In the dog days of the off season there is not much to do besides speculate and play at home GM as you are looking towards next season. I would like to take my shot in this process by doing a summary of what each team should do during the off season. What team better to start with than the lowly Cleveland Browns who may need a couple years worth of planning before they are ready to compete. So, without further adieu here we go!
Cleveland Browns Salary Cap Space: $108 million
Upcoming Significant Free Agents:
1) Terrelle Pryor WR
2) Jamie Collins LB (Resigned for 4 years $50 mill)
3) Isaiah Crowell RB (RFA)
4) Austin Pasztor OT
5) Jordan Poyer S
6) Josh McCown QB
7) Tramon Williams CB
8) Corey Lemonier LB
--- Now for the Browns sake they already resigned Collins for a pretty team friendly deal thanks to his willingness to sign before he became a free agent. With that said they need to stop letting their good players to leave via free agency and getting nothing back in return that's not how you build a good team. Just look at the Super Bowl which featured Jabaal Sheard and Dion Lewis on the Patriots, while the Falcons had Taylor Gabriel and Alex Mack who were all former Browns who all contributed valuable plays for either team on their way to the Super Bowl.
Terrelle Pryor needs to be their number one priority and they should look to franchise him for a few reasons. One they have the leagues biggest salary cap space so it's not like his estimated $15 million franchise tag will really break their bank. Secondly, they need to see him continue to grow after his first real year of dedicated receiver work who knows if he was playing just for the money or really wants to make a career at it.
Other than that maybe bring back Pasztor who played solidly at the right tackle spot and is still relatively young and cheap to continue to develop. According to Spotrac.com, Pasztor should only take about $5 million to keep on the roster and as I said the Browns have cap space and who knows maybe he turns out to become better with another year of development. Maybe, resigning Poyer who is a solid back up and special teams guy is another option of who to keep from their free agent class.
Possible Off Season Moves:
- If I were the Browns I would see what teams would be willing to give up to take Joe Haden off their hands. Do not get me wrong he once was one of the best corners in the league, but after so many injuries he looks like a shell of his former self. At the moment he costs a hefty $14 mill salary cap hit to the Browns and he is doing no favors for them by playing poorly as well. I bet some teams out there still view him as a top corner so possibly they would be tempted to give away a possible 1st rounder, but at the least a couple of 2nds. Obviously, this is going to be a long rebuild and the more lottery tickets they have in the draft to find upgrades the better for this lowly franchise.
- Do not trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. For one he looked good playing a game and a half for the Patriots who many thinks was one of the better Patriots teams in recent memory so, there is no reason to imagine he would have success on this crappy Browns roster. Even, if it's a long term plan he could get shell shocked playing behind their poor o-line like the Browns quarterbacks this year suffered through and he himself has already shown he is not the most sturdy getting hurt in only his 2nd start of his career. Also, just stick with the process with your boatload of picks this is a whole team overhaul and one very young inexperienced quarterback is not going to solve this issue.
- Sign a low end quarterback instead like Nick Foles, Matt Schaub, Matt McGloin, or E.J. Manuel to compete with RG3 next year as they hold off until next years draft hoping it will have a better class than this year's.
- I would really hold off on making any big splash free agency moves since then their draft strategy would be more focused on need than best player available. Instead, they should strictly go by BPA in the draft since their team is so barren all over the field and the only way to get better is having the best players you can get.
- In any case, they should look to add depth and some veterans they can use to round out their team in the time being.
- Matt Kalil OT - He may be a bust, but he should come in at a cheap value and help out at right tackle spot can help stop their quarterbacks from being beat up. Plus, maybe with Joe Thomas there to coach him up he can become the tackle everyone thought he could be.
- D.J. Hayden CB - Another bust, but he fills in to help out a pourous secondary that is going to need a lot of help even if they do draft a couple defensive backs. He is in the same boat as Kalil as a player who has the talent and could possibly figure it out with a change of scenery. He was not a first rounder by accident. Hayden should only command a short and cheap contract, which could work in the Browns favor.
- Matt Elam S - As you can see I think the Browns should find good depth options from good cheap upside options. Elam who is another bust of a first rounder has shown good spark at the times in the secondary, but is a little bit of a liability in coverage.
Possible Draft Strategy:
- With the first overall pick they have to take Myles Garrett no questions ask. If they reach for a quarterback there and he turns into a bust while Garrett becomes an All-Pro player they will never live it done. At least if they draft Garrett and he turns into a bust it's not really their fault and they did what everyone else would do so it would not look as bad. I doubt he will bust though and he can be a defensive cornerstone for over a decade.
- With their second first round pick they should take one of the top 10 talents who could fall whether that is one of the corners like Quincy Wilson, Marshon Lattimore, or Marlon Humphrey. Possibly even Leonard Fournette if he falls or I would not fault them taking Dalvin Cook to help lighten the load on what ever quarterback they have. I even would not say it's not a bad idea to take Derek Barnett to really bolster their pass rushing unit to one of the best young edge rushers in the league.
-They have another two picks here and should continue to take best players available, but I do not doubt they will be tempted to drafting a quarterback. I would not mind them taking a Davis Webb, Pat Mahomes, or DeShone Kizer with their first pick in the second round to get it out of the way and dedicate the rest of the draft to bolstering their roster.
My Mock Selection:
1 (1)- Myles Garrett OLB Texas A&M
1 (12)- Leonard Fournette RB LSU
2 (33)- DeShone Kizer QB Notre Dame
2 (52)- Justin Evans S Texas A&M
3 (65)- Julie'n Davenport OT Bucknell
-My common strain of thought with this team was draft for the future with high upside selections, but also sprinkling in good veteran experienced players. Garrett, Kizer, and Davenport obviously mark the high upside selections. More so with Kizer and Davenport who are two raw players, but can turn into top players at the position from this class over time. Evans fits a need to find new secondary studs and he is an experienced leader who can help out a lot. Fournette as well is a great leader for the offensive side of the ball and can threaten defenses more than Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson to possibly take attention away from whoever the quarterback is.
- Very obviously this is going to be a very long rebuild project, but if they can hit on at least some of their haul of draft picks. If they can they can finally start moving in the right direction. They should also not budget the future by spending a ton of money of free agents since they are very clearly not ready to make any noise yet. Instead, make smart cheap and upside choice in free agency to save money for future free agents from their own team to keep them in house. Players like Pryor, Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Kirksey, and others who can become this teams future nucleus, instead of watching them play on other teams in the Super Bowl while they still wallow in the darkness. Looking towards the future it really would not be a bad thing if they landed in the top 5 of next years draft that has a few interesting quarterback options like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Luke Falk all possible top quarterback options if Kizer does not show improvement on his development. Let's just hope they can win more than 1 game so they are not the league's laugh stock again.