Predicting the Cleveland Browns' Free Agent Signings
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
The free agency frenzy begins in a little over a week and will shape what decisions are made at April's NFL entry draft.
For the Cleveland Browns many positions need to be addressed on both sides of the ball.
Luckily for the new front office, this club has the second most salary cap room in the league at an estimated $48.9 million.
All contract salaries in this article can be found at Spotrac.com
How will CEO Joe Banner spend the money? Should he make a splash by signing superstars or look to bring on an undervalued diamond in the rough?
Let's step into the Berea, Ohio headquarters and predict who some of the new Browns are going to be.
Dashon Goldson (FS)
49ers safety Dashon Goldson knocking the ball loose
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Signing San Francisco's Dashon Goldson would be an immediate improvement over the current free safety staff of Usama Young and Eric Hagg.
Beside T.J. Ward, the California native provides Cleveland with a seasoned combination of hard hitting playmakers.
The five-year pro brings ideal size to the position (6'2", 200 lbs) and meshes with defensive coordinator Ray Horton's attacking mentality.
Goldson is still young at 28 and would allow the Browns time to select and develop a safety out of April's entry draft.
The possibility of adding three interceptions, 11 pass deflections and two fumble recoveries to this secondary is something that Joe Banner must seriously consider.
Expired Contract: 1 year, $6.212 million
Predicted New Contract: 3 years, $15 million
Dustin Keller (TE)
New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller
Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski has always made utilizing the tight end a priority in his offenses. Two new tight ends are needed to accompany a raw Jordan Cameron in 2013.
Since it appears highly unlikely that Ben Watson returns, Dustin Keller is the best available tight end free agent option.
Over his five seasons in the league, Keller amassed an impressive 17 touchdowns to go along with 2,876 receiving yards.
However, he went down from a high ankle sprain back on December 2, 2012 and only participated in eight contests overall.
Can No. 81 bounce back?
This is the first campaign that the Purdue alum did not play in all 16 games so it's not like he is injury prone. All signs suggest a full recovery.
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".
Expired Contract: 5 years, $11.75 million
Predicted New Contract: 3 years, $9 million
Ted Ginn Jr. (WR/KR)
Ted Ginn Jr. highlights
The Browns are youthful enough at wide receiver with Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper. What they do need is a reliable veteran that won't take away significant reps from Gordon or Little.
San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. was born in Cleveland, Ohio and could serve a two-fold purpose: split kick/punt returns with Benjamin and be that third or fourth WR option.
Turning 28 in April, he is two years younger than free agent Josh Cribbs and similar to No. 16 feels like he is not utilized enough on offense.
If CEO Joe Banner can assure Ginn that he would be a regular in the receiving rotation then the former Ohio State Buckeye could very well be coming home.
The 5'11", 180-pound return specialist averaged just over 42 receptions during his three seasons in Miami but only caught two balls in 2012 with the 49ers. He has taken back a total of six kicks/punts for scores.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, head coach Rob Chudzinski commented, "I want guys that want to be Cleveland Browns and want to be in Cleveland and want to be a part of something special in Cleveland.”
Seems to be a perfect match.
Expired Contract: 1 year, $1.375 million
Predicted New Contract: 3 years, $6 million
Antoine Cason (CB)
San Diego cornerback Antoine Cason
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Durability and offensive coordinator Norv Turner's connections are two reasons why Antoine Cason will swap the lightening bolt for an orange helmet in 2013.
The 26-year-old has never missed a game in four NFL seasons. While maybe not living up to the hype that surrounded his 27th overall selection in the 2008 draft, Cason is a reliable cornerback.
Turner knows him well having been the head coach in San Diego, and the California native still possesses an upside as he is now in the prime of his career.
In 2012 Cason delivered the best tackle numbers (73) since his rookie campaign. Forcing two fumbles and contributing a pair of interceptions also demonstrates an attacking the ball mentality that Cleveland's defensive head, Ray Horton, is looking for.
