Don’t Be Shocked To See The Browns Pursue Mark Sanchez


Before you start throwing things at me, I’ve got to tell you why I won’t be surprised if the Browns decide to pursue free agent quarterbacks Mark Sanchez.

1. Mike Pettine Knows Him

While more often than not, I hear this as a negative, I actually think it might be a positive. Very few people know for certain what caliber quarterback Sanchez is as well as Mike Pettine. They spent decent time together in New York, and that type of familiarity is desirable in the NFL. While there are obvious questions as to Sanchez’s is serviceability, Pettine should have a general idea. He coached the defense on that New York Jets team during Mark Sanchez’s is best years. They were a part of multiple deep playoff runs, and contrary to popular belief, Sanchez did not play bad in most of those games.

2. Not landing Matt Schaub was not part of the plan.

I firmly believe ,based on the reports that I’ve gotten, that the Browns would have signed Matt Schaub if the Texans had cut him. I believe the Browns wanted be ability to restructure Schaub’s contract. And, I don’t believe the Browns thought that the Raiders would be willing to take on Matt Schaub’s 10 million dollar contract. I hear you, the Raiders have a lot of cap space, but the truth is that they are extremely cash strapped. There is a real reason why they let so many of their young, quality players walk away in free agency. Their owner is not doing well financially. Regardless, I believe that the Browns planned to sign Matt Schaub and let him compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job. Obviously, that plan has to change.

3. There are no more viable starters left in free agency.

I still believe that the Browns wants to bring in a quarterback that can push Brian Hoyer in camp. I believe that this is why they haven’t signed Rex Grossman yet. At the end of the day, Grossman would be a player that the Browns realize can never be allowed to take a live snap in game. He would be signed to be a mentor and pseudo coach, not true backup quarterback. Based on that, who would be competing with Brian Hoyer to start? The odds of a rookie getting the nod over Brian Hoyer seem fairly long in my opinion. So if we are to believe that the Browns intend to have a legitimate competition for the role of starting quarterback, who is left to compete? The only answer last is Mark Sanchez.

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.

Advertisements

Random NFL Offseason Musings


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.

MJD's words to the NFL

MJD’s words to the NFL

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.

Paul McQuistan...why?

Paul McQuistan…why?

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.

bailey

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.

Shawn Lauvao got more money than Geoff Schwartz. Your thoughts?

Shawn Lauvao got more money than Geoff Schwartz. Your thoughts?

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.

solong

Hey T.J.: we’ve moved on and you should too.

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.

weeden

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.

Should The Browns Rescind Their Transition Tag On Alex Mack?


I feel like it was just yesterday that Alex Mack’s Agent, Marvin Demoff, said that “I’m confident we can come up with a structure that would have a reasonable likelihood to not be matched by the Browns — and would be in full compliance with the collective bargaining agreement”. What Demoff likely meant was a sneaky deal that had an absurd roster bonus next year, say $40 million dollars, that even if the Browns matched, would essentially force them to cut Mack before the start of the next league year or be destroyed from a cap perspective.

Thankfully, Mack has not visited with any other teams and has generated little interest. The teams like the Colts and Buccaneers that were deemed likely landing places have signed or re-signed other centers.

With Mack’s market drying up, it begs the question of whether or not the Browns should rescind their transition tag on Mack. $10 million dollars is an absurd salary for a center, and Mack isn’t even the best center in the NFL.  Until he signs the tag offer, the Browns are allowed to pull the offer back. They would risk losing Mack, but with a shrinking market elsewhere, it would likely force Mack back to the table, as the Browns are still likely to be his best bet for a long term deal near the money he likely wants. Additionally, it would send a strong message that the Browns are not going to be held hostage by their free agents. Last, with Mack clearly not commanding the interest that his agent bragged that he would, it would give the Browns a much stronger position at the bargaining table.

In my opinion, Mack was mislead by his agent, and really deserves a slice of humble pie. Contract numbers in the NFL are based on market value, and since Mack has virtually no market outside of Cleveland. It’s time to play rough, and for Ray Farmer to take control of this Alex Mack situation, which had gotten a little unwieldy.

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.

Browns Free Agency Needs: Everything Else


As the Browns gear up for free agency, a few positions of need on the team stand out as areas that would be ideally addressed by bringing in an experienced NFL player.  Cleveland would benefit from immediate contributors at offensive guard, middle linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver, running back and safety.

We’ve previously previewed some of the available cornerbacks here, and some of the available guards here.

I’m afraid I was a little behind on this since I only joined the DPN staff a week ago, so I don’t have time left before free agency opens in force to do individual articles for all of the other positions of need.  So this one will combine the remaining positions to give a brief look at some of the guys available to the Browns at various positions of need.  Hopefully it will help to preview some of the names that will be tossed around (or have been tossed around already) as possibilities for the Browns.  We’ll definitely come back and take a closer look at anyone the Browns sign once the signings are official.

