The free-agency period has been good one way or another for every NFL team. Hence, it’s time to take a look at the positives in our newest series for End Zone Score. Which newcomer to the club was the franchise’s best offseason move and why? We are getting things started with the 2016 last-place teams in the eight divisions. We have already previewed the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles. And that means the Cleveland Browns are now in the spotlight.
Although this was a team that won just once in 2016 and is an embarrassing 4-33 in its last 37 games dating back to Week 13 of ’14, the club played a lot harder than its record. But one of the Cleveland Browns biggest weakness was an offensive line depleted by two key free-agent departures. Standout center Alex Mack wound up signing with the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons. Highly-reliable right tackle Mitchell Schwartz joined the eventual AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs.
As usual, the team went through its share of quarterbacks. And the Browns’ three starters and trio of fill-ins were sacked a combined 66 times – the highest total in the league. This offseason, the team added three veteran free agents up front. While centers J.C. Tretter (Green Bay Packers) and Marcus Martin (San Francisco 49ers) man the middle, the club’s biggest addition in March was former division rival Kevin Zeitler.
Not only will the Browns benefit from the addition of the former first-rounder from the University of Wisconsin, it puts a crimp in the offensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals. The five-year pro was in the opening lineup in 71-of-80 regular-season games in the Queen City – starting all 16 games at right guard in three of his five seasons.