Cleveland Browns Free Agency: 6 Undrafted Players for the Browns to Consider
Amid the never-ending, "The lockout is almost over!" rumors, there has been plenty of speculation on which non-restricted free agents the Browns should go after as soon the NFL is back in business. The same goes for potential trade targets.
What we haven't spend as much time discussing is another possible source for acquiring talent: the undrafted free-agent market.
The Browns still have plenty of holes to fill before the 2011 season begins, and it's financially unrealistic to think they can fill them all through regular free agency and trade. Thus the appeal of a more economical option like the undrafted free-agent market.
True, there's probably a reason why these guys weren't taken during the NFL draft. But as the proud owners of former undrafted free agent and team superstar Josh Cribbs, no one knows better than the Browns how very possible it is to find a few hidden gems among this group.
Following are six undrafted free agents (UDFAs) the Browns may want to take a look at this summer to fill in a few gaps on the roster. Please share your thoughts on other UDFAs who might be able to help the Browns in the comments below!
1. WR Dane Sanzenbacher
When Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher went undrafted last spring, many of us were pretty surprised. Local college favoritism aside, there were quite a few of us in the Browns camp who really thought the Browns ought to pick up Sanzenbacher in the sixth or seventh round to help round out our receiving corps.
It was disappointing that the Browns didn't nab him, but fortunate (not to mention surprising) that no one else did either. That makes Sanzenbacher a top target for the Browns when the market for UDFAs opens up.
Sanzenbacher wasn't a standout on the national scale certainly, but he made enough noise on the field for Ohio State that a lot of Browns fans took notice. In 2010, Sanzenbacher had 55 receptions for 948 yards and 11 TDs.
He's on the smaller side at 5'11" and 182 lbs but not alarmingly so. He has good speed and runs well, and perhaps most important, Sanzenbacher is tough as nails.
Over and over again during his time at Ohio State, we watched this guy get pummeled to the ground and then pop right up to go back for more. This is the kind of toughness that Cleveland football is built on and that we haven't seen much of from our receiving corps in recent years with only a few exceptions.
While his stats and scouting reports are largely inconclusive in predicting whether he is viable as an NFL receiver, he has a lot of qualities that suggest that it might be possible and that certainly suggest he could be a good fit for the Browns.
2. RB Noel Devine
Prior to this spring's draft, many mocks predicted West Virginia RB Noel Devine would be a mid-round pick. Shockingly, not only was he not selected midway through the draft, he wasn't selected at all.
There is no concrete explanation for why Devine fell completely off of the draft board, but it could be because of his size.
Devine is listed at 5'8" and 180 lbs which is downright tiny for a running back. The concern that he would be crushed or at least stonewalled by NFL-sized defenders is understandable, but then again, he was small even by college standards and still managed to produce for the Mountaineers in spite of that.
Devine rushed for 1,289, 1,465 and 936 yards in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. He had six rushing TDs in 2010 and 13 in 2009 and tacked a few receiving TDs on as well. So miniature or not, Devine seems to be able to produce.
The Browns need help at RB in terms of depth but probably not to the degree that they'll be willing to put up huge amounts of cash on a premier free agent. Thus a lower-cost UDFA like Devine could help them build some depth at the position without breaking the bank.
3. OT David Mims
Given the problems the Browns had on the right side of their offensive line last season, it's no secret that they could use some help at right tackle. Virginia Union OT David Mims could be just the man for the job.
Mims had a tough road to the draft, being from a small school that doesn't get much national attention for its football program. Still, Mims was good enough to get some notice anyway.
Mims was not selected, hence his availability as a UDFA. Mims has impressive size and strength, and his speed is pretty good considering he weighs 350 lbs.
Mims was a left tackle in college, where obviously the Browns don't need any help, but scouts predicted he profiles more as a right tackle in the NFL, which makes him a possible good fit for the Browns.
While Mims might not have the skill set to be the starting RT (and the job may not even be up for grabs), he could be a fantastic second or third string player at the position who could be a tremendous help for the Browns in terms of depth.
The Browns have had injury issues at RT in the recent past; Mims could provide some solid and inexpensive insurance.
4. DT Martin Parker
Despite the selection of Phil Taylor in the first round of the 2011 draft, it's no secret that the Browns could still use help at DT. Richmond's Martin Parker could be just the man for the job.
Considered by many to be one of the best UDFAs of this year's crop, Parker is one of the odds-on favorites among the group to be a real contributor to whichever NFL team is lucky enough to sign him.
Unusually quick and athletic for his position, Parker could bring some speed and crispness to a line that is currently built mostly of big bonecrusher types. He profiles best for the 4-3 as well, so the Browns should be able to transition him from college to NFL play that much easier.
He was a first team All-American for Richmond his senior year and registered 5.5 sacks and 96 tackles.
Given his skill set and Cleveland's need for depth at DT, if the Browns can find any way to sign him, this one should be a no-brainer.
5. LB Kenny Rowe
One big thing all PAC-10 quarterbacks had in common in 2010? None of them wanted to see Oregon OLB Kenny Rowe bearing down on them.
Rowe averaged 2.58 sacks per game, which was among the best in the country and was a formidable pass rusher.
The Browns struggled with their pass rush last season tremendously. They had trouble pressuring QBs and even worse, when they did manage to force a QB to scramble, they failed to actually bring him down alarmingly often.
That makes a QB killer like Rowe a great UDFA target for the Browns. There are, as with all UDFAs, some red flags. His 40 time was slow for his position and size, his reaction times and agility appeared average at best, and some scouts thought he was lazy in the weight room.
All of that probably means he won't be a top notch starter at OLB, but by no means does it indicate that he couldn't be a contributor for the Browns a bit further down the depth chart.
Given the current situation at LB, the Browns really need to pick up a big gun-type LB in regular free agency or in trade, even if it costs them handsomely.
But they could also use the depth, particularly if it comes at a low cost, and that makes Rowe an excellent target for them in the UDFA market.
6. S Deunta Williams
The Browns are potentially in line for some major problems at safety this season. Aside from T.J. Ward, there are no guarantees.
Many of us are hoping to see Abe Elam re-signed, and many of us also have high hopes for seventh-round draft pick Eric Hagg. But neither is a definite solution to the problem, and even if Elam re-signs and Hagg proves at least somewhat viable, that still leaves the depth chart pretty thin at safety.
All it would take would be one injury to send the Browns reeling.
They have some other options on the roster, of course, but thus far none of those players have stood out enough to look like good insurance for the starters.
The Browns could look to the free-agent market to get another safety, but if they're just looking for depth and want to save a little cash at the position, it might be smarter to explore some available UDFAs instead.
Oddly, there was a fair number of decent to slightly better than average safeties who entered the draft in 2011 but weren't selected. Among the best was North Carolina's Deunta Williams.
A year ago, Williams looked like one of the best safeties in his draft class and one who would be among the first drafted at his position. Unfortunately, he broke his right fibula during the 2010 season and his draft status completely plummeted.
The fact that he was among the players suspended in the notorious agent scandal at UNC didn't help either.
Still, Williams, now healed from his injury, has plenty to offer. As a possible draftee, the fact that teams stayed away was understandable, but as an UDFA, the standards are different and Williams is among the best of the lot at his position.
Known as an extremely aggressive guy who is always around the ball, Williams would fit in well with the mindset Ward has brought to the position for the Browns.
He's probably not a potential starter (at least for 2011), but he could be an excellent depth option and a possible starter down the road in a few years.