The Browns are keeping their off-season plans hush-hush, but they are also giving a few hints about what direction they may go before the Draft.
Stallworth and Lewis are gone. Not really a surprise move in either case, however, seeing that the Ravens picked up Stallworth as quickly as they did without any real negative press leaves one to wonder if Holmgren's decision was a smart one. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until September to find out.
Lewis' departure was a long time coming. While his hard-nose style and leadership were vital to much of Cleveland's little success, his career is nearing its end and he deserves to be on a Super Bowl contender in 2010 if he so desires.
Clearly, this leaves the Browns with holes at HB and WR, but those are only the obvious ones. The real questions are with Jerome Harrison and D'Qwell Jackson are among Cleveland's top Restricted Free Agents this off-season.
Harrison's huge numbers (561 yards, 5 TDs) in the final three weeks of the 2009 season showed where the Browns may have an important decision to make. Hopefully, they don't make the same mistake they did with Derek Anderson.
While his stats were impressive, you must also take into consideration that he carried the ball over 100 times in those three games combined. Just like his 5'6" counter-part in San Diego (Sproles) Cleveland's front office needs to consider whether or not he would hold up for an entire season as an every-down back.
Jackson's value should be questioned less than Harrison's. While Jackson missed 10 games in 2009, he showed in the two seasons prior with over 250 tackles, that he is a defensive machine. His shoulder injury may come into question when Cleveland mulls over whether or not to re-sign him, it is this fan's "expert opinion" that Jackson is a no-brainer for a 3 year extension.
Big Deals On The Horizon?
Mangini and Holmgren have quite a few decisions to make on the trading front as well.
Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn?
This question has plagued the Browns for three seasons. Quinn 'won' the competition for the 2009 starting gig before losing it, re-gaining it and losing it again (with a foot injury).
Anderson was the quarterback for two of Cleveland's final four straight victories, but Quinn quarterbacked the win over Pittsburgh. You would think this to be a big deal, however the fact that Cleveland ran for more yards than they passed in each of those games should send a message that the quarterbacking of either player was poor—to say the least.
Quinn, being the golden boy in Cleveland will probably keep the starting job in 2010, until the Draft anyway. Anderson is halfway through a 3 year, $24 million contract and his trade value has taken a nosedive since his pro bowl season. If the Browns get anything for him it will be a 6th or 7th round pick and a pat on the back from Brady Quinn fans.
Look for the Vikings or Ravens to show some interest. Baltimore's Troy Smith wants to play in Cleveland and they could use Derek Anderson as a back-up to Flacco. Minnesota's situation with Favre, Jackson, and Rosenfels leaves the door wide open for Anderson to compete for any job with the Purple People Eaters.
Also look for the Browns to make moves for the likes of Matt Hasselbeck or one of the Eagles' QBs (Kolb or McNabb). The 2010 draft went from a promising QB class to a QB Bust smorgasbord, a certain case of 'pick your poison'.
Harrison, Davis, Free Agent or Draft?
I have covered Jerome Harrison's chances already, but not the factor of James Davis or a couple other possibilities. Davis looked like he would be the No. 2 RB going into the regular season before a shoulder injury forced him out for the season. His speed and ability to run between the tackles rivals that of Harrison if not surpasses it.
The other possibility is LenDale White. The Tennessee running-back showed that his dedication to getting in shape and becoming a team-player should not be questioned as much as it was going into 2009. He is also built like a power-back that Cleveland needs in the cold weather division of the AFC North—where the running game decides the final six weeks of every regular season.
If Cleveland releases Harrison, look for White to be on their radar and if White is gone look for Legarrette Blount out of Oregon to be a mid-round pick (of which the Browns have many) during the 2010 Draft. There are too many other needs for Cleveland to look at a runningback in the first couple rounds.
How Much Longer Will Shaun Rogers Be A Brown?
The man is a beast. Plain and simple, he is the best player on Cleveland's defense, but with Jamal Lewis looking for greener pastures, perhaps Rogers (who has been with Detroit and Cleveland during his great career) is starting to feel the same way.
The Browns must be getting phone-calls about Rogers' availability and if they have any sense about them, they should consider anything that involves a package of two good players and a 3rd round pick or a package of 1st and 3rd (and/or 4th) round picks. This is the season of great defensive lineman in the NFL Draft and the Browns are in a great position to restructure their team for the future.
Eric Wright Needs Help...Period.
Eric Wright had his coming out party when he took back an Eli Manning interception on Monday Night football... 2 years ago. Now he is looking for some help on the other side.
The Browns' biggest weakness is in their defensive backfield which is why they need to go after some DBs (CB and S) in free agency and the draft. Joe Haden and Eric Berry seems to be the favorites among most fans and "experts."
Who Needs Receivers?
Cleveland traded away team cancer and Sir Dropsalot, Braylon Edwards. Then over the last week dropped Donte Stallworth. That leaves Massaqoui, Robiskie, Stuckey, and Cribbs as the top four WRs. Even with their focus on running the ball, the Browns need to improve their passing attack if they hope to win any decent amount of games anytime soon.
My sleeper pick in the 2010 1st round for the Browns is Dez Bryant. He showed gamebreaker abilities in college and is by far the highest rated receiver in the 2010 draft. Golden Tate would be a nice mid-round pick, but with Massaqoui and Robiskie having relatively poor seasons it could be a reach to see Cleveland take any risks like that again.
Also, as a side note, if Cleveland decides to keep Brady Quinn, it wouldn't be out of the question for them to look into one of his college teammates from Notre Dame to help fill a receiving gap. Maurice Stovall and Anthony Fasano are free agents this season.
Yes, this was a long article; but it is going to be a longer off-season.
Buckle Up Browns Fans!