Only hours til teams can sign Free Agents really can get us fans dreaming about the proper pieces that complete our puzzles. We see the amount of money our teams have to play with and we make our wish lists, usually filled with the biggest stars out there. So let’s have a little fun.
The Cleveland Browns:
Overview: The Browns are in the first off season for new owner James Haslam III. The front office has been overhauled with new faces of Joe Banner (CEO), Alec Scheiner (President), Michael Lombardi (VP, Player Personnel). First time Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, along with Norv Turner (OC) and Ray Horton(DC) all now have the task of once again overhauling the Cleveland Browns who have had only 2 winning seasons since their rebirth in 1999. Offensively the Browns are changing from Pat Shurmur’s version of the West Coast Offense to Chud/Norv’s Vertical Attacking Offense. Defensively Horton is expected to switch from the 4-3 to his 3-4 attacking style defense. The cupboard is not bare on this young team, yet the new transitions create needs that the Browns should address in Free Agency while continuing to build through the draft. They have 47.5 million available with needs at Quarterback, Tight End, Guard, Wide Receiver, 3-4 Ends, 3-4 Linebackers, Cornerbacks, Safety, Kicker, and Punter. The Browns only have 6 picks in the upcoming draft so they will have to fill starting positions through Free Agency seeing I just gave 10 positions of need.
Quarterbacks- (Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis)
The New Regime has not given a solid backing on any of Cleveland’s present Quarterbacks, only saying that there will be competition. The top of the Free Agent list are Jason Campbell, Chase Daniel, and Drew Stanton. So where is the competition coming from? If it is Free Agency it should be Jason Campbell. He has starting experience and could push Weeden harder than any other Quarterback on that list. I’m also fearful that Derek Anderson gets a shot here again seeing his ties with Head Coach Chud. I would be surprised if the Browns used the #6 overall pick in the draft on any of this years QB prospects. A 3rd or 4th round project would be understood given their supposed lack of faith in last years 1st round draft pick Weeden. A Ryan Mallett trade has been rumored, yet something for Nick Foles might be better route to explore.
Prediction: Drafting a project in 3rd round in the 2013 Draft, Derek Anderson
Tight Ends: (Jordan Cameron)
All I need to say is Antonio Gates. This might be the biggest signing for the Offense this year. Already rumored to be in the mix for Jared Cook, the Browns have the ammunition to get much improved here. Dustin Keller, Fred Davis, and Martellus Bennett all would be upgrades over Cameron. This could be where the Browns could overpay to get their man.
Prediction: Jared Cook
Guards: (Shawn Lauvao, John Greco, Ryan Miller, Dominic Alford)
Depth here is questionable making this a huge unseen major need. If the Browns go at Free Agency right this could become Chance Warmack at #6. There are a decent pool of depth and/or upgrades out there.
Prediction: Chance Warmack #6 2013 1st Round Pick, Louis Vasquez
Wide Receivers: (Josh Gordan, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper)
This is the toughest hole for the Browns to deal with. Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings both don’t add enough of a positional upgrade for the present receiving corps to benefit from the amount of money each will be seeking. Julian Edelman might be intriguing given his versatility.
Prediction: Later Round Drafted Project
Defensive Ends: (Jabaal Sheard, Billy Winn)
The lack of pass rushers has already made the Browns front runners in the races for names like Paul Kruger and Cliff Avril. Other leading candidates could include Michael Bennett, Victor Butler, or Shaun Phillips. The 2013 Draft seems to be rather deep with potential edge rushers and I would expect a draft pick to address the issue here as well.
Prediction: Cliff Avril, 2013 Draft Prospect
Defensive Tackles: (Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, John Hughes)
The position for the Browns here doesn’t seem as pressing as other areas. This although is only based on how these 3 can transition to the 3-4 switch. Look for Ray Horton to gain some versatility here.
Prediction: Desmond Bryant
Linebackers: (D’Qwell Jackson, James Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Chris Gocong, L.J. Fort)
This group overall is young and full of potential. Dannell Ellerbe is the only Free Agent I could foresee the Browns chasing. In Ellerbe’s situation I expect him to resign with the Baltimore Ravens.
Cornerbacks: (Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Johnson Bademosi, Tashaun Gipson, Prince Miller, Trevin Wade)
This is the area in Free Agency were the Cleveland Browns can make the most improvements. Finding a partner for Top 10 corner Joe Haden is a must. Greg Toler, Captain Munnerlyn, Keenan Lewis all are rumored on the Browns radar. The pool seems deep with lots hidden potential gems.
Prediction: Keenan Lewis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Safeties: (T.J. Ward, Eric Hagg, Usama Young)
There are some big name safeties like Ed Reed and Charles Woodson nearing the end of their Hall of Fame Careers. Glover Quin and Dashon Goldson are the elite with youth. The Price for the Top Tier Safety will be too high. Since I’m dreaming, I going to take a runner and bring an Ohio kid back to Ohio.
Prediction: Charles Woodson, Rashad Johnson
If Banner does us right, we have spent between 28-32 million of our 47.5 million cap space. I give the past regime credit for leaving us in the position with this much cap room, despite having to live through the past horrible years. In Cleveland we have been waiting and waiting. Please Give Us Chance.