While the Cleveland Browns ended up sending six players to the Pro Bowl last year, there aren’t as many gaping holes on the teams roster as in years past. That said, coming off another double digit loss season, there is obviously room for improvement. As a preface, I’m going to give you primary FA targets, as well as alternates, and give you my Mock Draft 5.0 all in one giant bundle.
So, let’s take a look at the most glaring needs, ranked in order of important:
1. Offensive Guard (2)
2. Inside Linebacker (2)
3. Wide Receiver (2)
6. Defensive End
7. Center (Pending contract negotiations with Alex Mack)
8. Strong Safety (Pending contract negotiations with TJ Ward)
So, we’ll go in order of the real life timeline to keep this as close to accurate/realistic as possible. Free Agency starts this Saturday, so we’ll roll through my “best case” scenario first.
Offensive Guard Targets:
Geoff Schwartz, G, Kansas City Chiefs
Geoff Schwartz is Cleveland Browns Mitchell Schwartz’s brother. Schwartz is the best Guard available via free agency, and as such will command the highest price tag. That said, the Guard positions are in desperate need of an upgrade. Schwartz looked great after he took over the starting role from the Chiefs Jon Asamoah halfway through the season, and he’s looked great previously, in 2010 with the Panthers. Schwartz would provide a lot better blocking, and would fit nicely into Kyle Shanahan’s Zone Blocking Scheme.
Alternates: Jon Asamoah, Chiefs, Travelle Wharton, Panthers. Asamoah lost his starting gig to Schwartz, but he’s still a quality player. Wharton is getting older, but he’s still a solid Guard.
Karlos Dansby, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Dansby is excellent. His production somehow went unnoticed by the media last year, but he’s an incredibly versatile linebacker. He can play inside or out, pass rush or pass coverage, run protection or zone. He accumulated 122 tackles, 4 INT’s and 6.5 sacks last season, even taking 2 INT’s back for TD’s. Those numbers alone should scream versatility. Dansby would be a major upgrade at the linebacker position, and is versatile enough that he could allow Paul Kruger to move inside, or take the inside himself.
Alternates: Brandon Spikes, Patriots; Arthur Moats, Bills. Spikes struggles badly in pass coverage, or he would be my first choice. Moats has the Pettine connection, but prefers to play outside, so again, he’d require Kruger to move inside.
Rex Grossman, QB, Washington Redskins
I know. Rex Grossman right? I’m not bringing him to be the starter, so just calm down. Grossman has spent the past 4-5 years working with new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and would be a great choice to mentor the Browns Quarterbacks on the finer points of any system that Shanahan installs.
Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Backers
For the record, I think the Packer’s are fools for not using their franchise tag on Shields. They’ll be even more foolish to let him hit the open market, as the Browns have more cap space and are one of the teams already rumored to be hot on Shields. Shields has a ton to like. He’s good in coverage, extremely fast, and does not shy away from contact. He’s pretty close to a complete corner, and having him opposite Joe Haden would be extremely tough to throw at.
Alternates: Alterraun Davis, Titans; Vontae Davis, Colts. Truthfully, I’d like to have any of these three names. I’d even throw Captain Munnerlyn in as a third possible alternate. Very deep CB group.
Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns
Look, I’ll be blunt. There isn’t much out there in the way of quality Center’s, either in the draft or via Free Agency. The Browns need to re-sign Mack.
T.J. Ward, SS, Cleveland Browns
In my ideal scenario, the Browns either tag or re-sign Ward long term. I have to admit though, I’m starting to think it may not happen. If that’s the case, look for the Browns to make a push for Jarius Byrd (Bills) if they want to spend, or even a guy like Chris Clemens if they want to keep their cash.
Mock Draft 5.0
Entire first round:
1 QB Teddy Bridgewater, Houston Texans
2 OT Jake Matthews, St. Louis Rams
3 QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
4 WR Sammy Watkins, Cleveland Browns
5 DE Jadeveon Clowney, Oakland Raiders
6 DE Kony Ealy, Atlanta Falcons
7 DE Trent Murphy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8 QB Johnny Manziel, Minnesota Vikings
9 OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo Bills
10 WR Mike Evans, Detroit Lions
11 OLB Anthony Barr, Tennessee Titans
12 CB Jason Verrett, New York Giants
13 CB Darqueze Dennard, St. Louis Rams
14 DT Louis Nix III, Chicago Bears
15 OT Greg Robinson, Pittsburgh Squeelers
16 DT Timmy Jernigan, Dallas Cowboys
17 WR Jordan Matthews, Baltimore Ravens
18 WR Brandin Cooks, New York Jets
19 G David Yankey, Miami Dolphins
20 QB Derek Carr, Arizona Cardinals
21 TE Eric Ebron, Green Bay Packers
22 ILB C.J. Mosley, Philadelphia Eagles
23 WR Odell Beckham Jr, Kansas City Chiefs
24 OLB Kyle Van Noy, Cincinnati Bengals
25 OT Taylor Lewan, San Deigo Chargers
26 OT Zack Martin, Cleveland Browns
27 CB Justin Gilbert, New Orleans Saints
28 WR Marqise Lee, Carolina Panthers
29 OT Aaron Donald, New England Patriots
30 WR Davante Adams, San Francisco 49ers
31 CB Kyle Fuller, Denver Broncos
32 OT Morgan Moses, Seattle Seahawks
The Browns Picks:
4 WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
26 OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame
35 G Xavier Su’a-filo, UCLA
6’3″, 305 lb Xavier Su’a-filo is a tremendous talent. He’s incredibly strong, very quick for a big man, and does a really great job leverage bull-rushers. He’s smart, very good with hand placement, and is a starting level talent. He would be an immediate upgrade over any of the Guards currently on the Browns roster.
71 ILB Christian Jones, Florida State
The Browns are in dire need at ILB now that DQ is gone. Even if they sign a starter to fill his shoes, the hole created by the tandem of Chris Robertson and Tank Carder cannot be ignored. Christian Jones from FSU is the perfect upgrade, and even though he’s likely to be available in the third round, he can become an instant starter. He’s tall, long and fast, and has great hip and foot work. He’s known to absolutely smother tight ends and receivers off the line, and has shown year after year to be able to disrupt passing routes across the middle.
83 WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
With the power/size combination we’ve built-in Gordon and Sammy Watkins, we need a sure handed, capable route runner with great hands to play the slot. James Abbrederis from Wisconsin is the perfect fit, and should be available in the early third round. Abbrederis’ speed is outstanding, and his size makes him elusive. He has great hands and would be an outstanding slot receiver.
102 QB Jimmy Garoppolo, EIU
Jimmy G is my guy. I didn’t take a QB early, and I think Garoppolo is a developmental option that could blossom into a high level starter. Jimmy Garoppolo is likely to be selected in the 3-4th round, and he may end up being the steal of this draft class. He’s smart, confident and a natural leader. He’s got very good accuracy and an ability to time throws extremely well. He’s calm, smooth and has a very short memory for bad throws/plays. He has outstanding passing vision and a quick delivery. He does need work under center, as he’s played (like Carr) primarily out of the spread or shotgun in college. He lacks elite physical abilities, but compensates by his intellect, timing and quick release. Compares closely to Tony Romo.
123 RB Andre Williams, Boston College
133 DE Michael Sam, Missouri
164 RB Storm Johnson, UCF
195 RB Dri Archer, Kent State