Cleveland Browns Free Agency: 5 Players the Browns Should Avoid Targeting

Chuck StanecContributor IIIMay 5, 2011

Cleveland Browns Free Agency: 5 Players the Browns Should Avoid Targeting

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    CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  General view of the outside of the stadium during the NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns on September 15, 2002 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Browns won 20-7.  (Photo by Paul S
    Paul Spinelli/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL draft is over.

    The lockout was on. Then, it wasn't. Now, it's back on again.

    Free agency is on hold and so is the season.

    When the league—or the court—decides to allow business to resume as usual, many teams are expected to be big players in the free-agent market. Players like former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are expected to be coveted by many teams looking to upgrade their defensive backfields.

    This year also has the potential to be one of the largest unrestricted free-agent classes ever. With the possibility of UFA beginning with four-years tenure as opposed to the six-year rule (as has been in the past), player movement could be at an all-time high.

    Sometimes, nailing down the "can't-miss" free agent is almost as difficult as picking out the "hands-off" free agent. For every Eric Steinbach, there are dozens of Andre Rison's.

    Sadly, teams have thrown serious money at these huge free-agent pickups only to reap zero rewards, putting the franchise in financial turmoil for seasons to come.

    What once was thought to be the great equalizer for struggling organizations has turned into the primordial harbinger of death to a team's season.

    While the Browns are primed to have an active free-agency period to address defensive holes that were not filled through the draft, who they sign is just as critical as whom they don't sign.

    The front office of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert has prided themselves on building teams from the ground up—meaning through the draft. While certain deficiencies remain, do not expect the Cleveland Browns to make a push for these five guys.

Reggie Bush

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints leaves the field after being injured during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 20, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Ge
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    One word: Pedestrian.

    Due to the lockout, Bush has yet to make it to the free-agent circle. However, the drafting of Mark Ingram in the first round of the draft signaled the end of Reggie's tenure in New Orleans. He is owed $11.8 million next season, a tab the Saints are not going to pay.

    Bush's professional career has been a quagmire since his inception into the league. He has done nothing but make the drafting of Mario Williams in 2006 one of the best hits in recent memory.

    A player in college who expected to score every time he touched the football has only found tough sledding in the NFL. His running style and frame led many experts to question his durability. Certainly, there is something to that, as Bush has only participated in all 16 regular-season games once—his rookie year.

    Since then, he has been sidelined by knee and ankle injuries. His 4.0 yards-per-carry and 7.3 yards-per-reception average are hardly worth mentioning considering he pairs that with only one season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage—also his rookie year.

Antonio Cromartie

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 27:  Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets in action against the Washington Redskins  during their preseason game on August 27, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium  in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Gett
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Jets tendered the five-year veteran to the highest for his position, meaning that any team wishing to sign the cornerback would hand over its first and third-round 2012 draft picks to New York.

    That could all change, if and when football resumes, if unrestricted free agency begins at year four. If that is the case, any tender made to Cromartie would become void and he would be free to sign with whomever he chooses with no strings attached.

    Cromartie has wonderful size at 6'2" and good speed for his position. The downside is that he also has a Twitter account and poorly represents himself.

    Here is a recap of the Hasselbeck war of Twitter words that took place earlier this year:

    Matt Hasselbeck: "Somebody ask Cromartie if he knows what CBA stands for."

    Antonio Cromartie: "hey Matt if u have something to then say it be a man about it. Don't erase it. I will smash ur face in." His words, not mine, verbatim.

    So perhaps the impression around the league of Cromartie is that he is not the brightest bulb in the package, sharpest knife in the drawer, nor the—some third analogy.

    Being on the other side of Darrell Revis, he saw many more passes come his way this season. One would think his defensive production would increase—it didn't. By far, it was a very average year with only 42 tackles and three interceptions. Actually, his picks from the last three years combined (eight) are below his one blowout year of 10 picks in 2007.

Darren Sharper

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 24:  Darren Sharper #42 of the New Orleans Saints in action during the game against the Cleveland Browns at the Louisiana Superdome on October 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Sharper was widely viewed as the quarterback of the Saints defense during their Super Bowl campaign in the 2009 season.

    Following the year, Sharper underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee. He spent the better part of the 2010 season on the PUP list and was seldom a contributor once he returned.

    Not surprisingly, he finished last year back in the operating room to get the knee cleaned out. He claims the knee is better than ever, but I'm not buying it.

    Sharper is a solid football player and great leader on the field, but he is also on the wrong side of 30 with a real injury concern.

    While he may be out of the Saints' plans moving forward, it is possible that the UFA would have real options on the open market.

    The Browns' plan is to improve on one of the NFL's oldest and slowest rosters—both criteria the 35-year-old does not meet any longer.

Vernon Gholston

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    NEW YORK - APRIL 26:  Vernon Gholston poses for a photo after being selected as the sixth overall pick by the New York Jets with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2008 NFL Draft on April 26, 2008 at Radio City Music Hall in Ap
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    I don't know where to start with Vernon Gholston.

    He is on the list for one very important reason: OSU/Browns fans will lobby hard to get any former Buckeye in the Orange and Brown. This is one to leave alone. Do not drink the Vernon Gholston Kool-Aid.

    He surprised in his final year at Ohio State and lured then-Jets coach Eric Mangini into wasting the sixth overall pick in 2008 on his services. At least Dave Veikune wasn't taken until the second round.

    In three years, Gholston gobbled up 42 whole ball-carriers. Yes, 42 of them. Thought to be the next pass-rushing threat in New York, Gholtson never recorded a sack in his pro career.

    Let's recap this: 45 games, 42 tackles, zero sacks. Special-teamer? Maybe. Starter? No. Should be targeted by the Browns? Absolutely not!

Plaxico Burress

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    GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 23: Wide receiver Plaxico Burress #17 of the New York Giants warms up for the game against the Arizona Cardinals on November 23, 2008 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Maybe one of the more controversial UFA this coming offseason, Burress' issues have been well documented.

    In case you missed it: Burress walked into a night club with a gun in his pants. He shot himself in the leg. Nearly two years later, he is set to be released from prison. That sums it up.

    Burress has a laundry list of problems following him wherever he goes. He has been suspended for disciplinary reasons in his stints with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants.

    The upside: In his final full season in the league, Burress had 70 receptions for 1,025 yards, 12 touchdowns and the game-winning TD catch in the Super Bowl victory over the undefeated New England Patriots.

    It is difficult to argue with the production throughout his career. Any team that picks him up could potentially sign a player who has a Michael Vick-type impact on the organization. On the flip side of that, any franchise that signs him could also be throwing a huge wad of money down the toilet.

    While the Browns are looking to upgrade the talent at the receiver position, odds are it will not be through the likes of Plaxico Burress.