The 6'1", 195-pound CB brings the size to handle today's larger wide receivers and would be a great compliment for Joe Haden to shutdown the outside lanes.
Expired Contract: 5 years, $12.030 million
Predicted New Contract: 4 years, $12.1 million
Louis Vasquez (OG)
San Diego's offensive guard Louis Vasquez vs. Cleveland in 2012
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns would be smart to go right after offensive guard Louis Vasquez while the rest of the league battles over top free agent Andy Levitre.
Flying under the radar because of Levitre's hype, Vasquez is the second best OG on the market and give this O-Line an experienced, yet young, starter.
Standing a mighty 6'5" and 335 pounds, the 25-year-old is an anchor that can pull when necessary as well as pancake incoming defenders.
Vasquez's footwork or speed are not at the same level as Levtire, but he's still an upgrade over current Cleveland guards Shawn Lauvao, John Greco and Jason Pinkston.
Reuniting with his former San Diego head coach, Norv Turner, will be a definite selling point to get the former Texas Tech Raider to move up to Northeast Ohio.
Expired Contract: 4 years, $2.55 million
Predicted New Contract: 4 years, $4.2 million
Paul Kruger (OLB)
Baltimore linebacker Paul Kruger celebrating after winning the Superbowl
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Superbowl champion Baltimore Ravens can't keep everybody, and that is potential good news for Cleveland.
Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger are two hot commodities ready to hit the market March 12.
Ellerbe is the heir apparent to Ray Lewis in Baltimore and is a higher priority for the team to sign than Kruger.
The Ravens salary cap room sits tentatively at just under $17.8 million and should change after QB Joe Flacco officially signs his contract this week.
Kruger will likely be the one allowed to test free agency.
"Pass Rush" has been the buzz term around the Browns this offseason whether it is in regards to free agency or the draft.
Having a career season in 2012, Kruger appears to be a strong match for Ray Horton's hybrid 3-4 defense. Nine sacks, 42 tackles and an interception all point to an athlete that can both get to the quarterback and drop back into coverage.
Questions do arise on the 6'4", 270-pound OLB's ability to defend the run as Courtney Upshaw stepped in and took several rushing specific snaps during this past playoff run.
Being largely held in check for long stretches while Terrell Suggs was off injured also raised some eyebrows on how effective he could be as a consistent starter.
That being said, Kruger is in his prime at 27 and is significantly better than any other pass rushing outside threat the Browns currently have.
The good news is that Cleveland can position themselves to not put all their eggs in one basket by signing No. 99.
Jabaal Sheard is expected to be converted to an outside linebacker, which by no means is a sure thing either.
However, by using their first-round draft pick to select an Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, Dion Jordan or Jarvis Jones type, the Browns give themselves options and on paper, a solid rotation.
Expired Contract: 4 years, $3.25 million
Predicted New Contract: 4 years, $16.5 million
Matt Moore (QB)
Miami backup quarterback Matt Moore
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The pickings are slim for free agent quarterbacks, which means that teams are going to overpay for journeyman talent.
Miami's Matt Moore is the best of this ragtag group and would be the best fit for Cleveland's new vertical downfield offense.
More importantly for the Browns front office is that he is the only available veteran signal-caller who can legitimately compete with incumbent starter Brandon Weeden.
Moore was competent during 2011, appearing in 13 contests for the Dolphins and threw a touchdown to interceptions ratio of 16-9.
His completion percentage was a decent 60.5, and No. 8 does average over seven yards per pass, which is higher than Weeden.
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.
The Van Nuys, Calif. native should find Cleveland appealing because he has a much better shot of beating out Weeden over dethroning Tannehill.
Working alongside a legendary offensive mind like Norv Turner doesn't hurt either.
Expired Contract: 2 years, $5 million
Predicted New Contract: 2 years, $5 million
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