Cleveland Browns: 4 Thoughts on Talent Acquisition This Offseason
Just as I was gearing up to map out the intricate particulars of the role that should be played by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam the Thrice this offseason, he announced he's fleeing the coup.
Admiral JH3 announced via the Knoxville News Sentinel that he is reassuming his position as CEO of Pilot Flying J.
"This is about me realizing my first love is running Pilot Flying J and wanting to return to that job," Haslam said.
And here we thought you were just about to invite us up for a cup of coffee, Jimmy. Now you're running back to your "first love," the truck stop business. Alackaday.
The reason I bring this up, you see, is that I was hoping Haslam would throw a little extra weight behind the opinions of the coaches on personnel decisions this offseason, what with Browns CEO Joe Banner poised to start involving himself heavily in that particular area.
As Adam Caplan explained to Tony Rizzo via DawgsByNature, "First of all, with the Eagles, (Banner) did not have final say on personnel, but he had final say on contracts... (But) he's made it perfectly clear he's going to be way more involved in personnel (with the Browns).
"That, to me, is a major mistake. Joe's clearly not qualified to be making personnel decisions. He doesn't know how to watch tape. I've talked to people who work with him and it's clearly not his strength. His strength is contractual, that's where he should stay."
Oy vey. So I'd been hoping, natch, that Haslam would stick around in Berea to lend his weight to whatever the coaches are saying with regard to talent evaluation and personnel decisions.
But the truck stop biz beckons and it looks like Capt. Banner will have full control over the ship in Berea with Mr. Smee Lombardi steadfast at his side.
With that in mind, let's look at some of the decisions they'll have to make.
It's All About the Pass-Rush
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New Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to repeat himself. It makes his philosophies memorable.
All he needs are "big guys who can run and little guys who can hit."
As for his defense? "Downhill, aggressive, attacking."
He likes to be disruptive by putting a lot of pressure on the passer.
And for that the Browns will need a real fire-breather at outside linebacker for Horton's multi-front defense.
Luckily, the 2013 draft is deep in pass-rushers, so sitting at No. 6 the Browns have a good shot at getting one of the top prospects.
And the Cowboys are going back to a 4-3, so OLB Anthony Spencer will be a hot prospect that would fit well in the Browns' new defensive scheme.
But with a new pass-rusher in free agency or via the draft, the Browns will also need help in the defensive backfield.
Time to Get That Cornerback Tandem
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With the new regime in place, cornerback Sheldon Brown's time in Cleveland looks to be coming to an end. And with the league becoming quite pass-happy, the Browns will need to find a cornerback to put opposite Joe Haden for their secondary tandem of the future.
Once again, the Browns will have a solid free-agent market to explore as well as some very intriguing draft prospects.
The top free-agent cornerbacks include Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Eagles, Quentin Jammer of the Chargers, whom head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner know well, and Aqib Talib if New England doesn't re-sign him.
Some others to look at are Brent Grimes and Antoine Cason, also from the Chargers, who was about just as productive as Sheldon Brown this past season but six years his junior.
And although the Browns already have a lot of youth in their current crop of DBs, some of this draft's prospects are highly intriguing.
For instance, at the sixth spot the Browns might have the opportunity to nab Alabama's Dee Milliner.
Milliner and Haden together would project to create a very exciting cornerback tandem for the Browns for many years to come.
And Xavier Rhodes out of Florida State looks like another stud CB in the 2013 draft, excelling in press coverage.
What to Do at Wide Receiver?
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In Browns' circles, you often hear people saying things like, "Well, remember the Browns don't have a second-round pick."
The truth is, the Browns do, or at least they did, but they've already used it on breakout wide receiver Josh Gordon.
So it's not a missing pick, but rather a pick that's already been made—and already has proven to be a good selection.
Gordon had 50 receptions for 805 yards and five TDs on his way to breaking several Browns' rookie receiving records.
And by the end of Greg Little's second year, he seemed to get his wits about him, catching the ball, and proving to be a good, big-bodied target in the slot.
Though many Browns fans are still clamoring for a vet to come in here and tie everything together on the receiving corps.
There are various names being thrown about such as the older but savvy Greg Jennings, who looks likely to be gone from the Packers this year. And some have been touting the idea of getting in on the trade talks for Percy Harvin.
Still others argue that the Browns WR corps is actually OK just as it is now.
But the thought that intrigues me is using some dough in free agency and bringing in either Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe, with an edge toward Wallace.
The thought of having Gordon and Wallace out wide to blow the top off the defense, and Little in the slot as a big body across the middle, makes me smile. And then there's the speedy Travis Benjamin to mix it up as desired.
I don't know if the Browns are willing to make this investment, but I think it could pay some serious dividends bringing the team to contention that much sooner.
Lookin' for Help at Tight End
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Some other casualties of the regime change look to be tight ends Benjamin Watson and Alex Smith, leaving Jordan Cameron as the team's remaining starting TE.
As the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto points out, C.H.U.D. was a TE himself in his playin' days, and both he and Norv Turner put big emphasis on the position.
For instance, he wrote that when C.H.U.D. was the Browns' OC in 2007 Kellen Winslow Jr. had 82 catches, and TE Greg Olson was a major player in his offense in Carolina. Norv Turner had Antonio Gates in San Diego. They like big TEs who can block and catch.
"The coaches like Cameron, but they want more depth at the position," Pluto wrote.
Some free agents to look at could include the Titans' Jared Cook, who will be in some demand so will require a higher price tag given the position's increasing value in the league. A cheaper route would be Washington's Fred Davis who still has something to prove but has flashed high potential.
In the draft the Browns likely wouldn't realistically be looking at TE until the third round, so while that throws it up into the air who might be available when, luckily, it's a deep tight end class this year.