The sixth installment of the 2020 Cleveland Browns Positional Breakdown will move over to the defensive side of the ball. The featured group within this article will the cornerback room. The cornerback position was one that wasn’t a great need for the Browns going into the offseason, but a veteran here and there would have been an upgrade nonetheless. That being said, without further ado, let’s dive in.
Denzel Ward (signed until 2022, Free Agent in 2023)
2020 Contract: $8.044M
There is no way a position breakdown, especially for the cornerbacks, can be started without first addressing the Warden himself, Denzel Ward. The Browns fourth overall pick back in 2018 has solidified himself as a fan favorite in Cleveland with his hard nose style of play, and just being a guy who can stall an offense at any time.
Ward played in only 12 games due to having a hamstring injury, yet still managed to have two interceptions, one of them being returned for a 61-yard touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week 14. Granted, when it came to targets and allowing receptions, Ward did stifle a bit during the season. According to Pro Football Focus, he had 69 balls targeted to him, which was ranked T-37th between all cornerbacks in the league last year. Furthermore, of those 69 targeted, he allowed 31 receptions, which was T-81st.
The thing that needs to be remembered here is Ward was 22 last year and in his second season. Furthermore, the defense didn’t get much help last year with the inconsistency of the offense. Given the fact that head coach Kevin Stefanski will have a better run of the offense, there might be more rest between defensive series not only for Ward but the defense as a whole. There will be an uptick in Ward’s numbers this year as the defense and team have gotten stronger across the board. Expect Ward to be The Warden once again and shut down the premier receivers in the league this year.
Terrance Mitchell (signed until 2020, Free Agent in 2021)
2020 Contract: $3.66M
Terrance “Money” Mitchell had what analysts would consider a decent 2019 season for the Browns. Mitchell started only four games due to a Greedy Williams injury but played in 15 games total. He did manage one interception last year despite having four with Kansas City back in 2017.
Mitchell is mainly known for shutting down receivers which he did because he only allowed 18 receptions last year (ranked T-118th by PFF). Even more impressive that was with 28 balls being targeted his way, which means that quarterbacks did not want to mess with Mitchell at all.
Expect Mitchell to have more of a key role in the Browns defense this season with Joe Woods being the defensive coordinator. Woods was with the San Francisco 49ers last season, so Browns fans can expect a boost in the defense overall with Woods running the show. Fun fact: Woods worked with head coach Kevin Stefanski for eight years in Minnesota.
Greedy Williams (signed until 2022, Free Agent in 2023)
2020 Contract: $1.467M
If there is anyone in the cornerback room ready to have a breakout season in 2020, look no further than Greedy Williams. Williams last year started, and played, 12 games last season in his rookie year for the Browns.
Just like Denzel Ward, Williams missed four games due to a hamstring injury. Despite that, he was thrown into the fire of a defense that was called on to win games for the Browns last year. Williams did manage 43 solo tackles which tied for 52nd by Pro Football Focus for all cornerbacks last season. However, he did allow 31 receptions just like Ward during the year while getting targeted 52 times (ranked T-78th by PFF) over the season.
Despite all of that, going into his season year with the Browns and under new Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods, Browns fans will see the Greedy Williams that made him the 46th overall (2nd Round) in last year’s draft. What’s even better is that he has two fellow LSU teammates joining the defense this year in safety Grant Delpit and linebacker Jacob Phillips. The addition of those two guys will give comfort to Williams going into his second season with the Browns. 2020 will be a breakout season for Williams with him being fully healthy and a cast of guys around him to help him have a stellar season in Cleveland.
Kevin Johnson (signed until 2020, Free Agent in 2021)
2020 Contract: $3.5M
As mentioned earlier in the article, the cornerbacks room wasn’t a key need for the Browns this year; but a veteran addition would be a helpful upgrade for the young core. The Browns went into the offseason to look for that veteran and they got that in way of signing Kevin Johnson to a one-year, $3.5M deal.
Kevin Johnson last season played for the Bills in all 16 of their games while starting in one of them. He did manage to have 25 solo tackles for the Bills last season which was ranked T-108th by Pro Football Focus. When it came to the targeted balls in his direction to receptions allowed, he only allowed 19 receptions (ranked T-114th) on 35 targets (T-106th), which overall isn’t too bad all things considered.
Johnson hasn’t started In more than 10 games since his rookie season back in 2015 with the Houston Texans. He will be learned on as a guy to come in to give Denzel Ward or Greedy Williams rest, potentially moving to play nickel corner in certain situations with Terrance Mitchell on a possible rotation.
There will be times Johnson will be used by Joe Woods in his defensive scheme, but there’s no concrete idea of what Johnson’s full potential role will be in the cornerback room other than being a veteran to lead the young group of guys in that room.
A.J. Green III (signed until 2020, Free Agent in 2021)
2020 Contract: $130K
The last cornerback featured is the man who holds the record for the most money given to an undrafted free agent, A.J. Green III. No, not AJ Green of the Cincinnati Bengals. This A.J Green came to the Browns as a UDFA from Oklahoma State University. The 6’1” 202-pound cornerback who many considered to be a fourth or fifth-round pick, went undrafted but got what analysts would say as sixth-round money.
Cleveland Browns wanted Oklahoma State corner A.J. Green badly. They signed him to a free agent deal that includes $145,000 guaranteed, with $130,000 base salary guarantee and $15,000 signing bonus, according to a league source
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) April 26, 2020
What’s even more impressive, he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the combine. Not only is he taller than most cornerbacks in the league, but he’s fast as well. That says something for a guy to go from a possible fourth or fifth-round pick to being undrafted when the draft was stacked at the corner position.
When looking at the tapes of Green III, there’s clear evidence why multiple teams tried to sign him after the draft. Luckily the Browns offered him more money and thankfully he chose to come to Cleveland. Green III will be a guy that not only Browns fans, but the NFL should keep an eye on because he’s something special.
The Browns could potentially have a steal on their hands by way of a UDFA. Expect a good rookie season from Green III this year in Cleveland in a room filled with Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Terrance Mitchell, and Kevin Johnson as guys he can lean on throughout the season.
Cleveland fans can expect a bounce-back year from the cornerback room with Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward fully healthy and ready to go. Furthermore, with Terrance Mitchell and the addition of free agent Kevin Johnson to provide relief and play in roles as nickel corners in certain schemes for the defense in Joe Woods system.
Plus, with the addition of A.J. Green III as an undrafted free agent, there’s a good chance Green III can make an early impact for the Browns this season depending on what they want to utilize him for as their potential fifth cornerback. All eyes will be on the cornerback room, so expect some fireworks this season from this group.
- Browns One to Watch 2020: Mack Wilson - July 1, 2020
- Why Denzel Ward will be a Top Five cornerback in 2020 - June 29, 2020
- Why the Browns Need to Sign Chubb and Garrett Sooner than Later - June 16, 2020