WIDE RECEIVER

17-Packers-James-Jones-TD

James Jones, Packers  (6’1″, 208 lbs, 29 years old, Pro Football Focus (PFF) Rating: 55th)  –  Jones is the option I would most like to see the Browns pursue if they go after one of the top wide receivers available.  He is a reliable receiver who has played really well over the past couple of seasons and would be capable of playing outside or inside for the team.  He has 34 touchdown catches over the past 5 seasons, including 14 in 2012.  He also dropped only 2 passes last year on 88 targets, and caught 67% of the passes thrown to him (24th-best in the NFL).  A sure handed option with a nose for the end zone, Jones would be a really nice addition to the Browns receiver corps, and he probably won’t cost a ridiculous amount of money.

Julian Edelman, Patriots  (5’10”, 198 lbs, 27 years old, PFF Rating: 28th)  –  Edelman is coming off of a breakout season in which he posted 105 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns, which were all career highs by a huge margin.  He did drop the 3rd-most passes in the league, but that partially goes along with receiving the number of targets he did.  He caught 71.9% of the passes thrown his way, the 4th-highest number in the league.  While Edelman is not a big-play threat, he showed last year that he can play in the middle of the field and find soft spots in the zone, being a reliable option to help move the chains.  He has already been linked to the Browns since the negotiation window opened, so there appears to be some possible interest.  My biggest concerns would be his injury history (last season was the first in his 5-year career in which he appeared in all 16 games) and the effect of playing with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback in an offense that probably inflated his numbers.  But as a receiver to play in the slot, he could be a nice fit if the Browns don’t have to break the bank for him.  He’s also a solid return man.

Hakeem Nicks, Giants  (6’1″, 208 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 69th)  –  Nicks hurt himself in his contract year by putting up a second straight season where his numbers were down.  After posting back-to-back seasons with over 75 receptions and over 1,000 yards in 2010 and 2011, during which he also had 18 touchdown receptions, Nicks caught only 109 passes for 1,588 yards and 3 touchdowns total over the past 2 seasons, including no touchdowns in 2013.  However, he is only 26 and has shown elite skills in the not-too-distant past.  He had 3 100-yard games last year, and it must be noted that he was saddled with Eli Manning, who was absolutely horrible last season.  There is some rumbling that Nicks could be open to a 1-year contract that would allow him to rebuild his value, although I think it’s fairly doubtful that he would come to the Browns on that kind of a deal because of the still-unstable quarterback situation.

Here is a condensed look at a few more available receivers.

Eric Decker, Broncos  (6’3″, 214 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 11th)  –  Decker is a number 2 receiver who will probably get paid like a number 1.  How much did Peyton Manning inflate his numbers?  Decker is a good receiver, but I hope that the Browns let someone else overpay him.

Golden Tate, Seahawks  (5’10”, 202 lbs, 25 years old, PFF Rating: 22nd)  –  I liked Tate coming out of Notre Dame, but I haven’t been terribly impressed with him when I’ve watched him with the Seahawks.  He was productive last season, though, and he’s still only 25.  A little intriguing, but the money would have to be very reasonable.

Andre Roberts, Cardinals  (5’11”, 195 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 82nd)  –  Roberts has had some decent production at times over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hard to imagine him moving the needle too much.  There would be nothing wrong with the Browns signing him on the cheap as a 3rd, or ideally a 4th, receiver.

Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers  (5’11”, 180 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 60th)  –  Sanders had his best season for the Steelers last year with 67 catches for 740 yards and 6 touchdowns.  He isn’t really a playmaker, but he has good hands and could potentially be a productive player working out of the slot for the Browns.

Sidney Rice, Seahawks  (6’4″, 202 lbs, 27 years old, PFF Rating: 62nd)  –  Rice parlayed one impressive season with the Vikings into a lucrative free agent deal with Seattle, and then failed to play up to that contract.  His biggest problem is injury, having played in all 16 games only twice in his 7 seasons, and playing in under 10 games 3 times.  He will probably only draw a 1-year deal, and I would have no problem with the Browns taking a swing with him on a cheap, low-risk deal.  He is coming off of a torn ACL and probably won’t be cleared until OTA’s at best.

Nate Burleson, Lions  (6’0″, 197 lbs, 32 years old, PFF Rating: 89th)  –  I’ve previously written about why I think Burleson would be a good addition to the Browns.  The PFF ratings were not kind to him in 2013, but I see individual numbers in their analytics on him that I really like.  Just one example: he caught 76.5% of the passes thrown to him last year, which was 2nd in the NFL.  He’s a good veteran presence in the locker room and still capable of being productive.  For the small investment it would probably take to get him, I think Burleson would be well worth it.

View a list of all free agent wide receivers by clicking here.

RUNNING BACK

Maurice-Jones-Drew

Ben Tate, Texans  (5’11”, 217 lbs, 25 years old, PFF Rating: 44th)  –  Tate believes that his is an elite running back and will be looking to cash in during free agency because of his almost unanimously-agreed status as the best available at his position.  I don’t have anything against Tate, but I am very much opposed to the Browns throwing a big contract at him.  I think there are real red flags with signing Tate to be a workhorse lead back.  He has played in only 40 of the Texans 64 regular season games since coming into the league, never appearing in all 16.  And that is with a backup’s workload.  While he has been productive, I think the Browns are much better off looking for a starting-caliber running back in the draft, where they could likely get one in the 4th or even 5th round.  Also, for what it’s worth, Tate was ranked 44th overall among running backs by PFF last year.  The Browns Willis McGahee, who everyone would agree was ready for the glue factory last season, ranked 41st.  Buyer beware on Ben Tate.

