With over $56 million in cap space (second most cap space in the NFL), the Browns have a lot to spend in the free agency market. There are quite a few holes, especially with the recent departure of DQ and the impending departure of TJ Ward. We have always been a defensive-centered team and hiring of Mike Pettine as head coach reinforces this belief. Therefore, we will focus on who the Browns should target on defense.
Byrd is the Word
No, not Larry Bird. Or the Birdman (who looks like a protagonist from Sons of Anarchy). I am talking about Jairus Byrd!
Ever since defensive coordinator/part-time Head and Shoulders model Rob Ryan left the Browns Strong Safety Abram Elam to the Cowboys (where they both unceremoniously lost their jobs), the Browns have not found another good safety to help TJ Ward in the backfield
I am not going to lie: I like TJ Ward, he is a good player. I do not want to see him go, but he is not indispensable. But even if TJ Ward were to stay with the Browns (and I hope he does), it would be great to get another high performing safety in the backfield to compliment him and force turnovers.
How good is Jairus Byrd!?!?! Byrd averages well over 50 tackles a year and has 22 interceptions in 5 years, with 3 Pro Bowl appearances. Those numbers are very good for a safety, and the front office can afford to pay his asking price. But time is of the essence: although Byrd is not happy with the treatment by the Bills, his concerns could be easily assuaged with some money. So it will be battle between the Bills and any other potential suitors, and the Browns should be at the top of the list for pursuing Byrd. Therefore, if they want him they need to move fast when free agency opens.
Also, there is the familiarity factor: Byrd already has played for Mike Pettine. It would be an extremely smooth transition with very little adaptation required on Byrd’s end. Acquiring Byrd would be a win-win: Byrd gets paid, and the Browns get a great player who can help create turnovers. Very little risk involved on the Browns end.
Joe Haden is a shut-down corner. But just like with the safety position, even an elite cornerback need a solid cornerback to compliment him. Buster Skrine is definitely not good enough to be a starting cornerback for the Browns. His performance varies from game to game, and he draws too many penalties. Buster, for the most part, is just a straight-up bust.
The rumor mill is saying that Sam Shields is being pursued by the Brown . After coming off a great 2013 season, he would be an awesome addition. With Sam Shields and Joe Haden as a cornerback team, the Browns would have the best cornerback pair in the league. Hands down.
The release of DQ was a tough pill to swallow for the fan base. After nagging injuries that kept him sidelined, he was re-signed and became a playmaker for the team. Now he has been released over cap space issues. Although I vehemently disagreed with the move, it is now time to move on and figure out who should replace him.
Pettine typically uses a hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme, so they need to pick up someone who is a versatile middle linebacker. That person, in my opinion, is Donald Butler. He had 84 tackles last season (MLBs thrive on tackles) and previously played in a 3-4 defense. Donald Butler would be a great addition, and the Browns should move ASAP to sign him.
And if Donald Butler is not our man, then Arthur Moats (from Buffalo) has the experience in Pettine’s defense (but not the high amount of tackles). But either way, the Browns need to fill that gap left by the unfortunate departure of DQ.