There are a lot of interesting things that have happened so far in the month and a half or so since the NFL season came to an end, and there will likely be quite a bit more craziness leading up to, during, and even following the NFL Draft in May.
Here are some random tidbits and thoughts on what’s happened so far and some of the things that could happen going forward. Some are Browns-related, some not so much.
MAURICE JONES DREW IS REPORTEDLY SEEKING $3.5 MILLION PER SEASON. Prior to the Ben Tate signing I was an advocate of considering Jones Drew on a cheap 2-year deal to provide a veteran presence, solid pass-protection and pass-catching on third downs, and a possible fountain-of-youth season similar to the one Jamal Lewis had after signing with the Browns in 2007. Apparently MJD, though, still sees himself as a starting running back, although the rest of the NFL doesn’t appear to agree. In a world where Tate, a 25-year old back without much wear on his tires, just signed a deal to be the clear-cut starter for the Browns that will only pay him $3.5 million per season if he reaches incentives, MJD will probably need to adjust his expectations if he wants to find a new home. That said, I still think he could offer a valuable contribution for someone next year.
I LIKE THE BROWNS EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITY OF SIGNING ALEX CARRINGTON. Carrington is a solid player. He’s built well to play the defensive end in a 3-4 and looked poised to really tap into his potential as a starter with Mike Pettine’s defense in Buffalo last year before an injury derailed his season. Injuries, unfortunately, have been a common theme for Carrington. If he can stay healthy, though, he could be a nice addition to the defensive line rotation. I don’t think the Browns would look to trade or cut Ahtyba Rubin immediately if Carrington signs, but 2014 would probably give him an opportunity to become a lower-priced alternative to re-signing Rubin when his contract expires at the end of the season.
ABOUT THAT INTEREST IN PAUL MCQUISTAN, THOUGH. The Browns had the 6’6″, 315-pound McQuistan in for a visit on the same day as Carrington. McQuistan played in all 16 games for Seattle last season, and he graded out as one of the weaker offensive linemen in the NFL (Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated him 71st overall among 76 offensive tackles a year ago, with a really awful average rating per game of -2.58 for his 9 games at tackle). This is typical for McQuistan. Theoretically, he is a versatile lineman who can play tackle or guard. The reality, though, is that McQuistan provides mediocre depth at guard and is going to be a liability if a team is in a position where they have to play him at tackle. The Browns have better linemen on their roster, and there are much better linemen available in free agency and the draft. Perhaps they feel that having a player available who can fail miserably at both guard and tackle is a necessity and are trying to replace Oneil Cousins? I don’t really get the interest here.
JARED ALLEN TO THE SEAHAWKS WOULD BE SIMPLY UNFAIR. Anyone who watched the Seahawks play, even if the only game they saw was the Super Bowl, knows that their defense is tremendous. Yes, they lost Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond III to free agency. But as long as Pete Carroll is there coaching up a secondary that includes Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, it will be a strength. They’ve resigned Michael Bennett, and now it looks like they might land Jared Allen. Those few of you that follow me on Twitter have already seen all of these figures, but for anyone else, this helps put into perspective how great Allen is (not to mention how pathetic the Browns have been at finding an elite pass rusher). Over the past 12 seasons, the highest sack total any individual defensive player on the Browns has produced is 11.0 (rookie OLB Kamerion Wimbley in 2006). Last year, Jared Allen had what is universally being called a down year. In fact, PFF stated that he had a “an extremely rapid decline” in 2013. And in that down year, he had 11.5 sacks – which would have led the Browns in any of the last 12 years. Further, Allen’s lowest total of the last 7 seasons was 11.0 sacks – still enough to tie the Browns highest total since 2001. I guess this leads to two conclusions: 1. the Browns haven’t had a really good pass rusher in a really long time and 2. Jared Allen has been a terrific player for a long time, and he’s still capable of being a force. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the last player to post more than 11 sacks for the Browns was Jamir Miller, with 13 in 2001. As Browns fans know all too well, he would never appear in another regular season game after tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2002 preseason. Reviewing the breaks that the Browns have gotten since 1999 is like repeatedly being poked in the eye, isn’t it? Anyhow, while we’re on the subject of Jared Allen, watch this awesome play:
CHAMP BAILEY IS THE BEST CORNERBACK STILL AVAILABLE. I don’t have any idea how much money former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey wants in order to continue his NFL career in a new city. I also don’t know for sure how much he has left in his tank. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Bailey has another above-average season in him. Granted, he’s no longer playing at the level he played in his prime, a level which makes him a surefire Hall-of-Famer. However, look at the overall ratings he’s received among all NFL CBs from PFF:
2009: 7th 2010: 3rd 2011: 18th 2012: 10th
All of those ratings came after his 31st birthday. To put them in perspective, the highest rating Joe Haden has had in his career was 6th (oddly enough, that was in his rookie season of 2010), and Haden rated 18th last year. Now, last season was a tough one for Bailey. He dealt with injuries that kept him out of all but 5 regular season games, and looked like he was still dealing with the injuries when he did play. Despite that, his average game rating from PFF was still higher than Buster Skrine’s. Skrine rated 106th among all 110 qualifying NFL CBs last year, and right now stands as the number 2 CB for the Browns again this year. So, if Champ Bailey was willing to consider coming to town on an incentive-laden 1 or 2-year deal, I think it would be intriguing. If he could offer one year of just solid play, an improvement over Skrine’s performance, it would greatly benefit the Browns defense. Not only would it upgrade that number 2 CB spot, but it would allow Skrine to move inside and focus on being the slot corner, which is a better fit for him anyhow. Thus, the defense is strengthened in two spots. And perhaps the Browns could take a cornerback a little later in the draft – rather than trying to use one of their top 3 picks to land one of the few who should be able to start immediately – and allow him a year of development before stepping into a starting role. Having Bailey here would also give him the opportunity to learn from one of the best cornerbacks who has ever played the game.