Rashad Jennings, Raiders  (6’1″, 231 lbs, 28 years old, PFF Rating: 21st)  –  Jennings was an under-the-radar signing by the Raiders last season after struggling to 2.8 yards per carry with Jacksonville in 2012.  However, he took advantage of his opportunity when injuries ravaged the Oakland backfield and is now considered a priority player to re-sign by the Raiders after rushing for 733 yards (with 4.5 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns and adding 36 receptions for 292 yards.  Jennings is a big back with soft hands, and could be a solid contributor as depth or a part of a running back committee, but he is another player that I don’t think is much better than what will be available to the Browns on the 3rd day of the draft.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos  (5’11”, 220 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 15th)  –  Moreno has seen an amazing turnaround to his career.  Late in the season in 2012 he was still considered a 1st-round bust, but he seized a late-season opportunity as starter that year and then posted his best season in 2013.  Moreno ran for 1,039 and 10 touchdowns and caught 60 passes for another 548 yards and 3 touchdowns for the AFC-Champion Broncos.  Despite those fine numbers, the market is still very soft for Moreno’s services.  Actually, reports say there is basically no market for any free agent running backs during the negotiating window this weekend.  I actually think Moreno could be a solid addition for the Browns if he could be signed without giving him too much guaranteed money, but I think that it is likely he will return to Denver after finding little interest from other teams.

Here is a quick look at a few other options that are available at running back.

Darren McFadden, Raiders  (6’1″, 218 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 54th)  –  McFadden was an incredible college player and has had some wow moments as a pro.  However, injuries appear to have taken their toll and it is hard to imagine much of a market forming for his services.  That should emphasize how weak this free agent running back class is, since McFadden is almost universally considered one of the 3 best available at the position this offseason.  He was ranked 54th out of 55 running backs last season by PFF.

Andre Brown, Giants  (6’0″, 227 lbs, 27 years old, PFF Rating: 47th)  –  Brown’s name has been floated as someone the Browns may have some interest in.  He is a big, powerful back who some solid games as the lead back with the Giants last year after missing the first 8 games of the year with a broken leg.  He also ran for 8 touchdowns and was averaging 5.3 yards per carry in 2012 before injury ended his season.  He’d be an okay depth signing, but could not be relied on as a starter.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars  (5’7″, 210 lbs, 28 years old, PFF Rating: 27th)  –  Jones-Drew is a name I already wrote about as a potentially interesting signing this offseason.  While he can’t be expected to start, I think it’s possible that MJD has something left to offer, even if it’s only as a 3rd-down back.  He’s only two years removed from leading the NFL in rushing yards.  If the Browns could sign him on a cheap two-year deal, I’d be okay with it, although I would not set my expectations too high.

Donald Brown, Colts  (5’10”, 207 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 22nd)  –  Brown is another former 1st-round pick who’s never produced enough to justify his draft position.  He did redeem himself some last season, though, by averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring 6 touchdowns on the ground while also grabbing 27 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He could provide some production out of the backfield, but there isn’t much to get excited about with Brown.

Darren Sproles, Saints  (5’6″, 190 lbs, 30 years old, PFF Rating: 7th)  –  He hasn’t officially been released as of this writing, but all indications are that he will be very soon.  I’ve seen several say that they’d love to see the Browns sign him.  I agree that Sproles has value, although I wonder how much longer he’ll hold up as he gets older.  He was dinged up quite a bit last season, although he was able to play through it.  Sproles is a huge threat in the passing game, with 71 catches or more in each of the last 3 seasons.

View a list of free agent running backs by clicking here.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

spikes

Brandon Spikes, Patriots  (6’2″, 255 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 6th)  –  I’ve already written about why I think Spikes should be a top target of the Browns.  He is a monster against the run, an intimidator inside who consistently makes plays to slow the opponents’ rushing attack.  PFF rated him the best inside linebacker in rush defense last season by a wide margin, and that was in a season where he was playing through an injury throughout the year.  While he is a liability in pass coverage, it cannot be overlooked how valuable he is.  And he is perhaps not quite as bad as people make him out to be, as he ranked 38th out of 55 ILB in pass defense last year (the Browns own Craig Robertson ranked dead last, which should give Browns fans confidence in PFF’s rating system).  He also gets pressure on the passer.  He has only 1 career sack, but ranked 20th at his position in quarterback hurries last year despite being removed on passing downs in many cases.  The PFF numbers really illustrate Spikes’ value.  He doesn’t miss tackles and he diagnoses plays beautifully and makes stops.  He would look really good in the orange and brown, and I don’t think it would take exorbitant money to sign him.

