It doesn’t feel like Deshaun Watson has been a Brown for two years - largely because he’s missed almost a third of the season in both years. But this year he quietly did lead the Browns to a 5-1 record before getting hurt. 

The Browns don’t have a ton of cap space, thanks in large part to his league-leading cap hit of ~$64 million. But they could find some gems at the combine this weekend to take a stab on in the 2024 NFL Draft. Plus, there are ways to restructure and negotiate to take advantage of free agency as well (which opens with the legal tampering period on March 11th). 

Let’s take a look at the Browns depth chart, rosters, contracts, and salary cap to predict what types of moves can be made both for Browns fans and fantasy football gamers!

*The salary cap numbers referenced in this article come courtesy of our friends over at*

Fantasy Football Depth Chart: Cleveland Browns


Deshaun Watson

Joe Flacco

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

PJ Walker

Running Back

Nick Chubb

Jerome Ford

Kareem Hunt

Pierre Strong

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper

Marquis Goodwin

Michael Woods


Wide Receiver

Elijah Moore

David Bell


Wide Receiver

Cedric Tillman

James Proche


Tight End

David Njoku

Harrison Bryant

Jordan Akins


White = unrestricted free agent

Green = role is safe

Yellow = role could be in jeopardy

Red = could be traded or released




Deshaun Watson: It is now time for a reality check. I know that on social media folks like to protest or make jokes or speculate - I do some of that from time to time too. And it’s fun. But there are a couple of facts we have to deal with here. 

Fact number one is that Deshaun Watson is the Browns’ starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, whether you like it or not. Fact number two is that, if you take all quarterbacks throughout the history of the NFL and sort them by fantasy points per game, Deshaun Watson is number three on that list. And he’s done that almost exclusively on lousy teams. 

He’s 28 years old which is still smack in the prime for this position. And, with all the negative stigma surrounding him, he’s probably the most affordable top 10 NFL QB in your dynasty leagues. There is an opportunity to be had for those who are willing to go there.

Joe FlaccoJoe Flacco did a good job given the circumstances. In fact, he did a great job. And that might have earned him another job. If they can convince him to stay on as backup, then that would be great, but other teams might be interested in his services given what we saw.

Dorian Thompson-RobinsonI like DTR. But what he needed to do was sit behind Watson for a while and potentially develop into an NFL caliber QB down the road. Being thrown into the fire as a rookie was not ideal.  On a team competing to win now, they had no choice but to look to veterans like PJ Walker and Joe Flacco rather than start such an inexperienced player. And now they might feel like they need a more sound backup in 2024. 

P.J. Walker/Jeff DriskelDesperate times call for desparate measures. And we can lump these two in here as desperation plays that didn’t quite pan out. P.J. Walker got an opportunity to be the guy and they didn’t like what they saw so don’t think there is any chance he’s back in 2024.

BROWNS QB FREE AGENCY TAKE: This is what happens a lot of the times in the NFL - teams don’t think much about their backup QB until something happens and they need them. Then they think a lot about the backup QB. And even overthink it at times. 

After what just happened here, the Browns are probably going to make sure they have someone else that can be trusted to keep this team afloat. Given the nature of the Deshaun Watson situation, it’s ideally not someone the fans are going to be calling for to start though.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT QB OPTIONS: Joe Flacco, Joshua Dobbs, Jacoby Brissett, Drew Lock, Mitch Trubisky


Running Back

Nick ChubbThis is a tough situation, no doubt about it. Because, if anyone deserves to be one of the top paid running backs, it’s Nick Chubb. But considering his age and the seriousness of the injury he just suffered, the Browns have to take a serious look at his contract situation. He can be released with $11.8 million in savings and $4 million in dead cap. If Chubb thinks he will be healthy enough to play, what might make sense is restructuring to an incentive-based contract. 

Since Chubb only had 28 carries for 170 yards on the season and whether an incentive is “likely to be earned” or not is based on the prior season, they could set those incentives at a fairly reasonable number to hit. And, since they would be categorized as “not likely to be earned”, they would not count against the cap this season. 

Jerome FordWell, the equation is fairly simple for Mr. Ford. He filled in for Nick Chubb last year where he did a serviceable job. Not particularly impressive but serviceable. If you roster Ford in dynasty, you are hoping the Browns go the drastic route of cutting Chubb, in which case Ford is in the mix for starting reps. 

Even if they keep Chubb, he could be in the mix for starting reps early on as Chubb recovers. In the grand scheme of things though, this was Ford’s opportunity to flash and he didn’t quite do that. So it might be wise to cash out in your dynasty leagues while folks still have thoughts of him leading an NFL backfield fresh in their minds.

Kareem HuntHere’s an option. They were seemingly done with Hunt then, following the Chubb injury, brought him back. But he was oddly not in a pass-catching role, more just an axillary piece. The Browns seemed to have a strange philosophy where Hunt wouldn’t play much until the end of the game then, winning or losing, his usage would ramp up down the stretch. 

Maybe it was some kind of fresh legs philosophy? Despite only playing more than 40% of the snaps in one game, he managed to walk about with nine rushing touchdowns. The market was not super robust for him as a free agent so they could bring him back for cheap to bridge the gap. 

