The Browns, like all NFL teams, will trim their 75-man roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday.
But first, some jobs can be won — or lost — in their preseason finale against the Chicago Bears, which will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Here are some competitions to watch.
1. Wide receiver
Perhaps Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel both make the team, but the decision will be fascinating if it comes down to one or the other.
Only six players who are 30 or older have survived the franchise’s youth movement to this point. Hawkins is one of them. He turned 30 in March, and he’s scheduled to make $1 million in 2016.
Gabriel is younger (25) and cheaper ($600,000 in 2016), so analytics will favor him. Hawkins also missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, and Gabriel is hot at the right time, with six catches for 60 yards last week in preseason game No. 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But Hawkins and coach Hue Jackson have a relationship forged during their time together with the Cincinnati Bengals. And Jackson has labeled Hawkins a leader of the Browns.
Hawkins appeared to be the safer bet for the vast majority of this offseason, but no one should be surprised if Gabriel’s surge turns the tables.
Rookie Corey Coleman (first round), Terrelle Pryor and Josh Gordon are locks to make the team, though Gordon won’t count toward the 53-man roster for the first four weeks of the regular season because he’ll be suspended. Rookie Rashard Higgins (fifth round) seems destined for one of the five or six spots usually occupied by receivers.
Rookies Ricardo Louis (fourth round) and Jordan Payton (fifth round) are on the bubble along with Marlon Moore, a solid special-teams contributor who suffered a hip pointer last week against the Bucs. Darius Jennings is a long shot.
2. Inside linebacker
Tank Carder versus rookie Scooby Wright (seventh round) may be the crux of this one.
Four inside linebackers typically make the team. Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey are the starters. Undrafted rookie Dominique Alexander looks like a potential diamond in the rough worth keeping. Free-agent acquisition Justin Tuggle is on the bubble with Carder and Wright.
Carder likely has the edge entering the finale because of his play on special teams.
3. Running back
The No. 3 role behind starter Isaiah Crowell and prominent backup Duke Johnson is wide open because the guy who seemed to be running away with it, Raheem Mostert, suffered a hamstring injury last week.
Will Terrell Watson, Rajion Neal or Jahwan Edwards play his way onto the team against the Bears?
If not, the Browns will likely claim their No. 3 back off waivers Sunday. They’re second in the waiver order, so expect them to be active in that market the day after other teams make cuts.
4. Tight end
Connor Hamlett was one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp, but he has slid down the depth chart since Randall Telfer and rookie Seth DeValve (fourth round) have gotten healthy.
Telfer started last week opposite Pro Bowler Gary Barnidge, and the new regime loves DeValve.
So if the Browns keep three tight ends, Hamlett will probably be out of luck. If they keep four, he’ll need to hold off undrafted rookie J.P. Holtz, who’s also been working at fullback and could be aided by his versatility.
5. Offensive line
Can Alvin Bailey avoid a fall from starter to unemployed?
The free-agent acquisition began camp as the starting right tackle, but that lasted only five practices. Now he’s the backup right guard.
If the Browns keep seven O-linemen, he may be the odd man out because they would need five spots for the starters (left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard Joel Bitonio, right guard John Greco, center Cam Erving and right tackle Austin Pasztor), and they have two draft picks — right tackle Shon Coleman (third round) and right tackle Spencer Drango (fifth round) — as backups.
If they keep eight O-linemen, Bailey should be OK. Gordon was the only member of the Browns’ offense who received a higher grade than Bailey from ProFootballFocus.com for his performance last week against the Bucs.
Rookie Trey Caldwell (fifth round) suffered a hamstring injury during the third practice of camp July 31 and didn’t return to action until Tuesday.
He’s a long shot to make the team, but this position is so thin that one good performance in the finale could be enough.
The starters are Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor. Tramon Williams, who Jackson insists remains in the team’s plans despite being 33 and having a high salary, and Justin Gilbert are next in line. But Williams has an injured toe, Gilbert has a concussion and Tracy Howard, an undrafted rookie who the coaches like a lot, recently suffered a hamstring injury.
That should leave Caldwell, Charles Gaines, Eric Patterson and undrafted rookie Mikell Everette with ample playing time to make a closing argument against the Bears.
Gaines earned the second-highest PFF grade among Browns defenders against the Bucs (rookie outside linebacker Emmanuel Ogbah was No. 1), but Gaines struggled earlier last week during the joint practices in Tampa.
This position, though, is another one with waiver pickup written all over it.
The lack of depth was exacerbated by the Browns disagreeing with nickel corner K’Waun Williams about the health of his right ankle and ultimately cutting him Monday. They thought he should have played in the preseason opener, but he refused. A few days later, a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic told Williams he needed surgery to remove bone spurs from the ankle, his agent Evan Krakower said.
The Chicago Bears claimed Williams off waivers Tuesday, but he failed a physical Wednesday and won’t join the team. The outcome supports his claim that he was too injured to play in the Browns’ first preseason game. Now his agent is asking the Browns to pay for his surgery.
If the Browns refuse to pay, the Williams camp would likely file a grievance through the NFL Players Association.
His saga is a mess just like the position group he left behind in Cleveland.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.