Karlos Dansby, Cardinals  (6’4″, 250 lbs, 32 years old, PFF Rating: 5th)  –  Dansby is an excellent and underrated linebacker.  The advantage he has over Spikes is that he is capable of playing on all 3 downs.  He had a tremendous season in 2013, with 121 tackles, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions (2 of which he returned for touchdowns), 1 fumble recovery and 1 forced fumble.  That is incredible production.  It would actually be interesting to pair him with Spikes, because Dansby’s strength is against the pass (although he is capable in run defense too).  The Cardinals reportedly offered him a head-scratchingly low 2-year contract in the range of $10-12 million.  While there has to be some hesitation to give him too much money because of his age, that kind of offer is not going to get it done in a world where D’Qwell Jackson just got a 4-year deal worth $22 million, with $11 million guaranteed.  Here’s an incredible scenario that I would really be thrilled to see:  the Browns land Spikes on a 4 or 5-year deal that pays about $5-6 million a year, with around $13 million in guaranteed money…and then they sign Dansby to a front-loaded 3-year deal paying around $18 million with $10 million guaranteed.  Yes, it would be a fairly hefty investment in the middle linebacker spot (although not an entirely unreasonable one, in my opinion), but it would take a position of weakness and immediately transform it into a real strength.  I know it will never happen, but it’s a nice dream.  Back to reality now:  while Spikes is my number one guy for the Browns to go after at this position, I would have absolutely no problem with Dansby.  He’s an outstanding player.

In my opinion, Spikes and Dansby are in a completely different class than the other players available at middle linebacker.  While I have no problem with the Browns using a high pick in the draft to obtain another potential starter at the position, it would be a disappointment if they don’t try to sign one of these two guys with all of the cap room they have available.  They are difference-makers on defense, while the rest of the guys available are solid starters at best.

Here’s a look at some of the other free agent options.

Daryl Smith, Ravens  (6’2″, 248 lbs, 31 years old, PFF Rating: 16th)  –  Smith was very good in his first season with Baltimore last year, recording 123 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 19 passes defensed.  He is a solid player who would be a decent signing for the Browns, but it doesn’t look like the Ravens are going to let him get away.

Perry Riley, Redskins  (6’0″, 238 lbs, 25 years old, PFF Rating: 46th)  –  Riley has experience starting in a 3-4 defense and is only 25 years old.  That’s basically what he has going for him.  He’s an average starting linebacker at best, and reports indicate that he is seeking money in the range of what D’Qwell Jackson received from the Colts.  That’s too much for a player of Riley’s caliber.

Arthur Moats, Bills  (6’2″, 250 lbs, 25 years old, PFF Rating: 12th)  –  Moats has been linked to the Browns in reports because he played for head coach Mike Pettine in Buffalo last year.  I would agree that this makes him a likely target of the Browns, and I don’t think that would be a bad move as long as the money is right.  Like Spikes, Moats’ strength is his run defense (although he isn’t the stud in this area that Spikes is).  He has never been a huge contributor in Buffalo.  The 301 snaps he played in 2013 is the second-highest number of snaps in his career.  At only 25 and with experience in Pettine’s defense, Moats could be a decent low-end free agent option for the Browns.

View a list of free agent inside linebackers by clicking here.

SAFETY

whitner

Jairus Byrd, Bills  (5’10”, 203 lbs, 27 years old, PFF Rating: 8th)  –  There isn’t much I can say about Jairus Byrd that hasn’t already been said here on this site and in Browns free agency articles elsewhere.  He is one of the top safeties in the league and perhaps the top free agent prize available this season (that didn’t receive the franchise tag, that is).  Byrd has 22 interceptions in 5 seasons (9 of those coming in 2009 as a rookie), as well as 11 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, and 33 passes defensed.  He did play in only 11 games last year due to injury, but Byrd is definitely one of the best playmaking safeties in the NFL.  He was rated the number 2 safety by PFF in 2012, and the number 3 safety in 2011.  The Browns have been heavily linked to Byrd in the lead-up to free agency because of the connection to Pettine in Buffalo.  I am perhaps a little more reticent than many Browns fans about committing the huge money that it will take to get Byrd here, but it would be hard to argue that the team shouldn’t pursue a ball-hawking playmaker at safety who is in the discussion of the very best safeties in the league.  I’ve seen projections that his contract would be around $45.5 million over 5 years with $19 million guaranteed, but I would guess that it will actually take over $10 million per year with closer to $25 million in guarantees.  That’s a lot, but if Byrd can continue to make plays as he has in the past, he could prove to be well worth it.

UPDATE (3/10/14 at 11:15 AM):  Well, it appears that the salary projection that I questioned was fairly close to being accurate, if new reports are to be believed:

Donte Whitner, 49ers  (5’10”, 208 lbs, 28 years old, PFF Rating: 6th)  –  Whitner would be a potential replacement for T.J. Ward at strong safety.  He had a strong season in 2013, with 73 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 12 passes defensed, and made the Pro Bowl for the second straight season.  Whitner has always had a reputation as a hard hitter who will mix it up in run defense, but his coverage skills have been much improved since coming to San Francisco in 2011.  In fact, PFF rated him 5th among safeties in pass coverage last year and 8th in run defense.  Whitner is still only 28, but would be a strong veteran presence.  I haven’t heard it mentioned much because of all the attention being paid to Jairus Byrd, but if the Browns end up backing out of the Byrd sweepstakes and lose Ward to free agency, it wouldn’t be a disaster if they were able to turn to Whitner, who can give solid Pro Bowl-caliber production for less money than either of those players.

Some of the other players available at safety are also solid options, although not in the same class as Byrd, Ward, and Whitner.

Antoine Bethea, Colts  (5’11”, 206 lbs, 29 years old, PFF Rating: 53rd)  –  Bethea is a good safety who provides solid run defense and is slightly below average in coverage.  The Colts appear likely to re-sign him.

