Latest Salary Cap Breakdown for the Cleveland Browns

Andy McNamaraCorrespondent IIFebruary 14, 2013

Latest Salary Cap Breakdown for the Cleveland Browns

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    Free agency or the draft?

    It is a constant offseason back and forth as to what positions require NFL tested veterans and which ones are better off with new blood from the collegiate ranks.

    This slideshow will breakdown every position and discuss whether or not the Cleveland Browns should make a move via the open market or save for the draft.

    Luckily for Browns fans, this team possesses plenty of salary cap space to the tune of an estimated $48.9million.

    There are numerous roster spots that need immediate attention, so let's begin!


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    No kicker in free agency jumps out as being the next "must have" leg man in Cleveland.

    The best options look to be Mike Nugent (Cincinnati Bengals) and Nick Novak (San Diego Chargers), but they are a far cry from the presumably departing Phil Dawson.

    Nugent would be heading to his fifth team.  He made under 83 percent of his field goal attempts in 2012.  He also commands heavy financial compensation following a one-year $2.65million deal from Cincinnati.

    Novak is coming off of a career season (90 percent accuracy), but has a personal all-time FG completion average of just 76.2 percent.

    Instead of picking up retreads, the Cleveland Browns can use one of their two sixth-round picks to take the top ranked kicker, according to CBS Sports, Dustin Hopkins (Florida State).

    Undrafted free agency could also be an option if a Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State) or Brandon McManus (Temple) fall through the cracks.


    PUNTER- Free Agency

    Cleveland's replacement of current punter Reggie Hodges should come courtesy of an undrafted free agent.

    Hodges ranked a lowly 31st amongst NFL punters average yards per kick and that is simply not good enough. It appears that he never fully recovered from his season ending Achilles injury in 2011. 

    On February 13 the team signed Spencer Lanning who was cut during the 2012 training camp. Lanning graduated from South Carolina in 2010 and was a four-year letterman.

    He had brief stints on the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets rosters, but has not made any impact in the league.

    Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen is a much better alternative. He made the AFCA FBS Coaches All-America Team this past season and is slated to be selected in either the seventh-round or not at all.

    Allen is known for his accuracy and led the country in punting average at 43.51-yards.

    Quinn Sharp, listed above, pulled double duty as a punter and may be an enticing option for his versatility.

Cornerback and Safety

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    Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner have stated on numerous occasions that they want to build the core of their team through the draft.

    This year's cornerback crop is a great spot to solidify the foundation by finding an outside CB partner for star Joe Haden.

    The Cleveland Browns not presently owning a second-round selection muddy up the waters as talent in the top-two rounds show the most promise of being day one starters.

    This means that if Cleveland keeps that sixth overall pick there is only one man's name to call.

    Dee Milliner from the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Other prospects like Desmond Trufant, Johnthan Banks and David Amerson would be intriguing options if the team trades down or possessed that second rounder.

    Milliner offers sound tackling technique while aggressively attacking the run and is a natural ball hawk. His 6'1" frame provides the ideal size to take on today's upper echelon NFL receivers.


    SAFETY—Free Agency

    Signing San Francisco's Dashon Goldson would be an immediate upgrade over current personnel Usama Young and Eric Hagg at the free safety position.

    Beside T.J. Ward, the California native provides Cleveland with a seasoned combination of hard hitting playmakers.

    Goldson is still young at 28 and would avoid the Browns fielding rookie starters at two key secondary spots (CB and FS) heading into 2013.

    The possibility of adding 11 pass deflections, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries to this team is something that Joe Banner must seriously pursue.

    Another option is to re-sign defensive back Sheldon Brown.

    The veteran's days as a legitimate outside corner are gone, but moving him to free safety could be this club's simplest move.

    By keeping Brown, they retain a well respected leader that can make a positive on-field impact to a young defense.


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    This is the big one ladies and gentlemen.

    Cleveland's switching to defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 base means that the need for pass rushing outside linebackers just jumped up the to-do list.

    Horton's multiple front scheme requires athletic quarterback attackers who have the versatility to put their hand in the dirt or drop back into coverage.

    There is no sure fire answer on this roster right now.

    Jabaal Sheard and Billy Winn look like they may be able to adapt. Youngsters Craig Robertson, L.J. Fort and James-Michael Johnson are still raw, but show a strong upside.

    Veteran Chris Gocong would be a definite yes before his Achilles injury in last year's training camp. Is he capable of a full recovery?

    The theme is a lot of maybes and what-ifs. That points to the Cleveland Browns dipping into both free agency and the draft to tighten up this LB corps.



    Dallas' Anthony Spencer (29), Baltimore's Paul Kruger (27) and Cincinnati's Manny Lawson (28) are three of the more desirable free agents coming on the market.

