Feedback Wanted


Hey DPN friends! I’m looking to get a little feedback on the website here, as well as our Facebook page.

What features do we currently lack on the site that you want to see? Any certain plug-ins, things like forums, etc?

As far as the Facebook page and website, want content do you like the best? Are we missing any types of coverage or analysis that you want us to include?

I want to know, and look forward to hearing what you all have to say.

Advertisements

Five Free Agents the Browns Should Target


Image

The Cleveland Browns will head into the 2014 offseason with somewhere around $55 million in salary cap space, depending on the final cap number that will be set for NFL teams.  With new general manager Ray Farmer no doubt eager to put his stamp on the team, this gives them a fine opportunity to add an infusion of talent that can benefit the team immediately.

While the top priority at this point is deciding how to address their own impending free agents, particularly Pro-Bowlers Alex Mack and T.J. Ward (for the record, I’m all for extending Mack for 5 years at somewhere between $6 and $7 million per year, while I think the franchise tag is perfect for a player with Ward’s injury history), there are players that could address needs for this team who will be available at the right price.  Here are five of them, in no particular order.  I’m ignoring any that seem to be out of the realm of reality, even though they may be very appealing (e.g. Vontae Davis, who is very likely to resign with the Colts, or Alterraun Verner, who will likely command too much money for the team to shell out for their secondary in tandem with the new contract that Joe Haden is negotiating).

1. Brandon Spikes, MLB, New England Patriots

Spikes is likely to leave New England in the wake of a rocky 2013 season which started with him not showing up to voluntary workouts and ended with a trip to injured reserve that the Patriots stated was a mutual decision, while Spikes’ camp said the linebacker wanted to continue playing through his injury.

Spikes is just 26 years old, and has put together a solid if unspectacular track record in his four years in the league.  He is known for his tenacity and stoutness against the run.  While he has had some struggles in coverage and doesn’t bring much in the way of rushing the passer (just 1 career sack), his value in taking on blockers and slowing opposing rushing attacks is evident.  If the Browns can land him at a relatively affordable contract – it’s been speculated that he will likely end up getting somewhere in the $5 million a year range – he would add some real strength to the front seven, where the team already needed a middle linebacker even before releasing veteran D’Qwell Jackson this week.  It’s also a position that isn’t very deep in this year’s draft.

2. Jon Asamoah, OG, Kansas City Chiefs

It is no secret that the weakness of the Browns’ offensive line is their guard play.  While some have suggested that moving Mitchell Schwartz inside from his right tackle position could help, that doesn’t seem likely.  While the Browns have a couple of developmental players that there could be some hope for, the best chance for immediate upgrade at guard is free agency and the draft.

While there are some other free agent guards that may be considered more desirable, including fellow Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz, Asamoah would be a nice target for the Browns.  He has shown himself to be excellent in both run and pass-blocking.  He is not a typical road-grader type guard.  He is a nimble blocker with excellent footwork, making him an ideal fit for  new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.  He’s coming off of a somewhat disappointing season, where he was slowed by a calf injury, but at 25 years old he could provide a solution at guard for years to come.  The Chiefs will likely push to re-sign him, but with only about $8 million in cap room projected and other free agents to retain, they will be hard pressed to bring him back.  Asamoah may not come cheap, but he would seem to be an excellent target for the Browns.

3. Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions

It seems like every season there are calls for the Browns to bring in a veteran presence at wide receiver who can lead by example while still being able to contribute something on the field…and every year the Browns don’t do it.  Burleson would fit the bill, and he would likely come at a very affordable price.

Burleson is 32 years old, and his best years are behind him.  However, he has a solid reputation as a good locker room presence and would likely be a nice influence on other young Browns receivers like Josh Gordon and, as many are anticipating, another receiver the Browns are likely to take with one of their first 5 picks in the draft.  And while Burleson doesn’t have a long future ahead of him in the NFL, he showed last year that he is still capable of being a very productive player.  He was on pace for over 900 yards before an injury sustained in a car accident derailed his season, and boasted a catch rate of 72%, which ranked 5th among wide receivers.  If the Browns work a clause into his contract that he is only allowed to order pizza if he’s having it delivered, he could be a solid low-risk addition to their offense.

