Eric Wright and 6 Other Veterans the Cleveland Browns May Not Bring Back in 2011
There are few worse labels an NFL player can be tagged with than "dead weight." Every team has its share of guys who don't get it done on the field and suck up payroll and roster spots that seemingly should go to other more deserving players.
Some are worth keeping despite their "dead weight" status because their team thinks they have potential for the future. Some are worth keeping because the team lacks other, better options at their position and their pay is relatively low. But then there are those guys who just aren't worth keeping at all.
Because the league is currently in lockout mode, no one can make any moves (including trading or releasing players) at the moment, but that doesn't mean that the Browns front office isn't readying itself to get rid of less-than-useful players as soon as that becomes a possibility.
Listed here are seven veterans who were with the Browns in 2010 (some who are currently free agents and some who are still on the roster) who the Browns may be better off without in 2011.
Some are already as good as gone or almost certainly will be before the season begins. Others may still have some value and could wind up being kept by the Browns next season. Either way, though, all of the following players should be worried about whether they'll have a job with the Browns (or in some cases, any team at all) at the start of the next NFL season.
1. CB Eric Wright
Cornerback Eric Wright's play was so bad at times last season that he says it caused him to receive death threats from fans. I don't remember him doing anything so bad that it made me want to kill him (I'm still saving my one bullet for John Elway), but I do remember him doing dozens of things that were bad enough that they made me wish I could forcibly remove him from the roster.
Wright's issues were two-fold: First, his game-to-game play throughout the season always seemed to fall short of adequate. He was routinely beaten on or confused by opponents' routes. He repeatedly left receivers open who he should have been able to cover, then failed to bring them down after they had the ball.
The second part of the problem was that Wright, on a number of occasions, completely failed to do his job at an exceptionally critical moment in a game, and more than once was accused of being solely responsible for a loss. Obviously, it's very rarely accurate to peg any one player as "solely responsible" when a team is beaten in a football game, but Eric Wright certainly made a good case to dispute that notion in quite a few instances.
Before the lockout took effect, the Browns put a second-round restricted free agent tender on Wright, but it stands to reason that this doesn't necessarily mean he'll be back on the roster when the 2011 season begins. The Browns have a lot of talent in their secondary, and while Wright may very well keep his job if they can't find anyone to replace him, the team doesn't seem to be in a dire enough position at cornerback to send Wright back out there again if they can avoid it.
2. OG Floyd Womack
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I hate the idea of letting go of a man named "Pork Chop." But unfortunately for the porcine-nicknamed Womack, you don't keep a job in the NFL based on a cute moniker, and Womack has given the Browns almost no other reason to hang onto him.
Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack is a free agent in 2011, and I can't imagine why the Browns would re-sign him. He was part of a notably troubled O-line in 2010, which had myriad shortcomings that were in part Womack's fault.
Additionally, while Womack is only 32, he just looks old whenever he's out on the field. Womack's play was already viewed as less than desirable before last season, and things only got worse as 2010 wore on. He looked slow and weak, and was routinely beaten by his matchups.
There's no reason he should be on the Browns roster in 2011, and I suspect that aside from perhaps a practice squad gig, he'll have a tough time finding a job elsewhere in the NFL either.
3. LB Blake Costanzo
If you don't remember hearing Blake Costanzo's name much last season, that's probably because he was a largely unused backup linebacker who was mostly confined to playing on special teams. While Costanzo didn't do a terrible job in his special teams' duties, the change in the kickoff rules this year will make players like this who have such limited uses very expendable.
The Browns are lacking at the linebacker position and need talent there badly. But that doesn't mean a guy like Costanzo will be kept around. The Browns will surely target a top-notch pass rusher in the draft this year and may also pursue more depth at the position in the free agency market. A guy whose use as a linebacker is largely limited to special teams won't be worth much to them.
Costanzo is a restricted free agent in 2011, but it's unlikely the Browns will make any effort to attempt to re-sign him and keep him around.
4. LB Matt Roth
Since being claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins at the end of 2009, Matt Roth has displayed great ability some of the time, terrible shortcomings at other times and an intolerably obnoxious attitude all of the time.
