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2017 NFL preview: Will the Browns continue at the bottom of the barrel?

We’re previewing the NFL heading into training camp, moving on to the rest of the NFL. Today, we look at the Cleveland Browns.

The San Francisco 49ers are wrapping up their offseason, with training camp set to get going on Thursday, July 27. With the help of SB Nation’s other NFL sites, we have been previewing training camp for the 49ers 13 regular season opponents, and four preseason opponents. You can view all of them here.

Since we still have some time before the preseason gets going, I thought it would be fun to keep going and look at the 15 NFL teams that are not on the 49ers regular season or preseason schedule. The 49ers will play four of them in the preseason, while the remaining 15 will not appear on their schedule outside of a potential playoff appearance. But, it is helpful to continue getting a better handle on the NFL this season.

Today, we take a look at the 49ers recent bottom of the barrel rival, the Cleveland Browns. Our friends at Dawgs by Nature put together a look at the various roster changes and storylines to track heading into camp.

The 49ers and Browns have become linked in a variety of ways, most of which have not proven particularly good. Both teams interviewed Hue Jackson before he eventually landed the Browns job. There were some brief Colin Kaepernick trade rumors. Both teams still do not have a clear long-term answer at quarterback, but both are developing a youngster this year (SF: C.J. Beathard, CLE: DeShone Kizer). And both are getting some of the worst odds for the Super Bowl, and the corresponding high odds for a high draft pick.

The Browns quarterback situation remains tough to sort out. They acquired Brock Osweiler in a salary dump by the Houston Texans, but will he actually be the starter when Week 1 arrives? Or will Cody Kessler or DeShone Kizer supplant the mediocre veteran?

With all that in mind, will the Browns remain worse, or will they take a bigger step forward in year two of the Hue Jackson era than the 49ers in year one of the Kyle Shanahan era?


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Notable free agent additions: WR Kenny Britt, C J.C. Tretter, RG Kevin Zeitler, CB Jason McCourty. Also signed big contract extensions with OG Joel Bitonio, OLB Jamie Collins, and OLB Christian Kirksey.

Notable free agent departures: WR Terrelle Pryor, RT Mitchell Schwartz.

Trades: QB Brock Osweiler

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: All three of the team’s first-round picks, DE Myles Garrett, SS Jabrill Peppers, and TE David Njoku, are expected to be starters from day one and players who can re-shape the face of the franchise. Garrett needs to be the disruptor that Cleveland has lacked for so long, Peppers will be used all over the place on defense (and maybe even a little on offense), and Njoku has the athleticism to be the next big thing at tight end in the AFC.

Biggest offseason addition: On the offensive line, the team signed Kevin Zeitler from the Bengals to start at right guard, making him the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL. Promising center J.C. Tretter was signed from the Packers after seeing that Cameron Erving was too much of a liability to anchor the line. Left guard Joel Bitonio received a big contract extension, making him a Top-10 paid guard in the NFL. It’s a unit that was just ranked 2nd best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. The quarterback and wide receiver positions appear to be the team’s biggest question marks, making it all-the-more-important that the running game be a big factor on gameday, and I think we’ll see a very heavy commitment to it by head coach Hue Jackson.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: As much as we’re tired of it, the quarterback competition between Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, and rookie DeShone Kizer will still dominate the headlines. I believe Cleveland’s roster was built to succeed despite the quarterback situation this year, but everyone wants to know if any of those three guys can rise to the occasion and stand out amongst the rest.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Coaching-wise, the team made a change at defensive coordinator, replacing Ray Horton with Gregg Williams. The concept of a labeling a defense as being a 3-4 vs. a 4-3 alignment no longer exists under Williams, as he will play multiple fronts. However, the team will lean toward having the nickel defense being their base set with four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. The defense was historically bad at times last year, but the team extended the right players (outside linebackers Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins), and first-round picks Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers have the potential to be game-changing playmakers.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: WR Corey Coleman fell on a football earlier this offseason and is also recovering from hamstring injuries. DE Myles Garrett is recovering from a foot injury. Both players are expected to be ready for training camp, but will be monitored.