4.  Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers

The Browns need a cornerback to start opposite Joe Haden.  Despite turning around some of the doubters with his performance last year, Buster Skrine is more suited to be a nickel back.  Sam Shields would allow the Browns to move Skrine back to that spot.

Shields is an excellent athlete with impressive ball skills who has been a key cog in the Packers secondary over his 4 years in the league.  He took over as a starting cornerback when Charles Woodson was moved to safety, and last year had 4 interceptions and 17 passes defended.  Shields is only 26, and now has 13 interceptions in his career.  While the Packers are pushing to re-sign him, and may do so before he is able to hit free agency, the Browns should be ready to reach out to him and try to outbid Green Bay for his services.  Hopefully they are already doing so through back channels (not that any NFL team would engage in tampering during this period leading up to free agency or anything).  Somewhere in the range of $25 million over 4 years, with $15 million guaranteed, could be enough to get it done.

5.  Rex Grossman, QB, Washington Redskins

It’s not the kind of signing that is going to make anyone throw a parade through downtown Cleveland, but Grossman would be a solid pickup for the Browns as they begin to install a new offense (AGAIN).  Between the Texans and the Redskins, Grossman has spent the last 5 years with Kyle Shanahan.  This would make him an ideal fit to help Brian Hoyer and whatever quarterback the Browns inevitably draft to get acclimated to the offense.  And since the third-string quarterback for the Browns usually ends up starting at least one or two games, it should be noted that they can do worse than Grossman, whose familiarity with the offense would likely help him if forced into action.  His real value to this team, though, is off the field.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are other names out there that would likely generate a lot of excitement, and which the Browns should definitely look into.  Ben Tate is a name that’s been tossed around, but personally I think the team is better served looking for a running back (or two) in the third to fifth round of the draft.  There are some free agent wide receivers that will draw a lot of attention and big dollars, like Eric Decker, Hakeem Nicks, and even Julian Edelman.  With the depth at that position in the draft, though, the Browns can find cheaper options there, even if they wait and use one of their 2 third round picks to draft one.

Freed of the shackles of a Joe Banner/Michael Lombardi front office, this is an offseason that Browns fans are rightfully excited about.  Free agency will give us our first deep look at what direction the team will take.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my popcorn ready.

Rob Magee is a lifelong Browns fan who suffered his most devastating punch to the gut when a friend recorded The Langoliers over his VHS copy of the 1993 Browns vs. Steelers game that featured two Eric Metcalf punt returns for touchdowns.  You can follow him on Twitter @robisindy.

An Open Letter To The Cleveland Browns


Dear Cleveland Browns,

Hi. I’m Shawn. I’m a 29 year old Army Sergeant, husband to a beautiful wife, father to three fantastic kids (with one more on the way), and life-long Cleveland Browns fan.

For reference, I mean it when I say I’ve been a Browns fan my entire life. I went to my first Browns game when I was two. One of my earliest memories was of the Browns playoff loss to the Dolphins in the 1986 season. I remember how excited my family was at halftime, how my grandfather called Dan Marino a “lucky son-of-a-bitch”. I remember how he was sure that Bernie was the guy to lead us back to the promised land.

image

I remember being a young kid sitting in the Dawg Pound, at first a little wary of all the people who looked completely insane to a six year old boy. I remember how rowdy they got, but how incredibly kind the people truly were to me. They embraced me, made me feel like I’d been apart of the place for a hundred years, and kindled a fire in me for Cleveland football and the Dawg Pound itself that has never once gone out.

image

I remember how I learned to hate the Steelers, well before I understood what hatred even was, or why we hated those guys so much. My grandfather and those crazy people I met in the Pound hated them, and that was all I needed to know really. So, even though that rivalry has been dead on the field for a long time now, I still hold my hatred for the Steelers near and dear to my heart.

I could go on with the background stuff, but what I’ve said already is enough. The reason I’m writing this is because we need to get a few things understood between us. By us, I mean the fans, the “Dawg’s” and you, the organization. There has apparently been a major disconnect between us going back a long way, back to the days when that soulless coward Art Modell still roamed the Earth. I assume it’s a disconnect, because if you really understood what you had in us, I can’t imagine things would have gone the way they have.

