Could the Browns be headed for Hard Knocks?

The Cleveland Browns are one of eight teams the NFL can force to participate in this season’s Hard Knocks, the award-winning HBO series that chronicles a team from the start of training camp until final cutdown day.

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Twenty-four of the 32 teams in the league can opt out of participating this year based on a resolution league owners passed in 2013, which makes teams exempt if they meet one of three criteria:

  • They have a first-year head coach
  • They have been to the playoffs in the last two seasons
  • They have appeared on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years.

There are six teams who have new head coaches: 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Chargers, Jaguars and Rams, the subjects of last year’s series.

And there are 18 teams who have been to the playoffs in the last two seasons: Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Giants, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Redskins, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans and Vikings.

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As for the third exemption of appearing on the show in the last 10 years, every team that falls into that category already is included in one of the other two: Rams (2016), Texans (2015), Falcons (2014), Bengals (2013 and 2009), Dolphins (2012), Jets (2010, Cowboys (2008) and Chiefs (2007).

There was series in 2011 due to the lockout.

So that leaves eight teams the NFL can force to participate in 2017: Bears, Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Saints and Titans.

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It should be noted that any team can volunteer to be a part of the show, and no team has ever been “drafted” from the list of ones not meeting any of the exempt criteria.

So it’s not guaranteed HBO will cast one of the eight that are eligible.

The Browns would appear to be one of the top choices among the eligible eight with charismatic head coach Hue Jackson trying to overcome the whole Factory of Sadness narrative.

But there aren’t a lot of names with national appeal on the Cleveland roster, nor is there likely to be a lot of drama with younger players trying to usurp veterans for the final rosters spots, which is the type of thing the show loves.

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota – the top two picks in the 2015 draft – make the Buccaneers and Titans attractive choices, especially with both teams on the cusp of returning to the playoffs. And both teams are fairly anonymous on a national scale, so the ownership/marketing/public relations arms of those franchises likely would welcome the attention the show brings.

The Sean Payton/Drew Brees tandem in New Orleans would have a lot of interest as well.

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