Browns: 4 undrafted free agents with the best chance to make the 53-man roster
From wide receiver Cedric Tillman to center Luke Wypler, the Cleveland Browns utilized their seven picks in the 2023 NFL draft to add depth and future contributors to their roster. They then added even more rookies to their roster, signing a couple of handfuls of undrafted free agents to their roster. While linebacker Mohamoud Diabate headlines this group, there is more than one player with a shot to make the final 53-man roster by the time training camp concludes.
Who has the best bet to see themselves on the active roster when Week 1 rolls around? Here are four undrafted free agents at positions of need who fit the bill.
EDGE Lonnie Phelps, Kansas
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns forked out a massive $250,000 contract to Kansas pass rusher Lonnie Phelps as an undrafted free agent. While they have three young defensive ends in Alex Wright, Isaiah Thomas, and fourth round pick Isaiah McGuire, they rostered six defensive ends on their final roster a year ago.
This would leave room for Phelps, barring the addition of another veteran in free agency. The other caveat, however, is that they only rostered four defensive tackles a year ago. Historically the Browns have rostered 10 total defensive linemen, but the door remains open for Phelps.
He is highly athletic and plays a position of need. Phelps is worth keeping an eye on as training camp approaches.
LB Mohamoud Diabate, Utah
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Matching the undrafted contract of Phelps, the Browns also forked out a great deal of money for Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.
Given the Browns did not sign a new face to the linebacker room, just re-signing Anthony Walker Jr. and Sione Takitaki (both of whom are still rehabbing from season-ending injuries), Diabate has a real shot to make the roster. While Diabate is extremely raw, lacking the eyes and instincts to read keys downhill or to work in a backpedal in coverage, he has the tools and athleticism worth taking a chance on.
Outside of the injured Walker Jr. and Takitaki, the Browns only have third-year player Tony Fields II (who played quite well when called upon in 2022) and special teamers Jordan Kunaszyk and Matthew Adams at the linebacker position on their roster.
Diabate is in a position to prove himself in camp.
S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State
Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns rostered four safeties a year ago, and currently have just three roster locks in the room at this point after signing veteran Rodney McLeod. Ohio State safety Ronnie Hickman will compete with the incumbent D’Anthony Bell for the last spot on the roster in the safety room when he shows up to training camp.
While Hickman is almost exclusively a box safety who struggles to work over the top in coverage, the Browns love to run a variety of three safety looks when they get into DIME looks. This is the role that Ronnie Harrison filled a year ago and one the veteran McLeod will step into in 2023.
However, Hickman has the chance to land on the roster, learn from the vet, and prove he can be the long-term box safety in Cleveland.
RB Hassan Hall, Georgia Tech
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Many expected the Browns to select a running back in the 2023 NFL draft after they have chosen not to re-sign Kareem Hunt. However, they did not, giving Jerome Ford a boost of confidence to be that guy to take over for Hunt in 2023. They did, however, sign an undrafted free agent back in the form of Georgia Tech’s Hassan Hall.
The tread on his tires is light despite being a five-year player, as his career-high in carries is just 116. Transferring to Georgia Tech this past season, Hall rushed for 521 yards and one touchdown; he also caught 28 passes out of the backfield as well.
The Browns could opt to keep Demetric Felton given his ability to wear multiple hats. However, if they want another violent runner, Hall could find himself as the third back in the room.
[stnvideo key=”BuIu1n8G” type=”player”>