Hey Tony: Outside of Baker Mayfield, who is the most important Browns player for a playoff run?
-- Mark, Columbus, OH
Hey Mark: The knee-jerk response would be Myles Garrett or Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry or Denzel Ward. But if I substitute “most indispensable player” for “most important player,” my answer may surprise you. I would offer up center JC Tretter. I have seen the loss of a center devastate the Browns’ offensive line on three different occasions in the expansion era alone. When the starting center is lost without a suitable replacement, the whole line crumbles, and with it comes the quarterback and the entire offense. That’s why Tretter played with a high ankle sprain for about eight games last season – because there was no ready replacement. It is also the reason the Browns gave playing time at center to Austin Corbett and Eric Kush in OTAs and minicamp. They want to make sure they have a suitable replacement if anything happens to Tretter. Smart.
Hey Tony: What’s up with Damarious Randall’s extension? Which side stalling?
-- Nick, Cedarville, OH
Hey Nick: Initially, I believe the Randall side tapped the brakes because of the big money given safeties in the free agent season. I expect talks to renew during training camp when everyone comes back from vacation.
Hey Tony: John Dorsey signed, drafted and traded for a safety this offseason. Are these transactions an indication that he doesn’t want to break the bank to resign Randall?
-- Bill, Westerville, OH
Hey Bill: Morgan Burnett was signed in free agency to replace strong safety Jabrill Peppers, who was included in the Beckham mega-deal. Eric Murray was acquired in trade and Sheldrick Redwine was drafted partly as insurance if Randall were not re-signed. Murray also is a reserve nickel back and special teams core player, as will be Redwine in his rookie year. This does not mean the Browns won’t attempt to work a new deal with Randall. But it takes two to tango.
Hey Tony: Is there anyone left with the Browns organization who knew Kellen Winslow II and has his crime been a topic of conversation? You’re one of the only people left in Brownsworld who interacted with him—are you surprised by this?
-- Martin, Kansas City, MO
Hey Martin: I can think of only one employee, perhaps, who was with the organization during the Winslow years. I don’t know if Winslow has been a topic inside the building. I’m not sure anyone could project what has happened to Winslow. But I will say there were signs of a deviancy problem when he played for the Browns.
Hey Tony: I am concerned about Denzel Ward's short-term and long-term health. Any news on how he's going to improve his tackling to better protect himself?
-- Todd, Brooklyn, OH
Hey Todd: Coaches and Ward himself have talked about making adjustments in Ward’s tackling techniques to save himself. So they’re on it. I wouldn’t be overly concerned short term.
Hey Tony: Do you think Chad Thomas could be cut? John Dorsey endorses him. We haven't seen it.
-- Nick, Niles, OH
Hey Nick: Thomas was a non-factor as a rookie. He’ll get his opportunity to be top backup to left end Olivier Vernon in training camp. If he doesn’t take advantage, yes, he could be cut.
Hey Tony: In your opinion what do the Browns need to accomplish for this season to be deemed a success?
-- Ryan, New York City, NY
Hey Ryan: Making the playoffs would be a success. But I think winning the division – no matter the overall record – is the goal. Toward that end, a 9-7 record and first place in the division is better than 11-5 and a wild card. Fact.
Hey Tony: If Baker takes the Browns to the AFC championship this year, will Baker be offered an extension?
-- Scott, Findlay, OH
Hey Scott: No. Players can’t receive contract extensions until after their third season. Thus, Mayfield is not eligible for a new contract until after the 2020 season.
Hey Tony: If the Chiefs eventually cut Tyreek Hill, do you think John Dorsey will be first in line to sign him?
-- Andy, New Albany, OH
Hey Andy: I have reason to say that this will not happen.
Hey Tony: What’s the weakest position on defense?
-- Tom, Euclid, OH
Hey Tom: Linebacker. But that could change if Sione Takitaki makes an impact sooner than later.
Hey Tony: Do you think the Browns are gonna need me this year?
-- Rally Possum, Cleveland, OH
Hey Rally Possum: At times, of course. So don’t be a stranger.