AFC North Q&A: Will the improved Browns be able to contend for a playoff spot?

Tyrod Taylor, left, and Jarvis Landry are upgrades at quarterback and receiver, respectively, but it remains to be seen if that's enough to get the Browns into contention. Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer via AP

The Cleveland Browns will be trying to mesh a new offensive system with a new coordinator, new quarterback, new running back and new receivers in 2018. That requires hard work and time, but the process also puts the Browns in position to be much more competitive this season.

That’s not saying much after going 1-31 over the past two seasons, but some are wondering if the improvements in Cleveland might be more than gradual.

Could the Browns actually compete for a playoff spot after going 0-16 in 2017?

ESPN’s AFC North writers consider that possibility.

ESPN Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler: Time to set a few modest goals here. Short of adding Drew Brees or Tom Brady, nothing is going to move the Browns from a 1-31 record since 2016 to playoff contention, even in today’s quick-rebuild NFL. The Browns have enough talent to win games this season, and that’s a start. Cleveland has yet to prove its collection of draft picks and free agents can build a cohesive team to compete on Sundays. The veteran trio of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Carlos Hyde will help the offense move the chains behind a decent offensive line. The addition of offensive coordinator Todd Haley will streamline things. Still, there’s hardly enough here to scare defenses. And on the other side, questions remain about the secondary. The Browns have had a productive offseason that will only improve with the draft and a potential franchise quarterback. But the bar should be this: Win a game, then win a few, get to respectability. Playoffs goals are for 2019.

ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley: The Browns will take a big step forward, but they're at least another year away from contending for a playoff spot. Cleveland can go from winless to six victories this season, which would be quite an accomplishment: The Browns haven't won more than three games since 2014. Cleveland added a top-notch slot receiver in Landry and secured its best quarterback in about a decade. But Taylor's record as an NFL starter is hovering just above .500 (22-20 career mark). If the Browns nail their first two picks in the draft -- at Nos. 1 and 4 -- Cleveland will be the most improved team in the league. The arrow is definitely pointing up. But it will take time to build a culture of winning and overcome the loss of future Pro Football Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas. The only other franchise to go 0-16 -- the 2008 Detroit Lions -- needed three years to reach the postseason. With the moves Cleveland has made, the Browns could get there in two years as long as they hit on their quarterback of the future.

ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon: The Browns have improved, and they will improve more with the draft, but the playoffs are still not on the horizon in 2018. The Browns are installing a new offense, with a new coordinator, new quarterback, new running back and new receivers, which will take time and plenty of hard work. It's simply a hurdle that is too tough to overcome in one offseason and one season. This isn’t to say it can’t work. Taylor already has been throwing to his new receivers, according to social media posts. Landry and Josh Gordon will work at it. But the Browns have tried this reshaping of an offense in the past, and it’s simply tough to bring together. They could be the one team to make it happen, but the odds aren’t with them. Fans will appreciate an improved and competitive team, but the playoffs are still a year away.

ESPN Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell: The Browns lost their best player after Thomas retired, and they're forever searching for a quarterback, but they are certainly in a good position to improve with a solid receiving corps that now includes Landry. They also had a top-10 rushing defense last season. The Browns certainly should be able to move out of the NFL cellar in 2018. However, we're still talking about a team that has had two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999. It's going to take more than a few good weeks in the spring to get the Browns to be a playoff contender.