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Top 10 All-time best Cleveland Browns players since ’99

all-time browns

The Cleveland Browns returned to the playing field in 1999 after a brief three-year window of time when their original organization was moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season wrapped up.

Since that move was made much of the current conversations revolve around what’s happened since 1999. The new Cleveland organization has had its problems over the last two decades with numerous coaching changes and over 30 quarterbacks trying their hand at leading the team.

While there have been issues, they’ve still put together some squads over the years that have played tough and even gotten into the postseason a time or two. Along the way, there have been numerous players that have shown true grittiness and dedication to being the very best.

We want to recognize several of those players in this piece that you read next. Qualifying for being in the top 10 included playing for the Browns for three seasons or more. There have been several high-profile players come through town over the years but not many of them did much in their time with the Browns.

So, if you’re expecting to see Odell Beckham Jr. on this list you won’t. This list does include a couple of current players as well as we should point out their outstanding accomplishments already.

No. 10 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999 – Baker Mayfield, QB

If it says anything about the history of the Browns over the past two-plus decades, Baker Mayfield is the most successful quarterback with a 29-30 record while in Cleveland. No other quarterback since 1999 has come close to that record or longevity.

Let’s not forget that the Browns were 1-31-1 prior to Mayfield’s 2018 rookie season. Then in 2020, he took the Browns to the playoffs and a win against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

He had a good four-year career in Cleveland and that was more time under center than the countless quarterbacks that came before him. He finished throwing for 14,125 yards and 92 touchdowns. In addition, he broke the single-season rookie record back in 2018 by throwing for 27 touchdowns.

Mayfield will be remembered most for being the Browns quarterback that took his team back to the playoffs after a long hiatus. Seeing Cleveland in the playoffs is rare. They’ve only made it three times since 1999. As for the playoff win over Pittsburgh, he was outstanding in that game as he went 21-34 for 263 yards and threw three touchdowns in a 48-37 win.

While his time in Cleveland came to an end in the 2022 offseason when the team decided to trade for Deshaun Watson, he will likely be looked back on as one of the best players that the Browns have had in the past 20 years.

No. 9 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Phil Dawson, K

“In Phil, We Trust” is the way most Cleveland fans will remember the Browns kicker Phil Dawson because he was such a reliable player for so many teams that were usually lousy. He was the one thing in most games that Browns fans could always count on.

He was part of the “Snow Globe” game against the Buffalo Bills when there was a blizzard down at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2007.

Later that season, he was on the winning end of one of the most bizarre wins for the Browns. Dawson attempted a 51-yard field goal against the Baltimore Ravens that initially hit the support bar and bounced back into play. It was reviewed and correctly called a made-field goal to give Cleveland a tie. The two teams then went to overtime where Dawson made the game-winning field goal.

He was a member of the Browns for 14 seasons and was the best kicker they’ve had since 1999. He started in the first season back for Cleveland and didn’t move on until 2013 when he went to kick for the San Francisco 49ers.

For his career as a Brown, he went 107 for 113 on kicks between 20-29 yards. From 30-39 yards he went 95 for 111. He went 67 for 93 from 40-49 and from beyond 50 yards he finished going 24-34. Overall, that’s an 84 percent accuracy clip.

No. 8 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999 – Tim Couch, QB

Tim Couch was the first quarterback that the Browns drafted when they came back in 1999. He didn’t register the most wins or have the best stats but did enough and was respected for the hard work he put into trying to gain respectability for his franchise.

Many now suggest that Couch could have had a longer and more productive career if he was taken care of more in those early years. Couch was often hurt, tackled, sacked, and running for his life because the Browns didn’t invest enough in an offensive line that would protect their team’s quarterback.

For his career, his stats weren’t overly impressive, but he played in Cleveland for five seasons which is a much longer Cleveland quarterback life than so many that came after him. He ended up having a 22-37 record. He threw for 11,131 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He did help his 2002 team make a run to the playoffs as he was 8-6 that year but suffered another injury that sidelined him for the playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite not winning a lot of games he still had several highlights in his career that will be remembered fondly by fans. In the inaugural 1999 season, he led a brilliant comeback as he threw a “Hail Mary” pass that was caught for a touchdown as they stunned the New Orleans Saints 21-16.

He went on to have 11 game-winning drives in his career. In another terrific comeback in 2002, Couch led his Browns back from being down 28-14 in a game against the Tennessee Titans to win in overtime 31-28.

Through it all Couch did a lot to help this new franchise get off the ground. He was a gritty player and will be looked at kindly by Browns historians.

No. 7 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Josh Cribbs, KR, WR

Josh Cribbs literally did everything for his team during his time in Cleveland. Some even thought you could have put Cribbs on defense and he would have helped the poor Browns. The former quarterback from Kent State ended up returning kicks and punts and is only second in the record books to previous kick returner Cleveland legend Eric Metcalf.