YOU DO KNOW THAT CHAMP BAILEY SIGNING WILL NEVER HAPPEN, RIGHT, ROB? Yes, I do. I’m just saying that after looking a little closer at Bailey’s performance over the past few seasons, I think it could be a sensible signing. And the Browns still have a boatload of cap room. So why not? Maybe they will…and maybe he will…no, no. They won’t.
SHAWN LAUVAO GOT MORE MONEY IN FREE AGENCY THAN GEOFF SCHWARTZ. No, really. Shawn Lauvao, a human turnstile whom PFF rated 70th out of 81 guards last year, was paid $17 million over 4 years by the Washington Redskins, with $5 million guaranteed. Geoff Schwartz, whom PFF rated 8th out of 81 guards last year and was pretty much unanimously considered the best guard available in free agency, received $16.8 million over 4 years from the New York Giants, with $4.7 million guaranteed. I don’t know what else to say. Those Redskins just keep cranking out the hits.
I THINK DRAFT DAY IS REALLY GOING TO BE A FUN MOVIE TO WATCH. I mean, come on, tell me you aren’t excited to see Kevin Costner as the general manager of the Browns! In a movie that was shot in Browns headquarters and at the actual NFL draft! It’s going to be cool! And the first two voices in the trailer are Tony Rizzo’s and Aaron Goldhammer’s! Whoops…I know, nothing’s perfect. But the rest of the trailer makes the movie seem like a lot of fun for Browns fans. I can’t wait.
SO T.J. WARD DECIDED TO SOUND OFF ON TWITTER. The former Browns strong safety and new Broncos acquisition decided he’d go on Twitter and inform the world that the Browns offered him “nothing.” I’m not sure what T.J. was trying to accomplish with that tweet. Are fans supposed to feel sorry for him? Angry at the Browns? Disappointed with their lives in general because he is no longer with the Browns? I really don’t know. What I believe I do know is that it might not be the best reflection on Ward that the team which knows him best, the team with which he’s been a starter for the past 4 seasons, apparently decided that he was so imminently replaceable that it wasn’t worth spending time negotiating with him. Ward’s tweet does explain a couple of things, though. For one, it shows why his agent put that comment out in the press that they were negotiating with the Browns: in order to get ahead of the revelation that the Browns were happy to let him walk and try to keep his price up by making it seem that the team had interest. It also helps to explain why Ward got what seems like such a cheap contract: because front office people in the NFL didn’t think he was worth more. And one other thought: if Ward is trying to make the Browns look bad with that tweet, someone should remind him that the Browns signed Donte Whitner, who is a better player than him. Advantage: Cleveland.
A NEW MOCK DRAFT FROM NFL.COM HAS THE BROWNS TAKING TEDDY BRIDGEWATER AT 26. I used to think that pro day performances from quarterbacks were really a waste of time. But if all it takes is a couple of little hiccups during Bridgewater’s pro day to make NFL teams pass on him so that he falls into the Browns’ lap at 26, then maybe they are worthwhile. I’ve gone on record that even though Teddy is my top choice for the Browns with the 4th pick, I won’t be angry if they pass on him there. There are other players at the top of the draft who are very talented and would look really good in a Browns jersey. I don’t believe that he will really fall to 26, but if he does and the Browns don’t take him there (assuming they don’t draft another QB at 4), I will be upset. Not that the Browns, or anyone else for that matter, will care that I’m upset. I’m just letting you – the kind, beautiful, brilliant, discerning readers of DPN – know that this is the case. And that is despite the fact that after watching this video you will be convinced that Teddy Bridgewater could not possibly have a future in the NFL. Warning: you should not watch this horrific disaster if there are children in the room. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. It’s Teddy Bridgewater’s calamitous pro day:
I’M NOT BRAGGING, BUT… I really did suggest that the Browns should draft Vontaze Burfict when he was still available in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL draft. He’s gone on to become a superstud linebacker for the Bengals, and man would he be nice to have on this Browns defense.
AND THE REASON I DON’T BRAG ABOUT THAT IS… because I actually believed for a while that Brandon Weeden was going to put it together and be a legitimate top-15 starting quarterback in the NFL. Now Brandon Weeden is going to serve as the waterboy for the Cowboys or something, less than 2 years removed from being the 22nd pick in the NFL draft despite being a 4th-round talent. But I got hooked by him. I admit it. For what it’s worth, I realized after the Miami game to open this past season that it was hopeless, but up until then I still had hope.
And so, the whole Burfict thing really just goes to prove the old adage about the blind squirrel and the nut.
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. For more tidbits,stats, and discussions on the latest happenings with the Browns and around the NFL, you can follow him on Twitter @robisindy. You can send your thoughts to him at DPNRob@gmail.com.