We are loyal. Ridiculously, probably stupidly loyal. We’ve stood by this team when any reasonable group of people would have gladly left it for dead. We’ve suffered, arguably, more than any professional sports fan base in America. We’ve endured things like Red Right 88, The Fumble, The Drive. We’ve endured through The Move and been humiliated by The Decision. We’ve watched as players we’ve cheered for have come and gone, while many have turned around and mocked us. We’ve dealt with owners who don’t care or don’t get it. We’ve watched inept, weak leaders flounder and fail. We’ve heard their excuses. We’ve seen the reasons, and while sometimes fans are irrational and illogical, we get what’s happened. We understand the failings of the past better than you ever could, because we felt them. We’ve felt more of those terrible moments than you could ever understand.

20140227-170616.jpg

So, when inevitably more bad times come (and they will), don’t give us lines like “it’s a process”, or “we have a plan”. We don’t want to hear about how optimistic you are. Simply put, when you put on that brave face and give us rehearsed lines from written speeches, we’re smart enough to see through it. We know you’re lying, because we’ve been lied to more times than you can possibly imagine. We’ve felt our teams wins and losses more than any fans of any other fan base, and that’s not hyperbole. They are very real to us, very much as if something awful had happened to our own family or loved ones. You may feel a hit to your pride, or a financial loss. It’s a business to you, and I’m sure seeing your business have set backs is an unfortunate feeling. Even still, you don’t have the same attachment to this team as we do. The Dawg Pound existed, in spirit if not name, for long before any of you were born, and it will still exist long after you’re gone. It’s passed down from one generation to the next, from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters. And you will never, ever know our pain.

20140227-171601.jpg

What do we want? Simply, we want you to get this right. We want you to take pride in the fact that you own or are running the Cleveland Browns, which mean more to us than it does to you. We want you to act like this belongs to us, and understand that we are placing a special trust in you. We trust you to at a minimum not bring further shame and humiliation on us. We want you to treat this team like it matters to you, that it’s special to you. This is Cleveland, and we don’t want to be treated like a “stop on the road”. Maybe that’s the reality, but if we get the feeling that you’re here until you can move to greener pastures, don’t act shocked when we despise you. Our city and our team matters to us, and since you have much more sway over how it performs, it should matter even more to you. Not because it’s a job, but because, simply, it exists. Because it’s special to us. Because Browns fans, after having endured years of torment and crushing failures, still have the sense of humor to request the Browns to send players as pallbearers. If you got us at all, you’d have sent some guys to let Scott Entsminger down one last time. You wouldn’t, but you should.

Last, stop taking for granted the passion and loyalty that we give you so freely. Just like an unappreciated spouse, if we’re neglected and mistreated long enough, eventually we will wise up and move on. It hasn’t happened yet, because hope springs eternal in Cleveland it seems. But understand, we DESERVE to be rewarded for holding up our end of the bargain. We’ve watched you give us shitty teams. We’ve paid you money to watch games that are unwatchable. We’ve bought jerseys of players who were gone before they went through the washer one single time. We’ve cheered and roared every single time there has been cause too, and kept a fantastic sense of humor for the other times. Simply put, you owe us. And it’s time to pay up.

Shawn is the Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer for Dawg Pound Nation.  He’s also an Army Sergeant, married to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three and aspiring Browns Writer.  You can follow him on Twitter @ShawnMStarr or @DawgPoundNews, as well as on the Dawg Pound Nation Facebook Page. 

Rumors: Browns interested in Derek Carr, not Johnny Manziel


140122-derek-carr-top

 

A report from Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks on Twitter) says that the Browns QB of choice in this draft is Derek Carr, not Johnny Manziel.

Full post:

Before the Browns parted ways with CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi, Cleveland was widely seen as an operation smitten with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The team reportedly was “prepared to move heaven and earth” for the rookie passer of its choice, but NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah says we’ve been focused on the wrong guy all along.

“The one thing about the combine is, you get there, you’re around all your contacts, a lot of different NFL people,” Jeremiah told “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday. “And it had been so out there that the Browns loved Manziel under the previous regime, and I talked to enough people that firmly believe that that was a total smokescreen.”

