The Browns 2013 offseason will be the most important in the history of the franchise. New owner Jimmy Haslam brings all Browns fans renewed hope for a brighter future. Yesterday I outlined the 2012 steps I would take if I were in Haslam’s place.
The first step back to respectability is free agency. The team must be working now on the younger free agent prospects that might become available. While no Browns fan expects the team to sign the top six prospects, there will be a number of younger UFAs that would be a major improvement to the team, while providing a bridge to future draftees. As the season ends there will be many more players cut for cap reasons; but as of now here are my choices for the key positions that should be filled by veterans.
The first issues are which positions would be best filled by veterans rather than rookies. I believe that the key positions that require a vet are free safety, wide receiver and offensive guard. The FS position is critical to help prevent the long plays that have plagued the defense since the rebirth of the team in 1999.
The best thing that management could do for QB Brandon Weeden is to give him a reliable veteran WR to depend on until the group of young receivers develop. A veteran RG would provide some stability to the O-line because the team needs to run the ball better.
Free Safety prospects
I doubt very seriously that Haslam will go for my suggestion to sign S Oshiomogho Atogwe. So, given that, I would suggest the Cardinals FS Kerry Rhodes. He is the QB of one of the best defenses in the league and is only 30 years old.
Another solid unrestricted free agent safety is Will Allen of the Steelers. He is 30 as well, but has the advantage of removing a key player from a division rival.
If Haslam is looking for someone a little younger, how about the Steelers FS Ryan Mundy. He is a reserve but has played a lot; also he is only 27. He has good speed and is a solid tackler.
Wide Receiver prospects
By far the best prospect at WR that should be a free agent in 2013 is the Steelers’ WR Mike Wallace. He has speed and hands. At 26, he is a top-five WR in the league and would hurt the division rival by leaving. Whatever Wallace would cost will be worth it.
Victor Cruz of the Giants is another top WR that is scheduled to be available. So far he has 37 catches for an 11.8 yard average and five TDs. He is only 25.
Danny Amendola of the Rams is another possibility. He has a history of injury and will not be resigned by the team. He is a slot receiver that catches everything coming his way and had 32 catches in five games this year. He is only 26 and should be a second level priced WR.
Devery Henderson of the Saints is a solid starter with good speed and excellent hands. Over his career he has averaged 18 yards per catch and has 20 TDs. He is 30 years old.
Dwayne Bowe of the Chiefs is also on the UFA list, but has been hurt a lot and will likely be very expensive.
Offensive Guard prospects
If the Browns were going to get an OG, last year would have been the time. The two best OG were both UFAs and left their teams.
Ryan Lilja of the Chiefs is the best of the group. He has been a starter since his first season. He is 30 years old.
Kevin Boothe of the Giants is a solid starter that could fit in immediately at RG. He is a very good run blocker and a good pass protector as well. He is 29.
Leroy Harris of the Titans is a good starter as well. He has started for the team for the last three seasons. He is 28.
Donald Thomas of the Pats is younger than most at 27 and has started 16 of his 32 games. He is currently a starter and is solid.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/ and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.
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