Chris Clemons, Dolphins  (6’1″, 215 lbs, 28 years old, PFF Rating: 19th)  –  Clemons plays free safety, and does a solid job in coverage.  He is not much of a playmaker, with only 4 interceptions in his 5 seasons in the league.  If the Browns were to lose out on one of the top targets, there would be nothing especially exciting or especially disappointing if they turned to Clemons.

Louis Delmas, Lions  (5’11”, 202 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 26th)  –  Delmas is probably a marginally better safety than Clemons, and there are reports that the Dolphins are interested in signing him as Clemons’ replacement.  He ranked 11th in PFF’s pass-coverage ratings last season, but has only 3 interceptions in 4 years.  He’s another solid but unspectacular option.

Malcolm Jenkins, Saints  (6’0″, 204 lbs, 26 years old, PFF Rating: 65th)  –  While Jenkins’ name may bring back warm and fuzzy memories to some Browns fans because of his days at Ohio State, the reality is that he has really failed to live up to his billing in the NFL.  He ranked 65 out of 86 safeties in PFF’s overall ratings for 2013 after ranking 88th out of 88 in 2012.  He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, although there will undoubtedly be some team that will take a shot on him because of his physical gifts, hoping that he can turn the corner.  I think the Browns would be better off seeking help in the middle rounds of the draft than spending $4-5 million a year to sign Jenkins.

View a list of free agent safeties by clicking here.

There are many other players that could be potential targets of the Browns, but this post has probably gotten long enough.  There are also some intriguing names that could be released from their teams soon, such as Titans running back Chris Johnson.  We will definitely keep you covered on all of the latest news and give full reports on any players that the Browns bring into the fold.  Keep it locked on Dawg Pound Nation, folks.  A highly anticipated Browns offseason is getting started!

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, or you can send your thoughts to him at DPNRob@gmail.com.

Browns Free Agency Needs: Cornerback


As the Browns gear up for free agency, a few positions of need on the team stand out as areas that would be ideally addressed by bringing in an experienced NFL player.  Cleveland would benefit from immediate contributors at offensive guard, middle linebacker, cornerback, and safety.

Today we’ll take a look at some of the top cornerbacks available in this year’s free agency crop and consider some of the pros and cons the Browns must consider as they contemplate offering big money to bring them to Cleveland.

While Buster Skrine turned a corner last year in the eyes of most, almost everyone would agree that he is a greater asset to the Browns in the nickel corner spot than as their number two cornerback.  Pro Football Focus (PFF) rated Skrine as the 106th best cornerback overall last year, out of 110 players.  His coverage rating was low, and his rating against the run was also hurt by a league-high 20 missed tackles.  I like Skrine and think that maybe PFF’s numbers are a little unfair to him, but this is definitely a spot that the Browns should be looking to use some of their copious cap space to upgrade.

Alterraun Verner, Titansverner

5’10” – 189 lbs – 25 years old

Verner is a tantalizing prize.  A 4th round pick of the Titans in 2010, Verner has been a consistently strong starter right from the beginning.  At just 25 years old, there is reason to think that his best years could still be ahead of him.  Even if he is just able to maintain his level of play for a few seasons, he would make for a tremendous coverage duo playing across from Joe Haden.

PFF has rated Verner as a top 25 cornerback in each of his 4 seasons in the league, and he was rated as the 12th-best cornerback in the NFL in 2013.  Opponents’ quarterback ratings were lower when throwing at Verner than against all but 3 other cornerbacks last season.  His conventional statistics are impressive as well.  He intercepted 5 passes and was credited with 23 passes defensed.  Verner is a lockdown corner with playmaking ability, and he would look very good as the Browns number 2 cornerback.

The biggest drawback with Verner is his likely asking price.  The Browns are about to commit what will no doubt be a large sum of money to lock Joe Haden into a contract extension.  Reports also indicate that they are likely to throw a lot of money at Buffalo Bills free agent safety Jairus Byrd.

So, the question that must be asked is how much money are the Browns willing to pour into their secondary? If the market is being set by the money the Miami Dolphins just gave to Brent Grimes, then Verner could be very expensive.  Grimes made the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career last year, but he’s also 31 years old and just a couple of years removed from a torn achilles.  And the Dolphins gave him a 4-year, $32 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed.

So what could a 25-year old stud cornerback who is coming off of a Pro Bowl season receive, then?  It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a contract that pays $10 million a year with around $20 million (or more) in guaranteed money, especially if a couple of teams lock horns over him.  Can the Browns justify breaking the bank for Verner when the free agency class and draft are both deep with talented cornerbacks?  My guess is that they will not be heavy players for Verner’s services, but for the right price I’d love to see him in the orange and brown.

Aqib Talib, Patriotstalib

6’1″ – 202 lbs – 28 years old

Talib is an interesting case.  There is no question that he has legitimate talent, but his question marks are enough that some teams probably wouldn’t give very serious consideration to committing big dollars to him in free agency.

On the positive side, Talib has 23 interceptions in his 7 NFL seasons.  He is a strong, physical cornerback who is capable of harassing receivers and getting into their head.  He plays with a mean streak, and he is capable of making game-changing plays.

