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The 7 Biggest Keys to Cleveland Browns' 2012 NFL Free-Agency Strategy

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The 7 Biggest Keys to Cleveland Browns' 2012 NFL Free-Agency Strategy
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Charging into 2012?

Do the Cleveland Browns truly have a free-agent strategy? Because hoping you can outbid Daniel Snyder doesn’t count.

In Cleveland, fans would like to trust that the front office not only posses a strategy, but that said policy includes offense, offense and more offense.

Let’s assume, for the purposes of this examination, that hiring Mike Holmgren in 2010 signaled a master plan to develop the Browns in the image of the Packers and Seahawks. West Coast offense, opportunistic defense, explosive special teams.

Joshua Cribbs and Phil Dawson certainly qualify as legitimate contributors to “explosive special teams.” But Holmgren did not draft Dawson or Cribbs, so I’m not sure how much planning credit he gets there.

At least they know a good thing when they see it, locking up Dawson with the franchise tag and supposedly being dedicated to securing a long-term deal with their leading scorer.

Under the previous regime, Eric Mangini had already begun to put together a good defense. But Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert do get the proverbial cap feathers for drafting CB Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward, DT Phil Taylor and DE Jabaal Sheard.

The current management team also wasted no time solidifying D’Qwell Jackson’s continued residence in Cleveland with a recent and intelligently-structured contract. On the whole, defensive planning has been solid.

Offensively, not so much. When President Holmgren hired Pat Shurmur (nephew of his old buddy Fritz from Green Bay), the West Coast offense part of the Packers-cloning plan was supposedly a priority. Thus far, it’s not even coming up to the level of a Seahawks-cloning plan.

Offensive uncertainty abounds: Colt McCoy and WR Greg Little may or may not pan out in the Dawg Pound and the team hired Brad Childress as an offensive guru—but Shurmur is still going to call the plays. Yeah, that's going to be seamless.

Meanwhile, Peyton “Hillis” Place reached a new low this week with spy rumors. The CIA? Say that out loud without laughing; I dare ya!

One wrench in the free agency-planning works would be Heckert’s recent heart surgery. But he’s working. The man even worked the combine on TV and via Skype. No wonder he had heart surgery at 44.

Much as postulating what owners, executives and general managers are going to do to “fix” their football teams is a dangerous sport, fraught with the many perils of embarrassment, I do think that we can safely assume the Cleveland Browns are indeed looking for offense—lots of offense.

This brings us back to outbidding Daniel Snyder for the potential services of Heisman winner and NFL Combine sensation Robert Griffin III.

But of course, it isn’t that simple. The biggest keys to this offseason puzzle are the unknowns and “things beyond our control.”

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