    Both Spencer and Kruger had stellar breakout campaigns in 2012. The difference being that the Baltimore Ravens OLB is two years younger.

    The Superbowl champions can't keep everyone and grabbing a key piece of their defense may be too much for the Browns to resist.

    Coming off a down year and never recording more than 6.5 sacks in a single season, Lawson would be the less splashy consolation prize.

    He's a good option for depth, but does not significantly improve the pass rush.



    Although listed as a defensive end, Damontre Moore (Texas A&M) did successfully play in a 3-4 as an outside linebacker combo type in 2011.

    His lean build, quickness and 6'4", 250-pound size makes a strong case that the Aggie can thrive in the Browns hybrid scheme.

    Jarvis Jones (Georgia) absolutely fits the bill as a nasty attacker; however, the spinal stenosis condition turns him into a high risk first-round pick.

    Other possible contributors to choose from include likely mid-round OLB candidates Jamie Collins (Southern Mississippi) and Etienne Sabino (Ohio State).

    Each are high motor blitzers that need to clean up various parts of their game to become stars at the NFL level.

Defensive Line

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    Out of Dick Jauron's 4-3 base, the defensive line was considered one of, if not, the top strength of this ball club.

    The problem may lean more towards excess than needing to add more bodies.

    Phillip Taylor, John Hughes and Ahtyba Rubin are all capable of transitioning to nose tackle in Ray Horton's 3-4 multi-front scheme.

    Rubin could flank Taylor, which leaves Ishmaa'ily Kitchen and Billy Winn as the last likely returnees for 2013.

    Winn is athletic enough to possibly double up as an outside linebacker as well as on the line. Jabaal Sheard falls under the same category.

    Frostee Rucker was released earlier in the month and it would be shocking if 12-year veteran Juqua Parker is re-signed.

    The Cleveland Browns best move is to try and select a versatile defensive end that possesses the potential to drop back into coverage.

    A Damontre Moore or Alex Okafor are first-round options, while a Cornellius "Tank" Carradine presents a high risk, high reward scenario coming off of a torn ACL.

    Along with Carradine, the freakishly long Devin Taylor (87" wingspan) are projected third or fourth-round seniors to keep tabs on.

Offensive Line

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    Left and right tackle as well as center are solidified for the foreseeable future, but offensive guard remains a question mark.

    Depth became a serious concern when Jason Pinkston was sidelined with blood clots in his lungs. In general, John Greco did a nice job stepping up his play, while Shawn Lauvao's performance ran hot and cold.

    Free agency and draft should both be on the menu to improve at the position.



    No doubt that Buffalo's Andy Levitre is the best guard on the market and Cleveland has salary cap space to go after him.

    At 26, the Oregon State alum brings along all the necessary tools.

    Starting 64 straight games proves that reliability and pass protection are some of his greatest strengths.

    Levitre demonstrates great agility for a 305-pound lineman and that helps in his ever improving in-line run blocking. Just ask Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller how valuable No. 67 is.

    The four-season pro also provides versatility as he also spent time at tackle and center.

    There will be plenty of bidders to give the former 51st overall draft pick a raise from his now expired four year $3.56 million contract

    Is solidifying the O-Line with a proven stud in his prime not worth spending on? Pay the man Mr. Banner.

    Another possible FA to go after is San Diego Chargers 25-year-old Louis Vasquez. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner obviously is familiar with the 6'5", 335-pound OG from his head coaching days in San Diego.

    New England's Donald Thomas would bring youth and size; however, the Patriots were his third team in five seasons.



    Even by landing a top tier free agent, the Cleveland Browns can realistically grab another upgrade in the middle rounds.

    Alabama's Chance Warmack is undoubtedly the most hyped guard of the draft, but Cleveland has to focus on more pressing defensive needs with their sixth overall selection.

    Fret not Dawg Pound for there are plenty of talented big men that can create running lanes for Trent Richardson and protect whoever is under center.

    Alvin Bailey (Arkansas), Garrett Gilkey (Chadron State) and Omoregie Uzzi (Georgia Tech) are all interesting prospects that are expected to fall between the fourth and sixth rounds according to CBS Sports.

Tight End

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    The Cleveland Browns are simply too vulnerable at tight end because of youth and inexperience to expect the solution to be found in the draft.

    Re-signing Benjamin Watson to a short-term contract would allow for a stable presence while the raw athleticism of Jordan Cameron develops.

    If at 32 the brain trust deems Watson as being over-the-hill, then they better be ready to shell out some coin for either Martellus Bennett (New York Giants) or Dustin Keller (New York Jets).

    Bennett would be foolish to leave the chemistry he has developed with Eli Manning. The 26-year-old had a career high five touchdown catches and will definitely be looking for a raise on his $2.5 million salary.

