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    Should the Browns Be Considered Contenders?

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    After an impressive 11-5 record and a huge win in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers, many are wondering if the Browns really have what it takes to be Super Bowl contenders. There are good arguments both for and against that question, so let’s get to it. To start, here are some reasons why the Browns have a shot at being contenders.

    Free Agency/Draft Additions

    On April 14, 2021, Clowney signed a one-year contract with the Browns. (Alika Jenner | Getty Images)

    The additions of John Johnson III, Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Newsome, Troy Hill, Anthony Walker, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and many more have led people to believe that the Browns now have what it takes to get to the top. With an already talented offense, Cleveland looked at free agency and the draft as ways to add to a defense that struggled last year. Guys like Johnson, Hill, and Newsome were added to bring more talent to a thin and injury-prone secondary, and players like Clowney and Owusu-Koramoah will fill in spots of players that left in free agency this year (Olivier Vernon and B.J. Goodson, most notably). The offseason additions might just be enough to bring the Browns much more success on both sides of the ball.

    The Running Backs & Offensive Line

    It’s no secret that the Browns have one of the best run games in the NFL, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And to match that, the Cleveland offensive line is top tier as well. Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin, and Joel Bitonio all had very impressive years, and with the veteran experience of J.C. Tretter and the potential of the young Jedrick Wills, this offensive line + run game combo will certainly keep the Browns a force to be reckoned with.

    Kevin Stefanski, Coach of the Year

    Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski talks to the media at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Joshua Gunter, cleveland.com)

    A second-year head coach, Kevin Stefanski brings a lot of promise to the future of this team. With his gameplan, the Browns offense strived more than ever. He helped Baker Mayfield play well by putting him in a comfortable offensive scheme, and has been an overall great leader for this team. It’s clear that the culture is changing in Cleveland, and Stefanski deserves some credit for that. It’s impressive enough that Stefanski took a 6-10 team and made it an 11-5 playoff team, but the fact that he was able to be as effective as he was through the entire COVID-19 crisis is remarkable. Stefanski will be a big contributor to this team’s success.

    Now, it’s time to look at a few arguments on why some believe the Browns might fall short.

    Baker Mayfield: How Will He Perform?

    While he’s a fan favorite, and all-around loved guy in Cleveland, many fans are wondering if Baker Mayfield will be able to stay consistent for the 2021 season. Mayfield had a great rookie year, a poor sophomore year, and last year he had the best season of his career, but with his success, last season came to some struggles as well. In the first half of the season, Baker wasn’t playing his best and even had to deal with an injury. But he really flipped the switch for the second half of the year, proving that he deserves to be the franchise QB for this team. A narrative for next year will be if Baker is able to continue his great play, or if something similar to his sophomore season will occur once again.

    The 6-10 Season (2019)

    You may be looking at that header and be thinking: what does this have to do with 2021? Well, in 2019, after trading for Odell Beckham Jr. and making signings like Kareem Hunt and Sheldon Richardson, the Browns had some of the biggest hype in the league – and failed to live up to it. News headlines and sports magazines had finally named Cleveland as a potential contender, and they fell way short, ending with a 6-10 record. With tons of hype once again focused on the Browns, some believe that they will disappoint, just like in 2019. However, with a new staff, and a new culture, this one might be a reach.

    Those were some reasons to believe and to be skeptical about if the Browns are Super Bowl contenders. No matter what happens, this season will surely be an exciting one for the Browns, and only time will tell if they are truly contenders or not.

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