Cleveland Browns' 2013 Free Agency: Which Positions Should Be Targeted?

Andy McNamaraCorrespondent IINovember 12, 2012

Owner Jimmy Haslam (right) walking through Cleveland Browns Stadium
Owner Jimmy Haslam (right) walking through Cleveland Browns StadiumDavid Richard-US PRESSWIRE

The Cleveland Browns' mantra under Mike Holmgren was to build through the draft and re-sign your own valuable players.

New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III and incoming CEO Joe Banner share a similar philosophy.

It makes sense. If a club drafts well and keeps homegrown stars, then there is no need to get into bidding wars for pricey free agents.

As nice a concept as that is, holes always need to be filled during the offseason, and it is necessary to bring in the right mix of veterans in order to be successful.

Cleveland ranks in the NFL's top three for salary-cap room in 2013. That's a benefit that comes along with having the youngest team in the league.

In my previous article, "Cleveland Browns: Breaking Down 2013 Free-Agency Scenarios," I analyzed what should be done with some of the key Browns players that have contracts expiring this winter.

This time around, let us explore the position that needs to be addressed the most via free agency. 

Assuming Haslam is not afraid to open up the purse strings, here is where he should begin:


Wide Receiver

Dropped passes and youth have been excuses that have worn thin over the past two seasons under head coach Pat Shurmur.

Whether it is from coaching, inexperience or straight-up lack of talent, the Browns absolutely must get a steady set of hands at receiver.

While the youngsters continue to develop, the only way to acquire a reliable WR that can catch the ball consistently is through free agency. Drafting yet another raw rookie at this point would be redundant.

The tricky part with bringing in an established receiver is balancing talent with the ego and sideshow that often accompany this position.

For example, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Plaxico Burress all bring far too much baggage with them compared to the production that they could provide.

There is an interesting crop of wide receivers coming onto the market for 2013. Unless extensions are signed, the three best possible options for the Browns to are Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe.


1. Greg Jennings currently looks like the best fit for Cleveland.

Recovering from a groin injury, Jennings is on a Green Bay club that is deep in young receiver talent.

The 29-year-old definitely has time left to be an impact player. His career average of over 14 yards per catch is impressive, and the man is a first-down machine. More importantly, the Kalamazoo, Michigan native can hold onto the football.

Jennings is not a locker-room distraction and would be an excellent role model for Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Travis Benjamin.

Coming off an injury that requires surgery typically drops an athlete's market value, meaning that Jennings may be able to be had at a decent price.


2. Mike Wallace was humbled into accepting the one-year $2.7 million restricted free-agent tender offered by his current team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, after a lengthy holdout.

Wallace borders on having too much attitude to be worthwhile, but his abilities are undeniable. Back-to-back 1000-yard seasons don't lie.

Hopefully the fact that no other NFL squad entertained his expensive contract requests brings him to reality come 2013. Add on that he is playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown, and the four-year veteran could be looking to leave Steeltown.

Outside of a blip versus Cincinnati back in week 7, Wallace would give the Browns the one thing they need most: the ability to actually catch the football on a regular basis.

No. 17 only dropped 2.9 percent of targeted passes in his first three campaigns and has never dropped more than four times in previous seasons. Those types of figures are exactly what this Cleveland receiving group needs.

Browns fans would also love the signing of Wallace because it would be a slap to the Steelers.

At only 26, he would fit in well with the WR youth movement and be able to lead by example on the field.


3. Dwayne Bowe is currently on a franchise tender with the Kansas City Chiefs worth $9.4 million for the year.

At age 28 and in his fifth season, Bowe failed to agree to a long-term deal with Kansas City, hence being given the franchise tag.

The former Pro Bowl standout does not get much love from around the league that a star of his calibre deserves. Bowe caught 81 passes for 1,159 yards in 2011 and brings a career touchdown total of 39 to the table.

With the Chiefs performing terribly once again and being uncertain about the future at quarterback, this would look to be an ideal opportunity for Bowe to be scooped up by a team like the Browns.

The LSU alum won't come cheap; however, he could be a viable option if sexier solutions like Wallace and Jennings get scooped up.

Of course the Browns want to groom their raw wide receivers into a solid core that brings glory back to Cleveland for years to come. As we have seen, this takes time accompanied by a slew of growing pains.

Grabbing a top-tier receiver through free agency helps bridge that gap and also sends a message that the Browns are serious about building a winner.


Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81