Cribbs also caught passes and even played quarterback in the “wildcat” offense that was popular when he played from 2005 to 2012. The best part of Cribbs’s story was that he went undrafted and was a free agent signing after being invited to training camp.

In the special team department, he finished with three punt returns for touchdowns and eight kick returns for scores. His ability to spark his team with his spectacular runbacks was just part of what has made him so loved by the fan base and one of the best to ever wear the Cleveland uniform.

In 2009, he also ran the ball on offense 55 times for 381 yards and a touchdown. That year he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

By 2011, the Browns used him more as a wide receiver on the offense as he caught 41 passes for 518 yards and four touchdowns. In all, he was named to the Pro Bowl three times in 2007, 2009, and 2012. He also was named an Associated Press All-Pro in 2012.

No. 6 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999 – Joe Haden, CB

Joe Haden was the new-age Brown’s first real legitimate star in the secondary and for many seasons, he did things for his team that no one else could.

He was drafted No. 7 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Florida. The former Gator cornerback was expected to do big things in Cleveland, and he didn’t disappoint. He started his rookie campaign by intercepting six passes, forcing a fumble, recording 64 tackles, and having 18 pass deflections.

During that first season, Haden had a string of four straight games where he picked off the quarterback. For his career in Cleveland, he ended up grabbing 19 interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.

He also forced seven fumbles and recovered six of them. He made two Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014 as a member of the Browns. For his career, which included a stint as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he finished with 155 passes defended which is ranked No. 7 in NFL history.

The move by Haden to go to the Steelers in the latter half of his career surprised some Browns fans because of the rivalry between the two teams but despite that move, Haden was one of the best cornerbacks to play in Cleveland.

No. 5 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Kevin Johnson, WR

Johnson was drafted in the 1999 NFL Draft in the second round after Tim Couch was drafted at No. 1 overall. He was the first wide receiver taken by the team and he proved to be a very good addition. Johnson was a product of Syracuse and established himself as a reliable No. 1 receiver.

He was with Cleveland into the 2003 season until he was traded surprisingly midway through the campaign to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He finished his career in Cleveland with 315 receptions for 3,836 yards and tallied 23 touchdowns. His 2001 season was his best as he went for 1,097 yards on 84 catches and caught nine touchdowns. He had several big games over his time as a Brown. That first season, he made the NFL All-Rookie team. He had two games that season where he went over 100 yards receiving.

By 2001, he collected another two games of going over 100 yards. He also had nine games of catching five passes or more. In 2002, he added another eight games with four or more catches. Before he was traded midway through that 2003 season, he had one of his best games as a Brown when he caught 11 receptions for 109 yards in an early season win 13-12 over the San Francisco 49ers.

The teams Johnson played on weren’t very good, but he helped those young teams post-1999 get off the ground. There have been wide receivers who have come and gone from Cleveland such as Josh Gordan who was spectacular for a season like he was in 2013 when he recorded an amazing 1,646 yards in reception yards but ultimately, a player like Johnson was a symbolic and talented member of those early teams that helped define their grit despite a team that was less than overly talented.

No. 4 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999-Braylon Edwards, WR

Even though he was drafted out of Michigan and wasn’t a fan favorite, Braylon Edwards still did enough to earn him a spot in our top 10. There was a lot of hype when Edwards was selected at No. 3 overall in the 2005 NFL Draft.

He was going to be that next great No. 1 wide receiver that the team had been waiting for. Unfortunately, back in 2005, the Browns were already running through quarterbacks and that’s never a good thing when you’re trying to develop a quarterback and wide receiver connection.

That first season for Edwards was less than spectacular as he started with Trent Dilfer as the Cleveland quarterback. He finished that season with 32 receptions for 512 yards and three touchdowns.

He steadily got better in the next few years and had his lone Pro Bowl season in 2007 when the Browns should have made it to the playoffs with a 10-6 record but faltered down the stretch of that campaign and got shut out of the postseason. He had a decent 2008 campaign but then got traded to the New York Jets in 2009 after playing the first four games.

Edward’s calling card while he was in Cleveland was that he scored touchdowns often. He ended up with 28 of them in his 62 games. He totaled 238 receptions for 3, 697 yards in all while a member of the Browns. Edwards had some impressive individual performances in his four seasons in Northeast Ohio.

In 2006, he had a game where he caught seven passes for 137 yards. By 2007, he recorded another four games with at least 100 yards. In 2008, he enjoyed the spotlight on Monday Night Football when he went for 154 yards on just five catches including an 11-yard touchdown late in the game against the New York Giants.

A close runner-up in this top 10 was another wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who played for the Browns from 2018 to 2022. He did a lot in recent years to bring the Browns back from having lousy teams.

