There are two types of free agents that can be signed in the offseason. The first type of free agent is the big splash. The Browns made those last season when signing outside linebacker Paul Kruger and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant.
The other type of free agent is straight from the bargain bin. The Browns made these types of signings last year as well. Guys like outside linebacker Quentin Groves and cornerback Chris Owens.
They need to make both kinds again this offseason.
While fans will focus on the splashes and big names, it is the smaller signings that push a team to the next level. If a team finds those “diamond in the rough” type players then they not only add depth but also talent.
Bargain signings are usually coming off a rough year, have off-field issues or are nearing the end of their career.
Let’s take a look at some bargain signings the Browns can make in free agency this season.
Santana Moss is a 34-year-old wide receiver who could be a suitable replacement if the Browns choose to move on from troubled wideout Davone Bess. Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted the Browns will wait to decide Bess’ fate with the team.
#Browns won't make a decision on WR Davone Bess until the league year begins March 11.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) February 3, 2014
While Moss is not a long-term option, he would be a great veteran to have in the mix. He has had a long, productive career and still has some gas left in the tank. In a backup role, Moss caught 42 passes for 462 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Moss also has ties to new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He was a wide receiver under Shanahan throughout his entire tenure in Washington.
He even went so far as to rave about Shanahan on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland.
Santana Moss on @BullandFox - Shanahan "One of the great young coaches in the league...I know as a receiver, everyone should be able to eat"— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) February 4, 2014
Moss made just $3.15 million in 2013 so he would be a bargain signing on a short-term contract. While not an answer as a starter, he would add quality depth and third-down reliability to the roster.
Despite Bernard Pollard being 29 years old and nearing a dangerous age for the safety position he was still very productive in 2013. He had 77 tackles and grabbed three interceptions while starting all 16 games for the Tennessee Titans.
Pollard has been the model of consistency throughout his career. He has never played in less than 13 games in a season and has missed just seven games in eight years.
Pollard would not only add needed depth at the safety position but could take over as a bridge starter if the Browns decide not to give T.J. Ward the franchise tag.
This is widely thought of as a weak draft for safeties so if the Browns decide to let Ward walk they may need to find a guy like Pollard.
He made just $1.3 million in 2013 and while he is in line for a slight raise it will only be for two or three years. This is a deal the Browns may need to pursue when looking at the market for safeties.
The free-agent market will be flush with offensive linemen this season so it is a good year to find quality guys for a cheap price. One of those guys is guard Zane Beadles.
Beadles was a Pro Bowler in 2012. He was also a part of the Denver Broncos having the best passing offense and the 15th best rushing offense in 2013. Neither of those facts have made him a top name this offseason, however.
Lindsay H. Jones from The USA Today said the Broncos will have to let Beadles become a free agent. The Browns can find an affordable lineman if they strike early.
While the big names are negotiating huge money deals, the Browns should be able to get the 27-year-old Beadles for three or four million per year.
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks could be a different type of bargain in free agency this season. While he will still command a large contract, it will likely be nowhere near what his potential deserves.
If the Browns roll the dice on Nicks and he returns to his 2010 and 2011 form then he is a steal. In that two-year stretch he caught 155 passes for 2,244 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Unfortunately for him, he has caught just one touchdown in his last 30 games. To make matters worse he failed to catch a single touchdown in 2013.
Is he a product of two great years or is it something more significant? Perhaps health and serious need for a change of scenery is all the 26-year-old receiver needs. He also had his best seasons with a legitimate number one wideout next to him.
He would certainly have that in Cleveland. Josh Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards while playing just 14 games.
In 2012 he made just $750,000 and obviously will be in line for a huge raise despite his recent rough stretch. Nicks should pull close to $8 million per season but might not get the long–term deal he craves.
If someone does give him a longer deal then it will likely be back-loaded with money to make him earn his paychecks.
After the 2012 season, inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard looked like he was destined to be a cornerstone of the Denver Broncos defense. Then halfway through 2013 he lost his starting job.
Despite losing his starting role, he remained a leader on the defense according to Mike Klis of The Denver Post. He didn’t lose his playing time entirely either. He became a nickel defense linebacker.
This is actually a perfect fit for the Browns who struggled heavily on third downs. Craig Robertson was the weakest link on the defense in these situations.
Woodyard is still young at 27 years old and made just $1.5 million last season. He might be looking for a short-term deal where he can prove once again he is a starter in the NFL.
If Woodyard has a good 2014 season then he will be in line for a long-term deal. The Browns can capitalize on his need to produce and sign him short-term, which will give him added incentive to perform.
Despite limited playing time Woodyard still had 84 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception last season.
Graham is coming off his best season as a pro but still started just five games for the Baltimore Ravens. He finished with 56 tackles and four interceptions on the 12th best passing defense in the NFL.
Karl Merton Ferron of The Baltimore Sun said Graham had a solid season despite a few rough games early. He also said he has earned a starting spot somewhere but it likely wont be on the Ravens.
Graham has been a special teams player for most of his career but has held his own when thrust into action at the cornerback position. He will be 29 years old before next season starts so a long-term deal is probably not an option. The Browns would likely consider a two-year option for a little higher dollar amount.
After earning just $700,000 in 2012, Graham will want a significant pay raise and will probably be willing to sacrifice years for up-front dollars.
Graham would be a depth signing but could step in whenever needed. His signing would be in the same mold as Dimitri Patterson or Chris Owens.
Quality wide receivers do not come cheap and Seattle receiver Golden Tate proved his quality in the 2013 season. He caught 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns. He also snagged one of those shiny Super Bowl rings.
Tate told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle that he would be willing to take a “hometown discount.” Despite that fact, there could be many suitors in the open market for Tate.
The 25-year-old receiver seems to be entering his prime but will come with a much lower price tag than Denver receiver Eric Decker who is coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 1,000 yards.
Tate will likely earn around $8 million per year and will get a long-term deal. If the Browns strike now and Tate continues on his trajectory he could be an absolute steal in free agency.
Tate’s receptions and yards have increased in each of his four seasons in the NFL. He could be a productive target to pair with Josh Gordon for years to come in Cleveland.
It would be the very definition of irony if the Browns ended up with Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown as a free-agent target. This would be less than one season after trading their former number one pick Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first-rounder.
This would also be about a half season after Richardson was benched for Brown because he was more productive on the field.
Brown, a former first-round pick, is just 26 years old and coming off his best season in the NFL. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry and found the end zone six times on the ground and two more through the air.
Brown made just $865,000 in 2013 and while he should get a hefty pay raise it won’t be an exorbitant amount. He has never carried the ball more than 134 times in a season and had just 537 yards in 2013.
He will need to prove himself and could opt for one more short-term deal where he will have a shot at a starting position. Cleveland could be that destination.
*All contractual information was taken from Spotrac.com