Said Jeremiah: “Their guy is (Fresno State quarterback) Derek Carr and they’re going to take a different player with the fourth pick and they want to take Derek Carr with their second one (at No. 26). … I heard that from several different places.”

On paper, a more manageable plan with the Jaguars sitting at No. 3, one spot ahead of Cleveland. “I think Jacksonville is the first place I look,” Jeremiah said of a Manziel landing spot.

Both Jeremiah and NFL Media’s Mike Mayock rank Carr fourth among quarterback prospects behind Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Football and Blake Bortles. Carr, of course, has plenty of work to do to equal Manziel’s charming words for Browns fans.

I’m going to pour my heart out for the Dawg Pound and try to win a Super Bowl for Cleveland,” Manziel said before the combine. “I don’t care if they’ve had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I’m going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl.”

Sounds like a plan, except — from where we stand today — the Browns plan to make someone else tha 21st guy.

Now, on the surface, part of this sounds good, as it likely would mean that the Browns were looking at Sammy Watkins at 4, which is a hard pick to knock.  The problem is taking Derek Carr in the first round.  For the record, writing Derek Carr off because his brother was a failed NFL QB is stupid, and really inaccurate.  Derek is a better QB than his brother, easily.  If the name thing was the only hang up, I wouldn’t be writing this.  If we just went off the NFL Combine, Carr would likely be a top 10 pick.  He ran an impressive 4.69 40 (good for a QB), he has great, probably elite arm strength, and can be very accurate at times. In fairness, the younger Carr also is a high IQ player who can make very good adjustments pre-snap.

If that was the end of the scouting report, fine. Carr would likely be a top 5-10 draft pick, and I would be pleased if the Browns nabbed him. The downsides with Carr are extremely problematic. Simply, he melts away in big moments and completely folds under pressure. The most recent example of this was the Bowl matchup against USC. Now, USC’s defense, while but bad, is far from elite. They ranked 70th in the nation last year against the pass, but with Carr they left him looking confused and by the end, exposed. Nearly every time they brought pressure, Carr would freeze, locking on to a single receiver, and either taking an avoidable hit, or making a bad throw. Carr’s footwork when rushed is seriously bad, and it shows up in his delivery in those situations.

If it was something coachable, like a footwork or mechanics issue, it wouldn’t be as concerning. The problem is that it’s hard to teach someone confidence. Confidence is intangible trade like leadership. Frankly, it either something you have, or something you don’t. and Derek Carr simply does not have confidence when he faces tough defenses or pressure. I hate to draw the comparison, but his trouble under pressure should sound familiar to Browns fans. Brandon Weeden struggles in the same way. He freezes up, locks on to one receiver, and makes bad throws when faced with a pass rush.

Now if we were talking about drafting him in the mid round, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But we’ve been down this road before. When you take a quarterback in the first round ,they’re expected to be capable starting from day one. Carr is not, and with his confidence issues, he may never be.

I get it. It’s smoke screen and deception season in the NFL. Still, this particular rumor worried me. Carr is one of only two QB’s in this draft that I am completely opposed to drafting, which should say a lot. When the Browns new front office does decide to take a quarterback, it’s a decision that they can’t afford to get wrong.

Breaking: Browns release veteran ILB D’Qwell Jackson


The Cleveland Browns have decided to part ways with veteran team captain and ILB D’Qwell Jackson.  Jackson spent 8 seasons with the Browns, and was viewed as a leader on and off the field.  The move is based primarily because Jackson was due a roster bonus of 4.4 million dollars on March 31st, and the team was unwilling to pay the amount.  The move is likely hard to swallow for fans, because Jackson was well loved in Cleveland. Further, the already concerning ILB position just became a black hole in the middle of the defense.

From Ray Farmer:

“We had positive discussion with D’Qwell and his agent over the last several days, and we came to the mutual agreement to go in different directions. D’Qwell is the epitome of class, leadership and professionalism. Every day of his NFL career, D’Qwell has been a solid representative of the Browns and the City of Cleveland, both between the lines on Sundays and off the field in our area community. We want to thank him for his eight years of service and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

From D’Qwell Jackson:

“To the people of Cleveland and Browns fans everywhere: Eight years ago I began a journey that blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of a wonderful organization and community. I want to take this time to thank each and every one of you for opening your arms and hearts to my family and me, and for making Cleveland an easy place to love and call home. It’s been an honor playing in front of you.

