"The Bucs selected Stewart with their first of two picks in the second round of the 2018 draft, using the other on cornerback Carlton Davis. Whereas Davis has become one of the best players on Tampa's defense, Stewart languished as tweener with no defined role or discernable impact.
In two seasons, Stewart played in 21 games and recorded 68 tackles, 5 pass breakups and two tackles for a loss. His lack of playmaking ability became hard to ignore as peers like Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting quickly established themselves as rising stars." - J. Canno, AllBucs
That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement to Stewart's chances to find a role on the Browns. His chances may largely revolve around the fact the Browns could find value in the fact he's a tweener.
Joe Woods likes safeties that can cover. Stewart has been a corner that has routinely tackled well. Coming out of North Carolina, he was often a dominant, physical presence. That may open the door for the Browns to give Stewart looks both in the slot as well as safety.
The Browns want to have three safeties on the field and Stewart will get the chance to impress in that facet of the game, perhaps providing a potential value play. For the Bucs, he may have been a failed corner. For the Browns, Stewart could play a couple different roles, providing valuable depth and if he can do that, he has a chance to stick.
The Browns have to address the positions where they faced the most opt outs, including guard and nose tackle. Both positions went from being positions that had pretty strong depth to being eerily close to returning to where they were last year, which was simply not enough.
Assuming he intends to play this year, Josh Kline is the most logical option at guard for the Browns. He played for the Minnesota Vikings, knows their system and started 13 games for them last year with Kevin Stefanski as their offensive coordinator. Kline has experience at both guard spots but has played mostly right guard in his career.
The Browns can't promise Kline a starting job as Wyatt Teller is the presumed starter and would at least be competing with Kline for the spot. Kline has been a starter for the past five seasons. He may be able to hold out for a starting job and longer term deal elsewhere, but on a one-year deal, that would be a great option for general manager Andrew Berry.
Another option might be Alex Boone. Boone has experience at multiple positions and has been lobbying for an opportunity to play with the Browns. He could an option for a short term deal that can provide depth.
With the loss of Andrew Billings, the Browns need to get a run stopping defensive tackle. Eli Ankou is the next man up, but he's been underwhelming, which is why they brought in Billings in the first place.
Damon Harrison is the gold standard in that role. He is phenomenal at short circuiting the run, which would be a huge benefit to the Browns. It would not only allow Larry Ogunjobi to play as more of a pass rusher and just take some of the burden off of him overall, but it would provide substantial help to a group of linebackers that is short on proven experience.
Marcell Dareus is another good option for that role. He plays the position in a manner not unlike Billings would. Big, massively strong and reasonably athletic, he can force double teams and free up teammates to fly around and make plays.
If there's good news with the loss of Billings, it's that his contract tolls over to next year. The Browns only need a nose for this year and the position is addressed for 2021. They would still have to make a decision as to what they will do with Ogunjobi, but they will at least have the massive run stopper they were planning around this year.
In a season where the Browns have a ton of talent, but might be a victim of a shortened calendar, they may be forced to do a lot of growing during the season. Even if they fall short of the playoffs this year, they could make massive steps forward and be prepared to be a contender for 2021. Having Billings under contract and getting Drew Forbes backs with three years on his rookie deal, which could make him a steal against the salary cap.