Cleveland Browns: Buy or Sell the Latest Buzz on the Free Agency Rumor Mill

Will BurgeContributor IMarch 10, 2014

Cleveland Browns: Buy or Sell the Latest Buzz on the Free Agency Rumor Mill

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    This is easily the most awkward time of the NFL offseason. Teams can negotiate with players but cannot have them officially sign contracts until Tuesday afternoon. With such ambiguity, rumors tend to fly in every direction and the Cleveland Browns are not immune.

    With a hefty sum of cash to spend and plenty of holes to fill, the Browns are legitimate contenders for any player who tests the free agent market. It is not just players they are attempting to sign, however. The Browns also need to try and re-sign their own guys.

    Let’s take a look at the latest rumors surrounding the Browns as they head into free agency and whether or not we should be buying into them.

The Browns Have Not Reached out to Jairus Byrd

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    It has been reported that the Browns would like to sign free agent safety Jairus Byrd. This was thought to be a splash the team would try and make in the first few days of free agency.

    Not so fast.

    According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Browns did not reach out to Byrd’s representatives on the first day of the free agent negotiating period.

    It's been widely assumed that the Browns would be hot after the three-time Pro Bowler, because he played for coach Mike Pettine last year in Buffalo.

    It doesn't mean the Browns won't join the Byrd sweepstakes -- just that they haven't yet. The Rams are one team that has inquired about Byrd, according to nfl.com.

    Buy

    I buy that the Browns did not reach out to Byrd on the first day they were able but I fully expect them to do so. The Browns have to figure out a way to get Byrd in an orange helmet or retain safety T.J. Ward’s services.

    Head coach Mike Pettine’s exotic defense needs elite cover corners and a safety that can make plays. The Browns cannot afford to swing and miss on both safeties.

Nearly a Dozen Teams Are Interested in T.J. Ward

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    MARCO GARCIA/Associated Press

    At one point it was considered a lock that the Browns would hit safety T.J. Ward with the franchise tag and make sure he sticks around at least one more season. Now they have some heavy competition for the Pro Bowler.

    Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported that nearly a dozen teams have reached out to Ward’s representatives and the Browns are still in the mix.

    Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward has drawn interest from about 11 teams during the free agency negotiating period, and the Browns are still in the mix, a league source told cleveland.com.

    The Browns began talking to Ward's agent, Josh Arnold, at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, and have engaged in talks since then.

    One team expected to pursue Ward is Denver, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. Former Browns general manager Tom Heckert, who drafted Ward in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Oregon, is the Broncos Director of Pro Personnel.

    Another team that's checked into Ward is the Lions, according to nfl.com. They released safety Louis Delmas and are looking to replace him.

    Buy

    This was the danger of letting Ward hit the open market. His services will be heavily sought after and the Browns may end up having to outbid other suitors. Why wouldn’t a team want a 27-year-old coming off his best season as a pro?

    It is buyer beware with Ward, however. He has only played a full season twice in four years.

Matt Schaub Could Be a Target

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    The Browns will be looking for answers at the quarterback position like they do just about every year. It seemed as though the Browns were destined to select a passer with the fourth pick in the draft, but those thoughts are changing.

    They may end up looking to free agency instead of the draft for their starting quarterback next season. While the Browns have explored this option multiple times in the last few years by signing Jake Delhomme and Jason Campbell, there seems to be a better option available this time around.

    NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that if the Houston Texans release veteran Matt Schaub then the Browns will be in hot pursuit.

    In Cleveland, adding Schaub would reunite him with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the former Texans play-caller who squeezed the most out of the quarterback during their time together.

    If cut, Schaub will have a say in where he goes next, which adds complexity to the process. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported last month that the quarterback has no interest in backing up the Jets' Geno Smith, which would suggest that Schaub has no interest in backing up potential young passers in Oakland or Cleveland, either.

    Sell

    I am not selling this rumor because it is false, the Browns may be interested in Schaub. I am selling because it is the wrong move to make. He is 32-years-old, coming off his worst season as a professional and the Browns will have to get into a bidding war to sign him.

    Schaub looked mentally broken last season in Houston, and it is a strangely similar situation to the Delhomme signing in 2010. That was a complete disaster.

Browns like Julian Edelman

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    Besides Pro Bowl receiver Josh Gordon and electric return man Travis Benjamin, the Browns do not have much talent in the pass catching department. They desperately need multiple upgrades at that position to help whoever is playing quarterback next season.

    Since the Browns released troubled wide receiver Davone Bess, an even larger void has been created. According to Chris Sims of Bleacher Report (see video above), they may try and fill that hole in the slot by signing Julian Edelman.

    Edelman is coming off of his best season as a pro and is just 27-years-old. He had 1,056 yards and six touchdowns in New England’s offense last season.

    The danger with Edelman is that he has only been healthy for a full season once and never had more than 359 receiving yards until last year.

     

    Buy

    At the right price, Edelman would be a quality signing. Especially since the Browns will probably use one of their first three selections in the draft on a receiver. If Edelman is used correctly, he could round out a very complete receiving corps.

    He can also return punts and kicks. This would serve as insurance for Benjamin, who is prone to injury with his small stature.

Jason Campbell could be cut by Thursday

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Browns signed veteran quarterback Jason Campbell last season and they got about all they could expect out of the 32-year-old signal caller. He continued his up and down career by throwing for 2,015 yards and tossing 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    Campbell is due for a $250,000 roster bonus on Thursday and has a base salary of $3 million this season. According to ProFootballTalk.com, Campbell could get cut so the Browns can save that money.

    Jason Campbell, former starter in Washington and Oakland, has a $250,000 roster bonus due on the third day of the 2014 league year.  To avoid paying it, the Browns would have to cut or trade Campbell before Thursday.

    Campbell, a first-round pick in 2005, started eight games for the Browns in 2008.  But he won only one of them, throwing 11 touchdown passes against eight interceptions.

    Sell

    The Browns are thrifty but saving $250,000 would not be worth the risk of losing a quality veteran backup quarterback. The Browns currently have a fall-back plan if they cannot sign or draft a guy they like. They can start Brian Hoyer and let Jason Campbell, who didn’t play terribly last season, back him up.

    $3 million is a very reasonable amount of money to a backup quarterback in the NFL. It is a steal if that quarterback has to play extended time like he did last season.