2011 NFL Free Agency: Cleveland Browns May Have an End in Sight

Sam TothContributor IIIMay 6, 2011

Quarterback. Left tackle. Defensive end. Cornerback.

According to general manager Tom Heckert, those are the four positions—in that particular order—that are most pivotal to building a winner in the NFL.

I believe that the Browns will address the defensive end position by signing a marquee free agency this year or next.

Of course, that is just conjecture but defensive end remains the most pressing need of those four positions.

Colt McCoy showed that he could win as a rookie against overmatched opponents. Whether you have faith in him or not, the Browns organization is confident heading into the upcoming season with the gritty third-rounder.

Joe Thomas is regarded by many as the premiere left tackle in the game. Joe Haden looks like he is on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl corner back.

Yet reading the depth chart at defensive end leaves you more wary than Rashard Mendenhall after reading a U.S. government press release.

Sure, there could be potential stars in there. Cleveland fans are obliged to look at the glass a quarter full—without that trait, we could not survive. But, at the very least, there is loads of uncertainty.

I have high hopes for Jabaal Sheard, but a second round rookie is still a second-round rookie—hardly a sure bet. Matt Roth may or may not fit as a traditional defensive end in a 4-3.

Marcus Benard was a situational pass rusher, and while he performed that role well, it remains to be seen if he can handle more. Tom Heckert has said Jayme Mitchell was the best pass rusher on the team last year—and he did not even dress for a single game!

Not only does team need point to a big free agent signing, but also the management’s history.

In 1993, Mike Holmgren signed Reggie White to a five-year $17 million contract with the Green Bay Packers. At the time, it was an unprecedented amount given to a defensive player. Four years later, White was well on his way to becoming an all-time great and was an integral part to the team that won Super Bowl XXXI.

Eleven years later in 2004, Tom Heckert signed Jevon Kearse to an eight-year $65 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was a record-breaking deal then for a defensive lineman. While Kearse was not nearly as successful with his new team as White, the Eagles still found success.

The year he was signed, the Eagles lost Super Bowl XXXIX by a mere three points to the New England Patriots.

Two different decades. Two different men. Two different teams. Same strategy.

Now in a new decade, those same two men may work together to help a new team by using a similar strategy.