There has been a great deal of outrage and disappointment cast in the direction of the Cleveland Browns' front office by fans over the past few years.
The reason for this consternation amongst the Browns faithful is due to the lack of activity by the club in the free-agent market. But fans seem to have a short memory. Perhaps there is something in the water in Cleveland that causes its fans to have a case of amnesia when it comes to past mistakes made by the Browns in previous years by seeking solutions in free agency.
So for those who can’t (or don’t want to) remember, here are a few of the Cleveland Browns' free-agent failures to keep in mind as we approach 2013 free agency.
Of all of the free-agent acquisitions made by the team since coming back into the league in 1999, I find this one to be the one that hurts most. Not because of the disappointment in production, but because I was hoping Spielman would be successful for his childhood team.
Chris Spielman was an Ohio celebrity long before he put on a Browns uniform. He was a graduate of Massillon Washington High School and an athletic standout. He was one of the first high school athletes to ever grace the cover of a Wheaties box (1984). On a personal note, Chris once broke a car window of my parents' brand new Chevy Chevette while playing baseball as a kid.
From a Massillon Tiger to an Ohio State Buckeye, Spielman continued to be successful. He was a dominant linebacker and entered the NFL as a Detroit Lion. He was a perennial Pro Bowler that eventually made his way back home and signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1999. But he never played a snap in the regular season due to a recurring neck injury that ended his career. To this day I still have my Browns No. 54 Spielman Jersey.
Bentley was another Ohio standout. He played his high school ball at St. Ignatius. He also attended Ohio State and came to be a two-time Pro Bowl center with the New Orleans Saints.
Acquired in free agency by the Browns in 2006, he was touted as the No. 1 free-agent acquisition by the league. Bentley then promptly tore his patellar tendon on the first play of the first 11-on-11 practice in training camp.
He eventually retired after the 2008 season as another free agent of the Browns to not play a snap in the regular season. However, to his credit, Bentley has become a great figure in the Browns community, donating his time to countless charities.
Now let’s cover a free agent who actually played. Jeff Garcia was signed by Cleveland in 2004. He was coming off of an outstanding career with the 49ers" style="line-height: 1;">San Francisco 49ers. He was the first QB in 49ers history to throw 30-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. He was also a Pro Bowl selection with the 49ers in 2000-2002.
He was going to be the answer to the Browns' problems at the quarterback position. But after having a miserable season, Cleveland released him after the 2004 campaign, becoming just one piece of the Browns' QB carousel. So what was Garcia's contribution in Cleveland?
Garcia’s stint in Cleveland is known primarily for only two things. The first was a record-tying 99-yard pass to Andre Davis on October 17, 2004. The second was a career-low performance. On September 19, 2004, Garcia was 8-of-27 passing for 71 yards and three interceptions. His passer rating for that game was zero.
However, it is funny what you find on the internet these days. While researching this topic, I came across an eBay page selling a “vintage” Jeff Garcia Browns jersey for $45. If only I knew you could sell useless items like Browns QB jerseys. I would be rich instead of having 15 dust rags.
This one is important for numerous reasons. The situation that the Browns were in entering free agency in 2008 is very similar to the issue that the Browns face now. There was a desperate need for a deep-threat receiver. The answer that the Browns came up with was Donte Stallworth, who signed a seven-year, $35 million deal with the franchise.
His on-the-field contributions were poor. He totaled only 17 receptions for 170 years and a single touchdown in the 2008 season.
His most noteworthy headline during his stint with the Browns was a conviction on a second-degree manslaughter charge in Florida. Stallworth, who had been drinking, struck a pedestrian in his Bentley while on his way to Miami Beach. The Browns terminated his contract in February 2010 just after the NFL reinstated him.