However, Talib comes with baggage.  One concern:  his injury history.  He has never played in all 16 games since coming into the league.  In 2010 he suffered a season-ending injury when a tendon tore from the bone in his hip.  In 2011 he hit injured reserve with a hamstring injury.  Last year he missed 3 games and was slowed in others by a hip injury.  He has also had legal problems and other disciplinary issues, and was suspended 4 games in 2012 for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances.

And so, Talib carries Pro Bowl talent with a healthy dose of risk.  It is highly unlikely, though, that he will sign a bargain deal.  Grimes’ contract is likely a baseline for Talib, while he will probably be looking to score more.  Will there be enough interest from different teams to drive the bidding up into the $9 million a year range?  Perhaps, but somehow I doubt it.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to see the Browns take the risk of signing Talib, and I feel that most other teams will feel similarly.  In the end, I’m going to hazard a guess that Talib will end up returning to the Patriots on a 2 or 3-year deal somewhere in the range of the figures in Grimes’ contract.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos011714_rodgers-cromartie_600

6’2″ – 182 lbs – 27 years old (turns 28 in April)

Rodgers-Cromartie really jumped onto the scene as a big-play cornerback in his first three years in the NFL.  A first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, he grabbed 13 interceptions in his first 3 seasons, returning 4 of them for touchdowns, flashing the exciting playmaking ability that his 4.29 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine had suggested.

Arizona traded Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011 as part of the deal that brought Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals.  Rodgers-Cromartie seemed to get out of his groove in Philly, recording no interceptions in 2011.  He bounced back slightly with 3 interceptions in 2012, but was still rated just 98th in PFF’s overall cornerback ratings that season.

He was not a hot commodity last offseason and ended up signing a 1-year, $5-million deal with the Broncos.  Rodgers-Cromartie then resurrected his value with a really good season in Denver.  With veteran Champ Bailey hampered by injuries – along with many other members of the Denver defense – Rodgers-Cromartie stepped up and asserted himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league.  He picked off 3 passes, returning one of them 75 yards for a touchdown, while also registering 14 passes defensed.  PFF rated him 5th among NFL cornerbacks last year.  Quarterbacks threw at him 68 times, and only 30 of those passes ended up in receptions, making him the second-toughest cornerback to complete a pass on last season.

Rodgers-Cromartie’s excellent play on a successful team that made the Super Bowl last season has made him a much more desired free agency target this offseason.  Denver will no doubt make a hard push to bring him back, especially now that they have released Champ Bailey.  It is likely that Grimes’ contract in Miami will once again factor into negotiations here, as it is hard to imagine Rodgers-Cromartie settling for less than that deal.

While I think there has to be some caution excercised with a 28-year old player whose athleticism and speed is an important part of his game, this is a guy who has developed and does not rely exclusively on his raw talent to play the position anymore.  He has also been very durable, playing in all 16 games in 4 of his 6 seasons, while missing only 4 games total.  His height makes him an asset against taller receivers.

Rodgers-Cromartie would be a nice number two corner for the Browns if they are willing to pay the premium fee that he will no doubt be looking for, but I think it is likely that he ends up back in Denver.

Sam Shields, Packersshields

5’11” – 184 lbs – 26 years old

Shields is not the marquee name on this list, but he has really developed from an undrafted free agent signing by the Packers into a fine cornerback.  He had the raw tools coming out of Miami, running a 4.3 40 at his pro day and registering a 39-inch vertical leap.  Since coming into the league, he has shown his ball-hawking skills, recording 11 interceptions and 38 passes defensed over the past 3 seasons.  Shields has also come up big on the big stage, recording 2 interceptions and a forced fumble in the Packers NFC Championship Game win over the Bears when he was a rookie.

Last season Shields had his best year as a pro.  He intercepted 4 passes and had 16 passes defensed.  He was rated by PFF as the number 52 cornerback overall (37th in coverage, 107th – out of 110 – in run defense).  He has shown steady improvement throughout his career, and after playing under a 1-year restricted free agent tender last year, Shields is ready to test the open market.

Shields has had some injury issues in his 4 years in the league, missing 11 regular season games.  He also doesn’t have the reputation of being a true number one cornerback, like several others in this free agency class – although if he continues to develop he certainly could be considered in that class.  As it is, though, he is a very good number two cornerback, and as such, perhaps a perfect fit to serve as a complement to Haden.

The question comes down to money.  How much will Shields seek through his agent, Drew Rosenhaus?  It is likely that they are looking at Grimes’ deal in Miami and hoping to land something better, but I don’t think that will happen.  When I wrote my article on 5 free agents the Browns should target – which was before Miami gave Grimes his new deal – I speculated that 4 years, $25 million with $15 million guaranteed could be enough to land Shields.  That was partly based on reports that the Packers were trying to sign him for somewhere in the $5 million-per-year range with around $10 million in guaranteed money.  While I think the crowded market could keep Shields’ price down somewhat from where he will likely hope to be, it may take slightly more than I speculated before.  If it takes $7 million a year and $17 or $18 million guaranteed to get him in Cleveland, would it be too much?  Maybe not, especially if Shields continues to develop like he has.  With his athleticism and talent, I think his ceiling has not yet been reached. I feel that Sam Shields is a player that the Browns should, and will, target in free agency.  He would make a lot of sense here.

