Cleveland Browns: An Open Letter to the RFAs Skipping The OTAs

Sam TothContributor IIIMay 21, 2010

CLEVELAND - JANUARY 03:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns runs by Gerald Alexander #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Dear Mr. Elam, Mr. Harrison, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Roth, and Mr. Vickers:

I was displeased to hear that you all have decided to skip the current Organized Team Activities currently underway in Berea. Mr. Roth, I was particularly irritated by you upon hearing of your recent trade request.

The question I have for you all is this: what are you expecting to gain from this no-show?

All of your timing could not be worse. Eric Mangini, your coach who sees you play up close and everyday, has only been around for a year. But the guys who decide whether or not to deliver your paychecks  - GM Tom Heckert and President Mike Holmgren -have yet to see you play!

What do you expect them to do? Roll over and commit to you long-term financially when (a) they have yet to see you play football since they've joined the Browns organization and (b) during an uncapped year when the effects of such long term commitment remains uncertain?

Such logic is less sound than a broken amplifier.

Besides, you all have zero leverage at this point. You may have been upset that the Browns signed you to only a second-round tender. You may have thought you were worth more. But the bottom line is: no one else thought you worth more.

You were all still restricted free agents. If someone else thought you were worth the second-round pick and a new contract, a team would have attempted it and signed you to an offer sheet. At that point in time, the Browns would have evaluated the offer to see if you were (a) worth that contract or (b) they'd rather just have the second round pick.

But it never got to that point. So grow up and join your team.

Now, here's where you might say: Wait. What if we are just sitting out as a matter of principle? We know that this probably won't result in a new contract for us, but this lets them know we eventually want a new contract and gives us an excuse to skip the dull and tedious OTAs. And I can kind of get that.

But it's still a half-baked idea.

I'll repeat this again: You are now playing for a new GM and new  president/tsar of the organization. You may have made a good impression on Mangini last year, but that means little to nothing at this point. None of you are Andre Johnson or Chris Johnson, fellow NFL hold-outs looking for new deals. They are proven, Pro Bowl-caliber players.

I loved how you all have played for the Browns at times, but all of you have something to prove.

And none of your roles are secure:

  • Mr. Elam - It's no secret that the new team brass singled out the secondary as the Browns biggest weakness. It seemed obvious to your everyday fan like yours truly, considering both Mike Furrey and Brandon McDonald started at key positions. I'm not sure which is more alarming. But if there was any doubt, Heckert squashed them by drafting for the secondary with the first two picks in CB Joe Haden and SS TJ Ward. They addressed the position again with one of their fifth-round pick SS Larry Asante.

    Mr. Elam, again, I thought you played pretty well last year. But they drafted two more strong safeties. Was that not your position last year?

    Now don't you think it would be wise to get in there and start making a better impression?

  • Mr. Harrison - Last year, you were probably the most impressive of any of the restricted free agents sitting out right now. In fact, you were just straight up one of the most impressive players on the Browns last season. Period. Hell, I'll even take it to the next step: you played at a Pro Bowl level.

    Only problem: We only saw that level in four games (last three games and Week 4 vs. Cincinnati).

    Please, don't get me wrong. I've been a huge advocate of yours since you were at Washington State. I've always thought you deserved a shot to be the featured back. Last year in those limited chances, you proved you could.

    But you have to understand that before they commit to you long term they will want to see more.

    When buying a house, you typically go through the open house, an individual showing, and a final inspection before submitting that official offer. You're in the final inspection phase. Hold steady.

    Yet be warned: there is always a chance, in the middle of the process, that a buyer can find a new house. And that new house could be second-round pick RB Montario Hardesty.

    It's apparent that Heckert really likes the kid. Not only did he move up (and pay a fairly hefty price to do so) in order to grab him, he was also very confident in his abilities. When asked if he was drafted to be a complementary back to you, Heckert responded, "We think he can be a feature back in this league."

    In OTAs, Hardesty was getting reps with the first team.

    You are only hurting your chances of getting that new contract by not showing up.

  • Mr. Jackson - In 2008, you led the NFL in tackles. So you obviously have a boat-load of talent and potential. But you have to remember that you are still brand new to the Heckert-Holmgren combo. And because of an injury plagued 2009 season, you are also still fairly new to Mangini.

    Another reality to consider is that the Browns played their best and most inspired defense seen in years those last five games. And you weren't on the football field. So when reviewing the roster, you may not be as highly regarded to this front office as you are among fans.

    Also, inside linebacker is crowded position right now. Eric Barton, David Veikune, David Bowens, and Jason Trusnik (the leader in the middle of that inspired defense we saw those last five games) are all returning.

    Also, Heckert signed Chris Gocong (who was seen lined up at ILB at OTAs) from his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and Scott Fujita from the Super Bowl Champion Saints. Both should be highly regarded.

  • Mr. Roth -- I was pumped when we picked you off from waivers last year. I remembered you in college and was psyched to see how you would play in a Browns uniform. And you certainly didn't disappoint.

    Since being claimed off waivers, you started all six games, had four sacks, and proved to hold a relentless motor in chasing opponent quarterbacks.

    You played great. But like Mr. Harrison, your problem is that you played great for a limited number of games. And like Mr. Jackson, you have to compete in a crowded linebacker corp this offseason.

    That is why your trade request was almost laughable. Remember, it was just six games ago that you were let go by the Dolphins for nothing. You still need to prove your abilities to this team and to the people who cut the team checks.

  • Mr. Vickers - You're reckless abandon in the blocking game is revered by Browns fans. You heedlessly throw you're body like a wrecking ball into opposing linebackers to create holes. And do a damn good job at it too. You are one of the premiere fullbacks in the NFL. I for one am glad to have you on the team.

    Problem: With Holmgren as the head honcho, and his former assistant Gil Haskell on board, there is the feeling that the Browns will eventually move to a more West Coast style offense, where the fullback position is not held to a premium.

    Heckert also recently traded for the RB/FB hybrid Peyton Hillis. Suddenly, your position is becoming a bit crowded as well.

The overall idea for each of you is this: you have more to prove. All of you are playing in the first year of the new GM and team president. With that, comes two rules you can be sure they'll abide to:

  • They are not going to give you a new contract.
  • They also are not going to save you a spot or role on this team.

Sure, Josh Cribbs received a new contract. But he was the most valuable player on the team last season and was grossly underpaid.

You all have the opportunity to sign a one-year deal for $1.759 million (and for Matt Roth, its $1.809 million). You need to remember that isn't chump change.

You also need to remember that if you hold out and end up not earning a significant role...Well, good luck finding that offer on the table elsewhere. You all need the Browns just as much (honestly, probably more) than they need you.

Finally, I will leave you with the following advice:

Sign the tender. Take the money. Appreciate it. Come to work. Work hard. Prove yourself to the new team brass. Do your best to help the team win. Understand that that is how you get your next contract.


Sam Toth


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