Pierre StrongStrong came over in a trade with New England and, although his speed is quite interesting, he never really got meaningful carries on offense. As a trade acquisition they have zero dead cap tied to him so he could be released with nearly a million in savings with no negatives, but he did also serve as the primary kick returner, so I expect him back.

BROWNS RB FREE AGENCY TAKE: There are a lot of questions here for sure. If they wanted, they could bring Hunt back for cheap and just ride out with the guys they had last year, hoping Nick Chubb comes back to near his former self. That would be a lot easier if Chubb agreed to a restructure. 

If they were to release Chubb, there is a whole world of options out there ranging from the high-end in Saquon Barkley or Josh Jacobs down to part-time guys like Antonio Gibson or AJ Dillon. With Chubb currently on the roster, it really leaves things a little too broad to speculate on specific players right now. 


Wide Receiver

Amari CooperThe Browns have to be pretty happy with how the Amari Cooper trade has panned out at least - he set a career high in touchdowns in 2022 and a career high in yards this past year (in 15 games). This is the last year where he’s under contract and there are void years in 2025-2026 so he can’t be tagged. It will be interesting to see if they can work out an extension, but he will be there as the Browns WR1 in 2024. 

Elijah MooreIt’s in the WR2 chair where the Browns need to make a decision for 2024. More play slot in three WR sets and flanker in two WR sets which is a pretty big role on this team. However, his yards per route run of 1.07 was outside the top 100 WRs and ranked near guys like DJ Chark and JuJu Smith-Schuster

He not only finished behind Amari Cooper but also tight end David Njoku. They don’t have a lot of wiggle room cap-wise, but Moore might be better off as a part-time slot guy than an every down player. 

Cedric TillmanRookie Cedric Tillman showed enough in the outside field stretcher role that they decided to trade away Donovan Peoples-Jones. The question now, especially for the fantasy gamers out there, is whether Tillman can grow into a full-time role or whether he will remain a part-time guy that comes on to run the safeties deep. It is an important job for real life football but can lead to inconsistency in fantasy football. 

David BellBell was supposed to be the slot guy here but never really took over the role. He can be released for $950K savings with just over $400K dead cap. That’s closer to being a possibility at this stage than him all of sudden emerging as a focal point of this offense. 

James ProcheMuch like his time in Baltimore, Proche’s main appeal is his work in the return game. Once they traded DPJ, Proche returned virtually every punt. He’s an unrestricted free agent and that would be the main reason to bring him back. 

Marquise GoodwinThe former Olympian is utilized most for his speed. But Cedric Tillman won that role so I don’t expect Goodwin back. 

Michael WoodsNot only did Michael Woods tear his Achilles and miss the whole season but he managed to get suspended from six games he wasn’t going to play in any way. He was far enough down the depth chart here that I could see them just cutting bait. They would save almost a million dollars with less than $90K in dead cap. 

BROWNS WR FREE AGENCY TAKE: This is an interesting spot because the Browns could use an upgrade at WR2. But they don’t have much cap space and the WR2 market could be pretty thin so the juice might not be worth the squeeze. The draft may be the best way for them to attack the position but here are some options that would compete with Elijah Moore for that full time role opposite Amari Cooper without having to pay very top dollar.

POSSIBLE WR OPTIONS: Marquise Brown, Curtis Samuel, Tyler Boyd, Van Jefferson, Darnell Mooney, Gabe Davis, Kendrick Bourne, Demarcus Robinson,


Tight End

David NjokuNjoku has always had the athleticism and, at times, has flashed the ability. But this year he was able to kick things into a new gear finishing at the TE6 in PPR formats. The concern for Njoku is that he was targeted more heavily by the backups, especially Joe Flacco, than he was by Deshaun Watson

Not to mention, they could be in the market for a WR2. For dynasty fantasy football gamers, if you are competing now and don’t have other options, you might just roll with Njoku, but other teams might use this window of production to cash out. 

Harrison BryantBryant has proven a solid inline tight end that can make some plays in the pass game when needed. He might like his role here, in which case they could bring him back. Or he could be looking to start somewhere, in which case maybe he signs on elsewhere. It just so happens that former Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt signed on with New England and the Patriots don’t currently have a single tight end under contract…

Jordan AkinsJourneyman Jordan Akins is at least reliable as a backup and can operate both in the run game and the pass game if need be. I’m assuming Bryant leaves so it would be smart to retain Akins. He’s under contract though they could release him for $2 million in savings with only $315K in dead cap if they do it before March 16th. He has a roster bonus of $255K due on that date so we’ll know his fate before then.

BROWNS TE FREE AGENCY TAKE: If they can bring Harrison Bryant back then great, they don’t need to do anything. If they can’t, they’ll need an inline tight end to help with the blocking. Here are some options floating around in free agency. 

POSSIBLE TIGHT END OPTIONS: Austin Hooper, Drew Sample, Geoff Swaim, Adam Trautman, Tyler Kroft, Mycole Pruitt


NFL Free Agency Previews

Discover our other breakdowns for the rest of the league ahead of 2024 NFL free agency: