Browns have nine undrafted rookies entering Week One

AP

The Browns will begin the 2013 season with a roster teeming with youth.

At present, 27 of the Cleveland Browns’ 53 roster spots belong to rookies, second-year players and one first-year pro.

One-third of those players are undrafted rookies: defensive back Josh Aubrey (formerly of Stephen F. Austin), tight end MarQueis Gray (Minnesota), linebacker Paul Hazel (Western Michigan), running back Dennis Johnson (Arkansas), offensive lineman Patrick Lewis (Texas A&M), linebacker Brandon Magee (Arizona State), linebacker Eric Martin (Nebraska), tight end Keavon Milton (Louisiana-Monroe) and offensive lineman Martin Wallace (Temple).

The Browns acquired seven of the rookies on waivers. For example, Gray was let go by San Francisco in the cut down to 53 players, while Johnson was waived by Houston.

According to Browns media relations coordinator Dan Murphy, Cleveland is on track to become the first NFL team to have nine undrafted rookie free agents on the roster in Week One since the 2002 Baltimore Ravens.

Now there was a statistic that took me back in time. I remember those Ravens well, and I remember the landscape of the AFC North at the time.

The AFC North, which replaced the old AFC Central in 2002, was going through a down period. The Steelers had not yet drafted Ben Roethlisberger. The Bengals fielded the NFL’s worst team in 2002 and would take a few years to become a consistent threat. The Browns had some talent and a quarterback (Tim Couch) who hadn’t quite broken through.

The Ravens, Super Bowl winners in 2000, had to retool their roster after one failed title defense because of salary-cap issues, which opened all of those spots for younger players.

And a couple of those unheralded prospects could really play.

Among the Ravens’ undrafted rookies was a linebacker from Southern Illinois named Bart Scott, who just concluded an impressive 11-year NFL career.

Another of their undrafted rookies, safety Will Demps, would go on to start 75 games in seven seasons.

The 2002 Ravens managed to be fairly competitive in despite that thinned roster — and despite losing Ray Lewis after five games. Nevertheless, the Ravens managed a 7-9 record. All things considered, it was a wonderful coaching job by Brian Billick. The Steelers would win the North, with the Browns — buoyed by a 6-2 road record — grabbing a wild-card berth.

The Ravens were not down long. In 2003, they won the North on the strength of an outstanding defense and running game. One of their 2003 first-round picks was Terrell Suggs, who joined 2002 first-rounder Ed Reed as new cornerstones of one of the top defenses of its era.

Time will tell if the 2013 Browns have a gem or two among their undrafted free agents. Ultimately, though, whether Cleveland rises or falls probably comes down to its top-end talent, the players drafted early. If we remember the 2013 Browns for the breakout seasons Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden put together and the promise a healthy Barkevious Mingo showed as a pass rusher . . . well, then Cleveland might be on to something. And if a few of their rookie free agents prove much better than expected . . . well, even better for a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since 2002 and is probably due for some good breaks.

25 responses to “Browns have nine undrafted rookies entering Week One

  1. This press release smacks of trying to support I Am Not Vince Lombardi. His draft will go down as a failure so the Browns are putting this stuff about the undrafted free agents out there to try and show how “smart” Lombardi is. The trouble is the team has little depth and the undrafted free agents don’t address areas of need line o-line or d-backfield.

  2. Seems like the Browns are doing exactly what they should be – awarding jobs regardless of where you were drafted – or not drafted

    That also sends a message from the bottom up and top down – that everyone has an opportunity and no one’s job is safe

    There’s a lot of successful undrafted or low drafted players throughout the league too

    It’d be nice to see the Browns actually be a respectable team again – I’m rooting for them and hope they’ve got a bunch of good players

  3. In 2002, the Steelers went 11-4-1 with Tommy Maddox as their QB. Yep, life before Ben was pretty bleak. I can guarantee, that team’s offense didn’t rank 22nd in scoring…

  4. That was a good Browns team. Anyone remember the game they won on a hail mary at jacksonville that year? Couch to Morgan.

    Or better yet the very first game where Dwayne Rudd ripped off his helmet that would have given the Browns the win? Kelly Holcomb put up monster numbers in that game too lol.

  5. At present, 27 of the Cleveland Browns’ 53 roster spots belong to rookies, second-year players and one first-year pro.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Okay, I give up. What is the difference between a rookie and a first year pro?

  6. I don’t understand how the statement that the Browns have 9 un drafted players going into week 1 and just about as about you you you you title that that truly truly a one year ookvhto ome me me me me me me me or visit visit our vote for him in his first viva viva viva viva k uuume the to me me a job in in the this this this morning and evening him in his haha I I well (o

  7. The reason the Browns are scraping the bottom of barrel in search of talent…JOE BANNER.

    Joe Banner’s draft was the worst the Browns have had since returning to the NFL in 99….not one of the players drafted is starting, not even the #6 pick, Mingo, who is listed as a backup OLB when he returns to from his injury.

    Jimmy Haslam claimed he would continue to build the Browns via the draft, but then he hired Joe Banner to run the football side of the Browns…HUGE MISTAKE BY HASLAM.

    The Browns are in desperate need of someone with a background in football to take over the football side of the team.

    Banner built a reputation managing the financial side of Eagles and that is where Haslam needs to put him.

  8. It’s fairly typical, in the first year of a new regime, for the roster to be gutted, and that’s what is happening here. Banner and his guys didn’t like what they inherited (I’ll go along with them there), so they’re throwing half the team out into the street and replacing them. Normally a new regime replaces players by drafting a new crop, but the Browns barely drafted anybody this spring, so instead they’re bringing in a bunch of guys cut by other teams. Bottom line, what this means is that the Browns are in Year One of yet another major reboot, complete with a total roster housecleaning. And that means a few more years of losing before a competitive team can be built. I’m not happy about it, but that’s the way it is.

  9. Chud is the guy who tried to neuter Weeden by saying they had a QB competition when they didn’t and by letting it be known that Weeden wasn’t their guy. I’m not impressed by 9 undrafted rookie free-agents.

  10. Did terrell Scrubbs go to court yet for assaulting that woman last year remember the report where the eye witness said he dumped Bleach all over her. Awful what these steriod freaks do to people. and what happened in denver how could they give up 49 points which really should of been 56 but that idiot dropped the ball before the goal line.

  11. Awesome analysis, bro. Truly. Great break down of the 2002 Ravens and their relation to my Browns. I hope to enjoy a similar season that those Ravens had. THe only bad thing, as someone above mentioned, the UFAs aren’t many areas of need (only 1 DB & 2 OL).

    We’ll see. Good luck, Brownies

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