But I wouldn’t want them to drastically overpay.  If the bidding pushes close to over the level set by the Brent Grimes contract, I would be more in favor of pushing that kind of money towards Verner, Rodgers-Cromartie, or the next player on this list.

Vontae Davis, Coltsvontaedavis

5’11” – 203 lbs – 25 years old

Davis was drafted in the first round by the Dolphins back in 2009 after a successful college career at Illinois, as well as an impressive showing at the combine, where he posted a 4.49 40-yard dash time, 25 bench press reps, a 10’5″ broad jump and a 33 on the Wonderlic test.

While there seemed to be a perception that Davis got off to a somewhat slow start to his career in Miami, the fact is that he was very solid right from the start.  He grabbed 9 interceptions in 3 seasons with the Dolphins and had 32 passes defensed, and PFF graded him out as above average in pass coverage in each of those seasons.

Despite that, Davis was shipped to the Colts prior to the 2012 season.  There were some character concerns while he was in Miami that contributed to the decision to trade him.  While he struggled a little bit against the run in his first year in Indianapolis, PFF rated him 24th in pass coverage in 2012 as Davis collected 3 interceptions and played his typical brand of physical football.

In 2013, Davis had his best season as a pro.  Despite posting only 1 interception, he came into his own as a defender that could narrow the field for opposing quarterbacks by largely swallowing up his assignment.  His impressive performance was reflected in the PFF ratings, which placed him 3rd in overall rating among all cornerbacks, and 2nd in pass coverage.  Davis was the 10th-toughest cornerback for quarterbacks to complete a pass on when they threw in his direction.  Another plus for Davis was that he had his best game of the year against the high-powered Denver Broncos offense.  As far as the character concerns from his time in Miami:  Davis has had no issues since being traded.

Initially I was not going to feature Davis in this article.  I was going to place him in the brief notes below.  The reason for that was because it seemed almost a lock that the Colts would use some of their ample cap room to lock him into a contract before free agency started.  It would be crazy for them to let him get away, right?  He’s their number one corner, coming off of his best season, and he’s only 25 years old.  But it now appears that there is a possibility of him not re-signing:

I guess it is important at this time to note that the Colts are the same team that traded a 1st-round pick to the Browns for Trent Richardson.  So maybe it’s not that surprising to think that they may have just decided to splurge in free agency and overpay for D’Qwell Jackson (I love DQ52, but $11 million guaranteed was a lot of money to pay him) only to turn around and pinch pennies when it came time to lock up one of the best cover cornerbacks in the league – when they had the inside track on him.

So, that brings us to our Cleveland Browns.  Should they pursue Vontae Davis?  If they want to run out what would arguably be the best cornerback tandem in the league, then the answer is yes.  While I wouldn’t want to see the Browns go crazy and overpay Davis when there are so many other talented corners available right now, I think he’d be at the top of my wish list if he’d consider signing at the right price.  What price is that?

Reports say that Davis wants more money than what Brent Grimes received.  So, once again, that could mean a 4 or 5 year deal, paying around $9 million per year, with somewhere in the range of $20 million (maybe even $25 million?) guaranteed.  If the Browns could lock Davis up for somewhere in that vicinity, it could really pay off.  He’s a good tackler who also does a great job in pressing receivers and throwing the offense’s timing off, and possesses the speed to run with pretty much any receiver he goes up against.

On the other hand, Davis hitting the open market creates more supply to meet the demand, and could help drive the price down slightly on one of the other cornerbacks.  If the Browns sniff around and don’t like the asking price, it may still help them in locking up one of the other players we’ve discussed here.

So those are 5 of the top prize cornerbacks available in free agency.  Any of these players would represent a clear upgrade at the second cornerback spot for the Browns.

Here’s a brief rundown on some of the other cornerbacks that are available.  While signing one of the “big 5” above would make a big splash, it’s very much a possibility that the Browns could pass on spending big money on one of those players and instead invest in one of these next several players on a more cap-friendly deal that will allow the team to keep more financial flexibility going forward.

Walter Thurmond III, Seahawks (5’11” – 183 lbs – 26 years old – PFF Rating: 31st)  –  Thurmond is a solid player for the Seahawks, but plays mostly in the slot.  He could likely transition to the number two cornerback spot for the Browns, and may come a little behind the money.  He was suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2013, and has a little injury history.

Charles Tillman, Bears (6’1″ – 196 lbs – 33 years old – PFF Rating: 89th)  –  Tillman has been a really solid cornerback for several years, but last season gave evidence that his best years are probably well behind him.  While he is still capable of being a contributor and a veteran leader (and I really like him as a player), I don’t see him as a great fit for the Browns.

Tarell Brown, 49ers (5’10” – 190 lbs – 29 years old – PFF Rating: 32nd)  –  Brown is an underrated player who is sort of lost among some of the bigger names in this group.  The 49ers don’t want to lose him and are making a push to lock him up before free agency starts, but it would make sense for the Browns to at least gauge interest if he hits the market.  He has been a starting cornerback and would be an upgrade, although not as big an upgrade as some of the other available names.

