Cleveland Browns' 3 biggest questions this offseason

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns overcame a multitude of injuries and produced, in many ways, a magical season in 2023.

Behind resurgent 39-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco and the NFL's top-ranked defense, the Browns reeled off four straight wins late in the season to secure their third playoff berth in almost three decades.

The magic, however, vanished there. Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud moved the ball at will on the Browns' previously vaunted defense. Flacco, meanwhile, tossed a pair of pick-sixes on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, as the Texans rolled 45-14 to end Cleveland's season.

The Browns are back to the drawing board as they attempt to remake the roster into a true Super Bowl contender. Here's what to watch from Cleveland heading into the offseason.

Will Stefanski hand over playcalling duties?

During Monday's news conference introducing new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, coach Kevin Stefanski declined to say whether Dorsey would also take over for him as playcaller.

"We'll get there," Stefanski said of the decision.

The staff change offensively has given the Browns an opportunity to evaluate taking calling plays off Stefanski's plate. Though Dorsey ultimately was fired by Buffalo in November, he brings experience as a playcaller.

"Playcalling to me is not as important as winning football games," Dorsey said, when asked if he desires the role.

The fact that the Browns haven't announced either way suggests that Stefanski is strongly considering giving up playcalling after four seasons of doing it in Cleveland.

Stefanski and the Browns must decide whether Dorsey calling plays will give quarterback Deshaun Watson the best chance of success after two underwhelming seasons in Cleveland.

Could the Browns chase a big name at wide receiver?

Cleveland's top priority last offseason was fixing a run defense that was arguably the worst in the league in 2022. The Browns did exactly that when they signed veteran defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson to a four-year deal worth $57 million. Tomlinson helped plug the middle, and with a respectable run defense, Cleveland topped the league in overall defensive efficiency.

Where could the Browns make a big splash in free agency this offseason? Keep an eye on wide receiver. The Browns boast a pair of Pro Bowl pass-catchers in wideout Amari Cooper and tight end David Njoku. But Cooper will turn 30 this summer and finished the season banged up again with a heel injury. By the end of the year, backup slot receiver David Bell was essentially Cleveland's No. 2 after various injuries hampered Elijah Moore, Marquise Goodwin and rookie Cedric Tillman.

The Browns were the most expensive team in the NFL this season and could be again in 2024. But through a series of contract restructures, they still have the cap space to pursue big-name players again in free agency. Tee Higgins, Mike Evans, Michael Pittman Jr. and Marquise Brown are among the top wide receiver free agents this offseason. It remains to be seen if any of those receivers get tagged or re-signed. Even if they all do, the Browns could still turn to the trade market and pursue someone like former Ohio State star Terry McLaurin should he become available for the rebuilding Washington Commanders.

Whatever the case, providing Watson with the maximum firepower in the passing attack will be at the top of Cleveland's offseason priority list.

What will the Browns do in the draft?

Most of Cleveland's front office, including general manager Andrew Berry, and the scouting apparatus were in Mobile, Alabama, last week for the Senior Bowl.

The Browns don't have a first-round pick again due to the Watson trade, but they finally have a second-round selection again after going the past two drafts without one.

It's difficult to predict what Cleveland will do on Day 2 with its second- and third-round picks, given that will hinge heavily on what happens ahead of them. But don't be stunned if Cleveland takes another receiver relatively high after selecting Tillman in the third round last year. The Browns, again, want to give Watson as many playmakers to operate with as possible.

Cleveland seemingly takes a pass-rusher and cornerback in every draft, and so it seems probable that the Browns target these premium positions at some point in the draft to layer what already are strengths on the team.

But another position to watch in the draft? Running back. Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. will be back next season. But Nick Chubb likely won't be ready for the start of next season after undergoing two surgeries to repair his left knee. Chubb, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, looked as prolific as ever until suffering the season-ending knee injury in Week 2. Will he be the same runner when he returns, especially initially?

Cleveland could go after another capable back in the draft, if only for insurance as Chubb works his way back.