Ranking the Cleveland Browns' Best Remaining Free-Agent Options

Andy McNamaraCorrespondent IIMarch 20, 2013

Ranking the Cleveland Browns' Best Remaining Free-Agent Options

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    Credit Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam for opening up the wallet and shelling out some huge contracts thus far in this NFL free-agency frenzy.

    CEO Joe Banner is the man pulling the strings, and he made a splash by snagging pass-rushing specialist Paul Kruger and a highly regarded defensive tackle in Desmond Bryant.

    Less flashy, but hopefully effective, signings have brought aboard outside linebacker Quentin Groves and tight end Gary Barnidge.

    To date, the Browns have retained the services of running back Chris Ogbonnaya, wide receiver Jordan Norwood and long snapper Christian Yount.

    Plenty of high-profile names are now off the market, several of which were players who could've solved some key team needs.

    Let's take a look at Cleveland's best remaining free-agent options in order of least to most likely.

5. Steven Hauschka (K)

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    Phil Dawson is officially a San Francisco 49er. Let that sink in.

    Kicker has been the one stable position for the Browns these past 14 seasons, but it now turns into a major concern.

    Receiving no compensatory picks in the upcoming draft means that Cleveland is left with six total selections and does not own a second-round choice.

    Signing a free-agent kicker would leave room for the club's brain trust to use those precious picks to solve several other glaring requirements.

    There weren't many veteran leg men available this offseason, but one quiet and reliable name jumps out.

    Steven Hauschka of the Seattle Seahawks. The West Coast birds are an exciting young group and would most likely want to keep the five-year pro around.

    He is coming off of a career-best season that saw the North Carolina State alum connect on 88.9 percent of his field goals, nine of which were from 40 yards or longer.

    At 27, Hauschka matches Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam's criteria of being able to grow as part of the team. A raise on his $1.26 million 2012 contract shouldn't be a problem either.

    If the Browns can get No. 4 on board, then the kicking question could very well be answered for the next number of years.

4. Fred Davis (TE)

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    Seven games into last season, star tight end of the Washington Redskins Fred Davis tore his Achilles. In 2011, off-field issues sprung up where he was suspended for the final four contests because of a failed drug test.

    Despite both of those situations, Davis is by far the most talented option left at TE on the market. Washington is pushing hard to keep the 27-year-old in the nation's capital and it has the draw of Robert Griffin III.

    Cleveland's allure comes via big-dollar availability and that head coach Rob Chudzinski loves to make tight ends a key part of his offenses. The 6'4" veteran was also born in Ohio.

    He won't come cheap, though. Davis finished a single-season $5.446 million contract and will no doubt be looking for an increase despite the serious injury.

    Perhaps his price can drop the longer free agency drags on. If the front office feels that the 2008 second-round pick can make a full recovery, then there is no doubt that it needs to take a serious run at him.

    Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge just aren't good enough on their own.

3. Brent Grimes (CB)

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    One game is all that Brent Grimes played before being shut down for all of 2012 because of an Achilles tear. The cornerback also missed four matchups in 2011.

    The Browns failed to lock down highly touted names at the position like Keenan Lewis, Antoine Cason or Aqib Talib to fill this essential outside CB role. This makes No. 20 that much more important to the orange and brown. 

    Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported that Cleveland flew in the soon-to-be 30-year-old last week. That would typically be great news if Grimes was at 100 percent.

    This is far from being a done deal as the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons are still in the race for his services.

    Does Joe Banner and Co. really want to depend on an aging player coming off of a severe injury to be the man opposite of Joe Haden?

    Grimes should be considered a stopgap who gives time for a player in this year's draft time to develop.

2. Matt Slauson (OG)

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    Similar to the cornerback scenario, Cleveland did not bring any of the upper echelon offensive guards to Northeast Ohio.

    Andy Levitre, Louis Vasquez and Donald Thomas are all off the market. So who is left?

    While not perfect, standing 6'5" and weighing 315 pounds makes Matt Slauson at least worth a long look.

    The four-year New York Jet is an anchor on the line and shows surprising agility for a man of his girth. He was a part of a unit that could not seem to protect quarterback Mark Sanchez in 2012, but did anything go right in the Big Apple last season?

    At 27, Slauson falls into the age range that Joe Banner loves in his free agents. Experienced, yet still in their prime.

    The former Nebraska OG is durable too, as he has played in every game since 2010.

    Adding Slauson and a mid-to-late-round draft pick would put the Browns in a position to solidify an already above average O-line for years to come.

1. Ted Ginn Jr. (WR/KR)

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    Who better to replace the much-beloved Josh Cribbs than Cleveland native Ted Ginn Jr.?

    Suiting up for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Ginn is a proven kick/punt returner (six career run backs for touchdowns) who was also an effective wide receiver during three seasons in Miami.

    Throw in that he considered himself underutilized in San Francisco's offensive strategy and doesn't it sound eerily similar to Cribbs?

    Turning 28 in April, the 5'11", 180-pound Ginn is two years younger then No. 16 and still in the prime of his career.

    Adding a veteran playmaker to a young WR corps is vital for success, and the soon-to-be former 49er can serve a two-fold purpose.

    Splitting returning duties with an exciting, but fragile, Travis Benjamin saves both men from the wear and tear that special teams can bring. Each player can then still remain quarterback targets as a third or fourth receiver option.

    Everybody wins, and the Browns won't have to break the bank to make the deal happen. Earning $1.375 million in 2012, Ginn is certainly an affordable option even if a slight raise is required.

    Follow Andy McNamara on Twitter @AndyMc81.