Free Agents, Draft Picks That Could Solve the Cleveland Browns' Problems in 2014

Will BurgeContributor IDecember 16, 2013

Free Agents, Draft Picks That Could Solve the Cleveland Browns' Problems in 2014

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    For the Cleveland Browns, the offseason cannot get here fast enough. After starting 3-2, the Browns have dropped eight of their last nine games including five straight.

    Sunday’s loss ensured the Browns will have double-digit losses for the 12th time in 15 seasons since their return to the NFL.

    While the team has not quit, it is quite clear that they need upgrades at a few positions to get themselves over the hump.

    Quarterback Jason Campbell showed once again on Sunday why he has never been able to win consistently in the NFL. His play is far too erratic.

    While he is the marquee name and position, he is not the only place where the Browns need help. Let’s take another look at some free agents and draft picks that could help the Browns get back to respectability next season.

Free Agent - WR - Hakeem Nicks

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    The one thing no wide receiver can afford to do is fail to catch a single touchdown pass in their contract year. New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks is two games away from doing just that.

    His contract year gaffe could be the Browns' come up, however, as Nicks’ price tag will be much lower than it would have been two seasons ago.

    The 25-year-old receiver battled injuries for the past two years but is still averaging 904 receiving yards per season and has 27 touchdowns in his five-year career. This season, he has 50 receptions for 794 receiving yards despite the Giants scoring the third fewest points in the NFL.

    Nicks has also had some turmoil with the Giants organization and head coach Tom Coughlin. The latest happened Sunday when he disagreed with Coughlin’s assessment of their offense as “pathetic.”

    He told Jordan Raanan of, "I wouldn't use the word pathetic. I think every man ... if you lace your cleats up as a professional, I have too much respect for the guys in this locker room to say it was pathetic.”

    He seems destined for a new home next season and would be a nice fit next to Josh Gordon.

Free Agent – WR – Jeremy Maclin

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    Browns C.E.O. Joe Banner was in Philadelphia when the Eagles selected Jeremy Maclin, which makes the 25-year-old wide receiver an interesting target.

    On one hand, Banner could still covet what Maclin brings to a receiving corps. On the other hand, Banner could also know if Maclin is not worth what he might pull in the free-agent market.

    If Banner does go after Maclin, the positive will be that he is getting a speedy wide receiver who has averaged 863 receiving yards and 6.5 touchdowns in each of his four seasons in the NFL. He is also a dangerous kick and punt returner which the Browns desperately need.

    The negative of Maclin is that he missed the entire 2013 season when he tore his right ACL.

    The safe play with Maclin is to offer decent money but with a very short-term contract. This will allow him to prove he can bounce back and let him get back to making major dollars sooner rather than later.

    Maclin is the exact type of receiver that Gordon needs opposite him. He can find space to make plays underneath but the safeties will also not be able to cheat towards Gordon’s side of the field. Maclin is too fast.

Draft - QB - Blake Bortles

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    Blake Bortles is quickly becoming one of the most interesting names in college football as the NFL draft approaches. He is a junior quarterback from UCF and could still return for his senior year.

    However, his play this season coupled with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota announcing his intent to return to college football has opened the door to a possible top 10 draft spot.

    He is 6’3” and 230 pounds of power and strength. Many have compared him to Ben Roethlisberger. His junior year he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw for 3,280 yards, 22 touchdowns and rushed for five more.

    CBS Sports’ Rob Rang says he could envision a situation where the Browns take Bortles, similar to how the Buffalo Bills grabbed E.J. Manuel last year with their first pick.

    If you are worried about the competition he played in college, don’t be. Against South Carolina and Penn State, who had defenses ranked 14th and 61st in the nation respectively, he threw for a combined 646 yards and five touchdowns.

    More importantly, he defeated Penn State on the road and took South Carolina, who finished the season ranked ninth in the nation, to the wire.

    If the Browns cannot get up to the top three picks to get Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater or Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, then Bortles could be one of their options.

Draft – QB – Derek Carr

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    Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr has been on a meteoric rise up the draft boards because of his rocket-like arm and video game-like statistics.

    Carr, the younger brother of former number one overall draft selection David Carr, completed 70 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,866 yards and 48 touchdowns. Those are ridiculous numbers.'s Dan Greenspan wrote an article citing tweets from Ian Rapoport that Carr could end up being selected number one overall if the Houston Texans have the top pick. If this happened it would push guys like Manziel and Bridgewater down into the Browns’ territory.

    If Carr is still on the board when the Browns select, however, they could get a kid who has an NFL bloodline and is natural leader for his team. His physical skill set is undeniable but there are questions about his poise in the pocket.

    Against Boise State, who finished with the 37th ranked defense in the country, he threw for 460 yards and four touchdowns and led his team to a 41-40 victory. Not a bad day.

    Carr is certainly the flavor of the month and if it stays that way, the Browns may not even have a chance to draft him.

Draft – ILB – Christian Jones

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    The Browns need to fix a major issue next to D’Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker. Jackson is as solid as they come but the guy they had hoped to hold the other spot, Craig Robertson, was exposed in coverage this season.

    Expect the Browns to address this position through the draft with one of their earlier picks. They know that the key to stopping the run late in games and limiting passes out of the backfield is good inside linebackers.

    Christian Jones is the perfect fit for the Browns. They need a guy who can run with slot receivers and Jones is the best in the draft at doing so. He covered Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who is projected as a top-15 pick in the draft, when they matched up with the Tigers.

    He is also 6’4” and 232 pounds, which is tall and strong enough to stick with the big tight ends in the NFL. He is not afraid to stick his nose in the action to stop the run and sheds blockers well enough to make tackles.

    The senior from Florida State amassed 30 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, two sacks and one interception last season playing an offensive-friendly schedule.