He finished his career with 3,560 yards and 15 touchdowns in 59 games. So, the statistical numbers were similar between the two wide receivers, but Edwards had many more touchdowns and had the ability to better separate from the defenders and stretch the field.

No. 3 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Myles Garrett, DE

Myles Garrett will now be entering his eighth season with the Browns and he’s doing things on defense that most before him have never been able to do. He has already broken the franchise record for most sacks in one season with 16 which he did in 2021 and 2022.

In total, Garrett has recorded 88.5 sacks to date which is also a franchise record. You add in the fact that he’s registered 305 tackles, had 172 quarterback hits, 94 tackles for losses, 16 pass deflections, and forced 17 fumbles then you see why he’s the best defensive lineman in Browns’ history.

Garrett was drafted No. 1 overall by Cleveland back in 2017 and has had a lot of pressure to produce and be a transformative leader on the field. He’s had his high moments and also a few low moments that have made him a controversial figure.

His most notable mistake was made back in 2019 when he unexpectedly started swinging a football helmet at the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. The action got Garrett suspended indefinitely by the NFL. However, Garrett was able to return to start the 2020 season and has maintained his composure since.

The Texas A&M product has been under a microscope for much of his career and that has made his mistakes a lot easier to criticize but, in the end, when Cleveland fans look back at their best players ever, Garrett’s name will be there. He’s not a free agent for a couple more years and I suspect he will continue to put an exclamation point on his record-breaking career.


No. 2 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Nick Chubb, RB

Nick Chubb will be entering his seventh season with the Browns, and he has steadily climbed the franchise leaderboard since arriving. He’s currently in fourth place behind Mike Pruitt, Leroy Kelly, and Jim Brown with 6,511 yards to date. He will likely rush by both Pruitt and Kelly in 2024 and only have Jim Brown in front of him. Brown gained 12, 233 yards during his Cleveland tenure.

His contributions to the Browns can’t be understated. His hard work and “team-first” approach to the game are what have made him a fan favorite as he will likely go down in franchise history as one of the best of all time.

Chubb has gone over 1,000 yards on the ground four times in his six seasons. He would have gone over 1,000 yards in his rookie year (996 yards) if he’d been the main running back from the start of the season, but he didn’t start until Week 7. The following year, he ran for 1,494 yards. In 2022, he went for 1,525 yards on the ground. If it weren’t for a devastating knee injury in 2023, he would likely have sprinted by the 1,000-yard mark again.

Back in 2022, he led the  NFL in runs of 20 yards or more with 13. In the previous two seasons Chubb recorded 12 carries each of 20 yards or more as well. Back in 2018 and 2019, he recorded four carries each of 40 or more yards as well and has a career 5.2 yards per carry average.

As if that wasn’t enough, Chubb also takes care of the ball. He’s only had seven fumbles in his career (77 games) which included only one in the 2022 season. For some context and to showcase how special this mark is in comparison to some past Browns greats, Mike Pruitt had 37 fumbles in 124 games, Leroy Kelly had 47 fumbles in 136 games and Jim Brown fumbled 57 times in 118 games.

Taking care of the ball makes a difference and when Chubb has got the football in his hands you know your team is in good shape.

No. 1 all-time Cleveland Browns player since 1999- Joe Thomas, OL

Joe Thomas is not only the best player to play for the Browns since 1999, but he’s also one of the best offensive tackles in NFL history. He was always steady, consistent, and suited up every Sunday.

The former Wisconsin Badger played every down from the time he was drafted third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft until he suffered a career-ending triceps injury in 2017. That was 10,363 straight snaps in 167 straight games. That’s truly a remarkable feat when you see the physicality he played with.

Thomas was a 10-time Pro Bowler and is destined to be selected to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton. That announcement could happen soon as the NFL shares this year’s selections the weekend of the Super Bowl in February of 2023. In addition to the Pro Bowls, he was also a six-time All-Pro and was part of the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2010s Team.

Since leaving the game, he often reflects on that amazing accomplishment of never missing a game in his career and he’ll mention how he tried to be a reliable and consistent player for his teammates.

Despite playing for an abysmal team for much of his career, he continued to try and be the best he could be and refused to be traded to contenders when

opportunities. He was focused on helping the franchise that believed in him turn the corner.

One player can’t change the success of a team, but Thomas did what he could to defend his quarterbacks and open gaps for his running backs. The loyalty that Thomas gave to Cleveland will always be remembered fondly by fans.



John Suchan is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan. He grew to love the Kardiac Kids back in the day so his loyalty is strong like yours. John has written for several Cleveland sports websites including Dawg Pound Daily, King James Gospel and Cleveland Sports Talk. He currently produces the Fanatical Elfz Network, part of Fans First Sports Network that cover the Browns. John also hosts his own show the Johnny Cleveland Podcast. He looks forward to providing you quality coverage of the Browns with a bit of opinion mixed in.

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