NFL Free Agency: 10 Players the Cleveland Browns Should Target
When compiling my list, I decided it would be best if I “realistically” looked at the Browns free agency situation.
As fans we have to understand that not every player wants to play in Cleveland. The majority of big name free agents will sign long-term, lucrative deals with teams that either open up their wallets or provide a chance to win immediately.
Fortunately for Cleveland fans, Browns owner Randy Lerner has apparently given team president Mike Holmgren the “green light” to use as much salary cap space as he sees fit. The problem for the Browns will be convincing free agents that being a part of the re-building process will be what's best for their careers.
Once the free agency bell rings, the Browns must go out and sign some older players who have been labeled as “washed up” and maybe a few younger players whose careers have been defined by their possible potential.
It became evident by our draft class that the team has gone away from Mangini's straight-laced players to acquiring players based on their talents.
So, I have assembled a realistic list of 10 possible free agents (excluding undrafted rookies) who could soon be wearing Cleveland's favorite colors, orange and brown.
10. DT Cullen Jenkins
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Jenkins has had quite a successful career while playing for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. With his size, many believe that Jenkins fits best as a defensive end in the 3-4 scheme. Which is why the Packers may try to re-sign the defensive lineman for a couple more years.
But, the Browns will have the chance to convince Jenkins that he could become a integral piece of Dick Jauron's 4-3 scheme. The Browns will also have to “show him the money.”
Aside from that, Jenkins could play at both DE and DT, providing the Browns with the versatile defensive lineman they have been missing for years.
9. LB Ernie Sims
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Sims is a top 10 draft choice that never panned out for the Lions. Sims would be given the opportunity in Cleveland to remind people why he was so highly thought of when coming out of Florida State. He's a sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker, who in recent years has seen his playing time dwindle.
This would be a great signing for the Browns for two reasons. One, he will probably come pretty cheap. And two, he would provide speed and athleticism to a linebacking core that lacks athletes.
8. OG/OT Robert Gallery
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Everyone thought that Gallery was going to be the next sure-thing at left tackle and would anchor Oakland's line for years to come. A couple of years have past, and Gallery has since been moved to the interior part of the line.
Teams quickly realized that Gallery was too slow to be protecting the quarterback's blind side and would send blitzes his direction all day. But, in the last couple of years Gallery has done a nice job with his move to guard, providing the Raiders with a big body in the running game.
The Browns know that the right side of the line needs attention, and Gallery could be a player of interest for the starting right guard position. They will need to pay big, big bucks, but offensive linemen never come cheap. The Browns have a shot at signing Gallery, but other teams may offer massive contracts, which the Browns likely will not match.
7. DB Darren Sharper/Lito Sheppard
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Both Sharper and Sheppard will probably decide to sign with a super bowl contending team. Also, both are on the downside of their careers, but they could provide veteran leadership in the locker room.
The signing of Sharper would provide the Browns with a coverage safety that would complement Ward's hard-hitting style well. The Browns would also be able to keep Sheldon Brown at corner, allowing them to have three legitimate corners on the team (pending the re-signing of Eric Wright).
If the Browns were to sign Sheppard, they would also have to sign another defensive back. It would probably be a free safety since they are reluctant to move Sheldon Brown to that spot.
The likelihood of either player signing with the Browns is pretty low, but if there are no other takers, they may consider signing with a team such as the Browns
6. OT Jared Gaither
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It is always pleasing taking a player away from an AFC North team, especially from the team that used to occupy Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Although there have been reports that the Browns are not interested in Gaither, it could just be a smoke-screen devised by the Holmgren-Heckert front office.
Jared Gaither has not lived up to the Ravens' expectations, but many still believe that he has great potential. The reason Baltimore does not want to re-sign him is because his work ethic has continually been questioned, which does not go over well in a Ray Lewis locker room.
The Browns would probably have to over-pay to acquire Gaither, but his gigantic size and strength would do wonders for the Browns' running game. I could see the Browns contacting Gaither if their top choices sign with other clubs.
5. OT Khalif Barnes
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Barnes has played in at least 13 games in five of the past six seasons, which is considered consistent for any offensive lineman. During the past few seasons the Browns have lacked consistency on the right side of their offensive line and are desperate for a player who could anchor the right side for many years to come.
But, if the Browns want to get someone like a Barnes or Tyson Clabo (Atlanta Falcons), they may have to empty their pockets, because both of these guys are going to demand top dollar. It might be worth it for the Browns if they realize Colt McCoy cannot take the big hits he got accustomed to his rookie year.
The chances the Browns sign Barnes will increase or decrease depending on the contracts similar offensive linemen obtain.
4. WR Sidney Rice
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Rice was injured for the majority of last year, but one cannot look past the impact he had on the Vikings offense in 2009. His emergence made Brett Favre look as if he were still 20 years old. Rice's combination of size and speed is what makes him so valuable and possibly unattainable for the Browns.
The Browns front office has re-iterated many times that they are satisfied with their receivers and believe that they can flourish is Shurmur's West Coast offense. But, Heckert and Holmgren will have to do their homework, because they can't hesitate in adding a player with Rice's ability and skills.
There is a chance for the Browns to sign someone like Rice, Vincent Jackson, or maybe Lance Moore, but I would not put all my marbles in that basket.
3. FS Donte Whitner
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Whitner is a Cleveland native who would fill the hole at free safety for the Browns. The familiarity with defensive coordinator Dick Jauron will certainly help the Browns chances in signing Whitner.
His skills do not complement Ward's hard-hitting style that well because he also lacks pass coverage awareness. But, the reality is that he is a young athletic player who is familiar with the 4-3 defensive scheme, so the Browns must do whatever they must to get him signed.
He has put up respectable tackling statistics while playing in Buffalo but will need to improve his pass coverage skills if he ever wants to become a perennial Pro-Bowl player.
2. LB Barrett Rudd
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If Rudd were to sign with the Browns, the Cleveland fans would soon adopt him as one of their own. The new 4-3 defensive scheme that the Browns are implementing is similar to the defensive scheme in which Rudd has accumulated at least 114 tackles in each of the past four seasons.
Many would quickly consider him one of our best defensive players because of his football intelligence and the speed at which he plays the game. He always seemed to be around the football every time the Buc's defense was on the field.
His game is very similar to that of James Laurenitis. He's not going to excite many people with his athletic ability, but he effectively takes down the ball carrier and plays well enough in coverage to remain on the field in third down situations.
I like the Browns chances of signing Rudd or a similar player like Paul Poslusnzy, who played under Brown's defensive coordinator Dick Jauron in Buffalo.
1. DE Mathias Kiwanuka
There is no doubt about it, Kiwanuka is going to be a hot commodity once free agency begins. He has had some injuries during his career and has never really started a full season. But, he can rush the passer, something the Browns are desperate for.
The Giants tried to convert Mathias to an OLB, but when injuries occurred on the defensive line, Kiwanuka was asked to play DE (his natural position he played in college). He did an exceptional job filling in that season with 50 tackles and 7.5 sacks.
If the Browns were able to sign him to a contract, the addition would make for an adequate defensive line. Third-and-long situations for opposing quarterbacks would be a nightmare with Kiwanuka and Sheard rushing off the edges.