Captain Munnerlyn, Panthers (5’8″ – 186 lbs – 25 years old – PFF Rating: 11th)  –  Munnerlyn isn’t getting a lot of run, but he’s an effective cover corner who’s coming off of his best season.  A former 7th-round pick, Munnerlyn has stated that the Panthers have not made much of a push to bring him back.  While his size isn’t ideal, it’s hard to argue with his production.  It’s probably not a signing that Browns fans would get excited about, but if they can get him on a good deal because of the crowded market it could end up being a shrewd signing.  He has shown himself capable of being an above average cornerback against the pass and the run.

Brandon Browner, Seahawks (6’3″ – 221 lbs – 29 years old – PFF Rating: 41st)  –  Browner is an interesting case.  He definitely is talented, and with his big frame he can match up with tall receivers.  In his first year with Seattle he intercepted 6 passes and returned them for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns.  However, he also is a risk.  He was suspended for 4 games in 2012 and has already been suspended for the first 4 games of the 2014 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.  He is likely looking at a much longer suspension if he gets in trouble again.  He is a good cornerback who is known for his physical play and big hits.  He is also solid in coverage.  If the market is soft because of his problems he could end up being a steal for whichever team signs him.

So there you have it.  That’s my rundown of 10 of the best cornerbacks available to the Browns in free agency.  Some other interesting names that are out there include Corey Graham of the Ravens, Derek Cox of the Chargers, Terrell Thomas and Trumaine McBride of the Giants, the Saints’ Jabari Greer, Chris Cook of the Vikings, and Asante Samuel of the Falcons.  You can view a complete list by clicking here.

There is a reasonable chance that at least one of the names appearing in this article will be a Cleveland Brown soon.  I’d love to hear your feedback on who your number one choice would be, either in the comments or by email.

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, or you can send your thoughts to him at DPNRob@gmail.com.

A Few Questions for Johnny Manziel


Johnny

Dear Johnny Manziel,

We here in Cleveland have all read the article in the Houston Chronicle about how you would play your heart out for the Browns. That even though we have had 20 quarterbacks but you would be the 21st and lead us to the promise land. As a born and bred Browns fan I have a few questions I would like to ask you. I am sure, actually a few fans would like to ask you so many questions and now that we know that the Browns did not talk to you at the combine leaves us to ask many more questions.
1. We all in Cleveland know that you have tremendous athletic abilities but we have questions about your arm strength, what could you tell us that would make us have confidence in your arm strength?

2. We know that you have spent a lot of time working with one of our locals Quarterback Guru’s George Whitefield Jr. and he has stated that you have made so much improvement this past offseason, we would like to know why didn’t you showcase and throw at the combine?

3. You are trying to show everyone that “Johnny Football” is just a persona that the media has created about a young immature person that you don’t isn’t really you. Part of that persona is your arrogance, so don’t you think that refusing to throw at the combine fits in to that persona that you have repeatedly stated you are not?

4. You are a small quarterback that only measured at 5’11’’ at the combine. Everyone has concerns about your height as a NFL quarterback with their only being a few quarterbacks at that size having succeeded. You have compared yourself to Russell Wilson and Gruden compared you to Steve Young what exactly is it that makes you think you will find that rare success of an undersized quarterback in the NFL?

5. We know you are a Texas boy and have grown up believing that football lives in Texas. Do you really know the impact football has on those of us in Ohio?

6. Would you be willing to sit the bench for the first year of your contract and not cause any unneeded distractions if you were not named the starting quarterback?

7. Could you not be the focus of attention if you are not the starter and do what is best for your team? We have all read and heard about the autograph incident. Every day for how long we had to hear your name mentioned in the news or in sport reports. So if you are not starting and asked to take the time to learn what can you do to show us you don’t have to be the focus of attention?

8. You have talked about our 20 other starting quarterbacks and that if you were drafted by us you would lead us to the Promised Land. So you know that we have drafted other quarterbacks early in the draft and they have proved to be nothing more than a severe waste of money. Would you be willing to take a smaller deal with less pay with a stipulation of pay for performance because you are sure of your abilities?

Final question I could ask is do you really understand the misery that we have been through here in Cleveland? We have had our team ripped from our hands and missed out on many memories that fathers and sons have had only to watch the team we loved become one we hated. Last season while the rest of the NFL took a moment of silence for the passing of our previous owner Cleveland didn’t. Not only did all of that happen but to be the cherry on top we had to watch that team win not one but two Super Bowls while we have only had one season where we made the playoffs. So my question is could you connect with us in Cleveland and remain true to our team even when things seem bleak like we have over the years?

Mr. Manziel I am not sure that you are going to be the quarterback we take in this draft or if we will even get the chance to take or pass on you. I do have to say one thing that I gathered from your story that was ran in the Houston Chronicle is that you were not making a plea to us in Cleveland but to the Texans. We weren’t even a second thought but more like a third thought of a place that as a place where you would get “stuck”. So since the Browns didn’t interview you at the combine we the fans feel we should ask the questions that have been in our arguments and discussions. These aren’t even all the questions we have been asking the others have to do with your footwork, your mechanics, and your work ethic. So if you are still sitting at a table when the Browns take the clock tell, what can you say that should make us consider you as more than an afterthought but a serious contender that could lead our beloved team?

Sincerely

A Born and Bred Browns Fan

P.S. By now the rumors have spread away from you and are now talking about Carr and a few different possibilities of who will go at 4 so we are asking you to win us over if by chance the Carr talk is all just smoke and mirrors.