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Offseason Forecast: Cleveland Browns

With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams. The series continues with the Cleveland Browns.


With the offseason officially under way, Around the League will examine what's next for all 32 teams.

AFC East
» Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
» Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
» Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
» Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
» Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
» Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
» Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
» Cardinals | Niners | Rams | Seahawks

What's changing


Where do we begin? Rob Chudzinski is in as Cleveland's sixth full-time head coach since the Browns re-launched in 1999. In the front office, general manager Tom Heckert has been replaced by VP of player personnel Michael Lombardi, who will team with CEO Joe Banner and Chud to pick players.

Brandon Weeden is certain to face competition at quarterback and the defense -- shifting from a 4-3 to the 3-4 under coordinator Ray Horton -- will add plenty of new faces.

Biggest free agents


» Phil Dawson, kicker: A mainstay in Cleveland since 1999, Dawson has refused to sign a long-term pact with the Browns two years running, and could be elsewhere in 2013.

» Josh Cribbs, wide receiver/returner: Cribbs isn't the threat he once was and Pat Shurmur's regime never figured out how to use him. We expect the front office to let him walk.

» Ben Watson, tight end: At age 32, he's as good as gone. The Browns reportedly like Jordan Cameron, but view him as too raw to take a leading role. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes to employ athletic, play-making tight ends, so look for Cleveland to restock the position.

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Other key free agents: (It's highly possible none of these guys will be re-signed) Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, cornerback Sheldon Brown, linebacker Kaluka Maiava, running back Brandon Jackson, defensive end Juqua Parker.

What they need


There isn't a ton of talent here, but there's plenty of potential. The Browns must make a decision on Weeden. Cleveland will continue to wander the badlands until it finds a franchise passer.

A proven veteran wideout paired with Josh Gordon and Greg Little would give the Browns flavor in the passing game.

A bruising fullback would help Trent Richardson. Finding a string of productive 3-4 linebackers is a must, and the cornerback and safety positions must be addressed. We could go on ...

Offseason crystal ball


Heckert was rifled out of town, but deserves praise for crafting a young, cost-effective roster that leaves the Browns roughly $40 million under the cap. Don't be surprised to see Cleveland target a pair of free-agent Ravens linebackers in Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe. Cap-strapped Baltimore looked as if it would struggle to re-sign the duo along with Joe Flacco but Flacco's cap-friendly new contract could change that.

Now that Flacco is off the market, expect Cleveland to dump Colt McCoy and find competition for Weeden. No matter what you hear, a trade for Ryan Mallett still feels like a possibility.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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