Roth got off to a bad start with the Browns attitude-wise when he demanded a trade pretty much the second he walked through the door after being picked up by Cleveland. Predictably, Roth later quieted down when he was playing well, but then started screeching again when things didn't go his way.
In early March, the Cleveland Plain Dealer confirmed that Roth, as expected, wants to test the unrestricted free agent market.
Still, while Roth has played his entire career in a 3-4 defense, it's possible that he might work as a defensive end in the new 4-3 scheme.
Roth posted decent numbers for the Browns last season, but his desire to test the market and overt dislike for Cleveland would likely mean the Browns would have to overpay for him if they wanted to keep him. Even if Roth could be bought that way, it doesn't make much sense for the Browns to bring him back.
We don't know for certain if he's a viable option at end in a 4-3 defense, and he has a serious attitude problem that he isn't shy about displaying. That makes him an undesirable candidate for re-signing in general, and most definitely makes him a guy not worth overpaying.
5. WR Chansi Stuckey
I really liked Chansi Stuckey and hoped he would succeed as a WR for the Browns last season, but there really was no good reason for thinking that might happen. Unfortunately, Stuckey was just as unproductive as expected, and was largely ineffective throughout the year.
The Browns three go-to receivers in 2010 (Stuckey, Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie) all disappointed. Tight end Ben Watson had more receiving yards than any of them, and let's not even get into the comparison of RB Peyton Hillis as an effective pass catcher versus the three WRs. The results are too depressing.
Stuckey had just 346 receiving yards last season, a paltry 8.7 YPR average and zero touchdowns. He's also older and slower than Massaquoi and Robiskie and is a free agent, so there's not much incentive for the Browns to bring him back given how disappointing he was last year, especially with Carlton Mitchell on the roster and (likely) a new receiver coming in the draft. And that's before we even consider the (very possible) idea of the Browns adding a veteran wide receiver through free agency or trade.
6. S Abram Elam
Poor, beleaguered Abe Elam. The rumor mill and the fanbase has had Elam halfway out the door since the beginning of last season.
While I feel for Elam, who made it very clear at the start of 2010 both on his blog and through his statements to the media that he desperately wanted to stay in Cleveland and would do whatever he could to make that happen, his pleas and effort were far from enough to reverse the negative sentiment plaguing him.
Elam, like Stuckey, is kind of a no-brainer for this list, given that there's virtually no chance he'll be back with the Browns next season. Instead, it's been suggested (by FOX Sports' Adam Caplan and others) that Elam might land in Dallas, once again playing for ex-Browns Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, who is now running the Cowboys defense.
7. WR Mohammed Massaquoi
While he's probably the least likely of any of the players on this list to actually lose his job with the Browns in 2011, whether Mohamed Massaquoi is worth keeping around remains a hotly debated topic among the Browns faithful.
Massaquoi's supporters point to the fact that he's shown flashes of tremendous potential at times and that he's still very young and thus still has room to improve.
His detractors will point out that last season Massaquoi regressed rather than improved from the previous season, and many think he was eclipsed by Brian Robiskie. They'll also point out that the Browns have the uber-talented and previously under-used Carlton Mitchell, who will undoubtedly start next year and is probably the team's best receiver. Further, they'll tell you that if the team drafts a NFL-ready receiver, especially a first- or second-rounder, Massaquoi will probably be the odd man out, sitting behind Mitchell, Robiskie and the new guy, and thus expendable.
Personally, I think the possibility of letting Massaquoi go at this point is worth examining, but probably not a wise move. The team is adopting a more traditional West Coast Offense next season, which is more suited to Massaquoi's skill set than the version of the West Coast Offense they ran in 2010. Further, as mentioned above, Massaquoi is still very young and has shown some capability at times. He will also make just $480,000 in 2011, so his contract isn't exactly breaking the bank.
And then perhaps the best reason of all for the Browns to hang onto Massaquoi for at least one more year: There's an unfortunate form of Murphy's Law that exists in football in situations like this. A team could let 10 guys like this go, and nine of them will never amount to anything after they depart, but still, the only guy fans will remember is the one who was let go but later became a star with another team. Certainly any NFL front office is used to endless criticism from armchair quarterbacks, but letting Massaquoi go probably isn't worth the risk of incurring the wrath of the fanbase in the event that he finds success elsewhere.