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Browns Get 3 Players, Including Starting S Ronnie Harrison, Back from COVID-19 List

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The Cleveland Browns have activated three players from the COVID-19 reserve list in advance of Sunday’s playoff opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Browns tight end Harrison Bryant, safety Ronnie Harrison and linebacker Malcolm Smith were all activated. Bryant and Smith were expected to return this Sunday after missing last Sunday’s regular-season finale between the two teams.
Harrison’s activation was unexpected, as he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday, spending just three days on the list. After receiving his initial positive test, Harrison tested negative in several consecutive tests, causing NFL officials to re-consider his initial positive.

Harrison has played in 11 games and made seven starts at strong safety for the Browns this season and was Cleveland’s third-leading tackler last Sunday against Pittsburgh. He’ll step ahead of WVU alum Karl Joseph at strong safety, paired next to Andrew Sendejo, who was also activated from the COVID-19 list this week.

Smith has started four games in his first season in Cleveland. The veteran can play both outside linebacker spots and is second on the Browns in tackles this season with 72, despite not having a regular starting role.

Bryant is Cleveland’s third tight end behind Austin Hooper and David Njoku, but has been effective in the red zone, with three touchdowns this season. He had a season-high seven targets in Week 16 against the New York Jets.

The Browns will still be short several significant contributors, including cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward, guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

The team will have a walkthrough in Cleveland on Saturday before flying to Pittsburgh for the game, an unusual step for the nearby opponents taken to minimize the time spent in close proximity for transit.

Steelers Opponents

Ravens Assistant David Culley Hired as Houston Texans Head Coach

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Baltimore Ravens assistant head coach and former Steelers assistant coach David Culley has been hired as the new coach of the Houston Texans, according to a report by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Culley, 65, will be a head coach for the first time. He was most recently assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2019-20.

He was the Steelers’ wide receivers coach from 1996-98, serving under head coach Bill Cowher and offensive coordinators Chan Gailey and Ray Sherman.

A 26-year NFL assistant, Culley has also worked as wide receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1994-95), Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2012) and Kansas City Chiefs (2013-16) and was quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills (2017-18), working under current NFL head coaches Andy Reid and Sean McDermott.

A native of Sparta, Tennessee, Culley is a Vanderbilt alum, and coached collegiately at his alma mater (1979-81), Austin Peay (1978), Middle Tennessee State (1982), Chattanooga (1983), Louisiana (1985-88), Texas A&M (1991-93).

Culley is the fourth Baltimore assistant to depart for a promotion this offseason. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen will be the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars, linebackers coach Mike MacDonald has been hired to be the defensive coordinator at Michigan and Vanderbilt tapped defensive backs coach Jesse Minter as the Commodores’ new defensive coordinator.

The Ravens will receive two third-round draft picks as compensation for the Ravens hiring away Culley as part of the NFL’s Rooney Rule enhancements, one in 2021 and another in 2022.

The Texans have come under fire from inside and outside of their organization for the way the team approached its offseason, in which it needed to hire a new general manager and head coach after firing Bill O’Brien early in the 2020 season.

Star quarterback Deshaun Watson has reportedly demanded a trade after feeling that his issues were not heard before the team hired Patriots executive Nick Caserio as general manager. It’s unclear if the hiring of Culley, who will become the third Black head coach in the NFL for 2021, will have any impact on Watson’s decision.

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Report: Ryan Switzer Re-Signs with Cleveland Browns on One-Year Deal

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer is resigning with the Cleveland Browns on a one-year deal, according to a report by ESPN’s Field Yates.

Switzer was signed to Cleveland’s practice squad on Oct. 1, but did not appear in a game this past season.

He had spent the previous two seasons with Pittsburgh, but was cut back in September. Switzer caught 44 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown during his Steelers tenure.

A Charleston, West Virginia native, Switzer was a start during his collegiate career at North Carolina, Over four seasons, Switzer caught 243 passes for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also returning 99 punts for 1,082 yards and seven scores.

He was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.

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Offseason Primer: Cleveland Browns to Build on First Trip to Playoffs with Baker Mayfield & Co.

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Coming off a dream season that saw the franchise reach an 11-5 record and win its first playoff game in 27 years, the Cleveland Browns enter an offseason of optimism ready to reload and hungry for more.

While the roster was relatively unchanged from the one that underachieved in 2019, the difference for the 2020 Browns was first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski, who helped Cleveland reach its full potential and unlocked quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield had an excellent season under Stefanski’s leadership and play calling, passing for 3,563 yards and 26 touchdowns with a career-low eight interceptions. Mayfield’s protection of the football was his most crucial improvement, as he tossed just two interceptions over Cleveland’s final eleven games.

Surprisingly, Mayfield’s play truly took off after the Browns lost star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a torn ACL. In addition to the decreasing turnovers, he threw 20 touchdowns to close out the regular season and in Cleveland’s two playoff games, all without Beckham.

The Browns also recommitted to their punishing ground game in Beckham’s absence. Running back Nick Chubb was dominant in 2020, rushing for 1,067 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging an insane 5.6 yards per carry. His backfield partner Kareem Hunt was no slouch either, 1,145 scrimmage yards and eleven total touchdowns of his own. The backs were great, but the credit must first be given the outstanding Browns offensive line that boasted at least three All-Pro selections.

Cleveland’s success in Beckham’s absence raises an interesting dilemma. Do the Browns need Beckham? Would it behoove them to trade Beckham and his $15,750,000 cap hit away this offseason? Such a move would not only free up additional cap space, but also likely provide a hefty return as well, considering the assets clubs have recently acquired when trading away star wideouts.

Cap space and assets gained in a potential deal for Beckham would allow the Browns to immediately address their porous secondary, which surrendered six 300-yard passing games this season. Beyond cornerback Denzel Ward, Cleveland can improve across the board in back end. If they decide against resigning corner back Kevin Johnson and safety Andrew Sendejo, they could look to boost their secondary via trade, free agency or April’s raft.

The Browns’ defense was led by edge rusher Myles Garrett, who had another dominant season solidifying himself as one of the NFL’s best players. Garrett posed 12 sacks, ten tackles-for-loss and four forced fumbles in 2020, while also recovering a pair of fumbles. By all accounts, the defensive end will be a menace for years to come.

With a renewed confidence that they have finally put their decades of mediocrity behind them, the Browns will look to reload through the free agency and their seven draft picks, as they continue to purse their first ever AFC North title.

Notable Free Agents:

DE Olivier Vernon
CB Kevin Johnson
CB Terrance Mitchell
S Karl Joseph
ILB B.J. Goodson
RT Kendall Lamm
SS Andrew Sendejo
OLB Malcolm Smith
WR Jojo Natson
DT Larry Ogunjobi
K Cody Parkey
WR Rashard Higgins
OLB Elijah Lee
WR Taywan Taylor
WR KhaDarel Hodge (Restricted)
DT Vincent Taylor
WR Marvin Hall
LB Tae Davis
CB Tavierre Thomas (Restricted)
S Tedric Thompson

Cap Commitments:

Cleveland has an active cap of $192,084,011 entering the 2021 offseason, according to Spotrac. The Browns have the 13th-most cap space in the league at $12,775,658.

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