    His 6'6", 265-pound frame lines up as the build offensive coordinators desire to create those coveted mismatches over the middle.

    Keller went down from a high ankle sprain back on December 2, 2012 and only participated in eight contests overall.

    However, amassing 2,876 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns over his five NFL campaigns is something the Browns could get on board with.

    It will be interesting to see what Keller commands on the open market after a five year $11.75 million contract. Especially, since he is generally considered undersized as a TE at 6'2".

Running Back and Fullback

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    RUNNING BACK—Free Agency

    Trent Richardson is obviously the centerpiece of Cleveland's offense, but he does require reliable backups if his injury troubles carry over into next season.

    Montario Hardesty cut out a niche for himself as that change of pace back who could slash his way through holes with natural quickness.

    The question is can Mo-Hard stay healthy and avoid the fumbling tendencies that have plagued his career.

    Competition is the way to go and the Cleveland Browns simply have too many other pressing requirements to take a project RB through the draft.

    An enticing possibility came about when two-time Superbowl champion Ahmad Bradshaw was tossed to the curb by the New York Giants.

    The soon to be 27-year-old offers 32 career touchdowns and did rush for 1,015-yards in 2012—talk about a power running game combination between him and Richardson.

    A downside is that Bradshaw has only competed in all 16 matchups once in six NFL campaigns. Perhaps splitting carries with T-Rich is beneficial to both players since it would cut down on wear and tear.

    Another route is via an undrafted free agent.

    Since No. 33 will be burdening the majority of the load, signing someone like a Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) is a low risk, high reward scenario.

    The senior's smash mouth style wears down defenses and he shows good instincts when following blockers.

    Burkhead is more of a momentum guy, lacking elite speed, but he never stops moving forward and uses his compact 5'11", 210-pound build to punish anyone in an opposing jersey.


    FULLBACK—Free Agency

    The pickings are slim and this team definitely needs one. A bad combination for Cleveland and their fullback woes.

    Owen Marecic was a disaster in 2012 and converted tight end Alex Smith was a band-aid solution at best.

    To help maximize Trent Richardson's potential the Browns cannot miss on a bulldozer type FB.

    Minnesota's Jerome Felton may be their best bet. Afterall, lead blocking for Adrian Peterson in his near single-season rushing record drive has to count for something.

    The 6'0", 248-pound five-year veteran had exactly zero carries and only three receptions this past year. This is a good thing because it means he was focusing on blocks and lane clearing.

    This club never replaced the nasty physicality of Lawrence Vickers following his depature in 2011. Could Felton be that guy?

Wide Receiver

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    The Cleveland Browns have enough youth at receiver with Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper. What they do need is a veteran with reliable hands that won't take away reps from Gordon or Little.

    Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace is one over priced headcase that Cleveland does not need to open the wallet for. Dwayne Bowe from Kansas City falls into that same category.

    Those two wide receivers are stellar talents, but this group is developing steadily to become the next NFL hot shots.

    Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers has the right attitude as well as the ability to move the chains and find the end zone. He is more of a West Coast Offense slot type and may not fit into the coaching staff's vertical downfield attack.

    San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. is an Ohio native that could serve a two-fold purpose. Split kick/punt returns with Benjamin and be that third or fourth WR option.

    Danny Amendola is a first down machine, securing 38 in 2012, and he contributed three touchdowns as well. He's not flashy or a locker room problem and would be a terrific "steady eddy" type of addition.


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    No draft no!

    Since Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi are gung-ho to create a quarterback competition in training camp then trade or free agency is the best place to go.

    We'll leave the Alex Smith, Matt Flynn, etc. rumors for another article.

    The draft shows no immediate improvement of a signal caller that could instantly start over Brandon Weeden. If this team wants a project, how about working with one that started 15 games for them last season.

    It is slim pickings on the free agent front as well (Joe Flacco is not leaving Baltimore).

    When Miami's Matt Moore and Carolina's Derek Anderson are two of the more intriguing options, then you know you're in trouble.

    The negative way Anderson left Cleveland in 2010 suggests he would be more of a distraction.

    That being said, DA did have an incredible 2007 with the Cleveland Browns when now head coach Rob Chudzinski was his offensive coordinator.

    Moore was competent during 2011, appearing in 13 contests for the Miami Dolphins and threw more touchdowns than interceptions at a 16-9 ratio.

    His completion percentage was a decent 60.5, and No. 8 does average over seven yards per pass, which is higher than Weeden's.

    However, Moore didn't do enough to stop Miami from drafting Ryan Tannehill last offseason at the position and is going to be seeking his third new home in seven years.

    Not overly exciting candidates are they?


    Follow Andy McNamara on Twitter @AndyMc81