“I also would like to thank the Browns players, coaches and staff for their tireless work and commitment.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all and will always carry you with me.

Browns players and fans took to twitter to show their love and support for D’Qwell, in some pretty heartwarming posts:

Devil Dawg’s Mock Draft 2.0


Not much changed at the top of my draft.

Round 1-4 – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

I think it is fair to say that I have a man crush on Sammy Watkins. 4.34 and 4.37 unofficially is pretty sweet. I am truly excited about the possibility of him playing opposite of Gordon with Cameron underneath. There are not many teams in the league that can match-up with that lineup. Either Gordon or Watkins will end up in single coverage and teams will be forced to use a LB on Cameron. I love those match-ups. If we can get a ground game going too…watch out NFL the Browns may finally be back.

Round 1-26 – David Yankey, G, Stanford

All those weapons are useless if Hoyer does not have time to get them the ball. Yankey, in my opinion would be an upgrade at either of the guard spots. Here is a good scouting review of Yankey:

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1737649/david-yankey

Round 2-35 – Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin – Previous Pick Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida St.

Ray Farmer on what it means to be a Brown: “You talk about competitiveness, you talk about toughness, you talk about instincts, guys that play fast, guys that produce, guys that play relentlessly. All of those things are things that we kind of held independently that they just happened to match up.” Enter Chris Borland. Against the Buckeyes, Chris Spielman was gushing over the play of Borland. The kid is a hard-nosed football player. No he does not have the measureables. Watch him play though and you seem him in almost every tackle. Watch the first :30 and at the 3:02 mark. He stood Hyde up twice. Then he paid tribute to Turkey Jones.

Round 3-71 – Christian Jones, ILB, Florida St.

Why did I go for 2 ILBs? DQ cannot play forever and he has a sizable roster bonus due ($4M). Lets not forget that Craig Robinson is not the long term answer at the position. I like the speed displayed by Jones. With Eifert and Gresham in Cincy; Pitta in Balt if he returns; Miller and Spaeth in Pitt, we need a ‘backer that can stick with a TE if the scheme dictates it.

Round 3-83 – Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State – Previous Pick – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

In the 3rd round, I thought Hyde was a good value. In reality, I see him going in Round 2. He appears to have good vision and I like how he hits a hole. He doesn’t do much dancing. The game that sealed the deal for me was the Big 10 Championship. Hyde ran 18 times for 118 yards against the nations #1 run defense.

Round 4-102 – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois – Previous Pick – Terrance West, RB, Towson

I like the way he played in the Senior Bowl. He is more of a pocket passer and he did not play against elite competition. I see him sitting behind Hoyer for a year or two learning the trade. He has a very quick release and throws a nice ball.

Quick release

Round 4-123 – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU – Previous Pick – Deion Belue, CB, Alabama

I was surprised to find Mettenberger on the board here. I picked two QBs again during this mock draft. Lets face it, QB is one of the most important positions in the game. I think Hoyer is serviceable with the right weapons around him. After Hoyer, who do we have? I think Garoppolo and Mettenberger give us some talent that can be developed at the QB position.

Round 5-133 – Deion Belue, CB, Alabama – Previous Pick – De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

Shawn highlighted him in his first mock as a good value.  He played his senior season with a nagging toe injury and still managed to be a leader on the Alabama D. He is 5-11 and 183 with speed in the low 4.4s. I pick him up in the 4th round of my last mock.

Round 6-164 – Trai Turner, G, LSU – Previous Pick – David Fales, QB, San Jose State

This big man can move! He ran a 4.84 (unofficially) in the 40. He is a good value in the sixth round that could provide some depth on the O-line.

Round 7-195 – Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma – Previous Pick -J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU

Shawn loves Vinnie Sunseri and has picked him in a couple of his mock drafts at this spot. While I would certainly be happy adding Sunseri, I decided to give you guys a different prospect to look at. Colvin is a little “hands-y” at times but he plays hard-nosed football. He also appears to have good hands and is not afraid of sticking his nose into the run game. He tore his ACL during Senior Bowl practice, so he will need some time to mend.