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Offseason Forecast: Cleveland Browns

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

What's changing?


With the offseason underway, Around The NFL explores what's next for all 32 teams.

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AFC South:
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NFC East:
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NFC West:

The offseason started ugly for the Browns with Josh Gordon facing another yearlong suspension, Johnny Manziel in treatment and play-caller Kyle Shanahan exiting stage left after battling with Cleveland's front office. With Brian Hoyer also set to become a free agent, the Browns are potentially starting over at quarterback -- again. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has never called plays at the NFL level, meaning coach Mike Pettine will be far more involved on that side of the ball in 2015. Pettine's defense has promise, but the Browns must import talent up front to fortify one of the league's worst run-stuffing units from last season. For the first time in years, though, what isn't changing is the head coach. Despite all the perceived problems in Cleveland, that ounce of consistency is a plus.

Biggest free agents


» QB Brian Hoyer: General manager Ray Farmer has expressed only lukewarm support for Hoyer. The Browns might be more willing to bring him back, though, with Manziel looming as a comprehensive question mark. With roughly $50 million in salary-cap room, there's enough cash to make a run at free agent Ryan Mallett -- or even Jake Locker, as a patch -- but Hoyer sounds open to re-signing if Farmer comes calling. Bottom line: It's a tough offseason to find a signal-caller.

» TE Jordan Cameron: What a difference a year makes. Cameron would have netted millions on the open market after last year's breakout campaign. Now, we don't see the Browns keeping him around. Plagued by injuries throughout his career -- including multiple concussions -- look for the talented-when-healthy Cameron to land elsewhere.

» OLB Jabaal Sheard: Sheard was advertised last summer as Mike Pettine's "bitch-kitty pass rusher," but he finished the season with a career-low two sacks. Playing under three head coaches in four seasons, this one-time "Making the Leap" candidate has thrived both as a 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. The Browns won't be the only team with eyes for Sheard.

Other key free agents: CB Buster Skrine, DT Ahtyba Rubin, WR Miles Austin, S Jim Leonhard

On the way out?


» Phillip Taylor: The Browns picked up Taylor's fifth-year option for 2015, but the money isn't guaranteed. Cutting him would save $5.48 million. If Cleveland keeps Ahtyba Rubin around at nose tackle, Pettine might turn to Armonty Bryant, John Hughes or Billy Winn to take over for Taylor at end, where he wound up last season. It's worth noting that Joe Haden told us that Taylor gets his vote for toughest player on the team.

» Josh Gordon: It would be a surprise. Gordon doesn't cost any money, and he isn't taking up a roster spot. Cleveland can stash him away just as the Jaguars have done with Justin Blackmon. Still, the Browns front office is extremely frustrated with their talented-but-troubled wideout, leaving open the possibility that Gordon might be cut free if he slips up again.

» Buster Skrine: Questions surrounding first-round cornerback Justin Gilbert have turned Skrine into a potential priority for the Browns. Only Donte Whitner played more snaps on defense last season, with Skrine providing solid if unspectacular play across from Haden.

What they need


The Browns must continue to sign and draft quarterbacks until they hit the jackpot. Could that mean a play for Marcus Mariota? NFL Media's Albert Breer noted Tuesday that Farmer has "shown a liking" for the Oregon prospect. Cleveland also must attack the receiver position to replace Gordon. Developing a young center behind Alex Mack is key, as the Pro Bowl blocker can opt out of his contract after this season. We'd also like to see Cleveland use one of its two first-round picks on a massive run-stuffing defensive lineman to anchor Pettine's versatile front seven.

Offseason crystal ball


We provided a detailed to-do list for the Browns last week. If they don't re-sign Hoyer, look for Cleveland to bring in an experienced veteran ahead of Johnny Manziel along with another rookie. Taking a guess, we expect the Browns to use one of their two first-rounders on a wideout, the other on defense. Armed with a mountain of cap space, Farmer and Pettine are a solid bet to repeat last year's approach to free agency by adding proven veteran leaders to one of the league's youngest rosters.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews free agency and tells you which big-name players could be released. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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