There are certain levels of possible excitement in one's life. It can be something simple that just brings a smile to your face, like when your crush retweets you (because that obviously means she digs you. At least a little bit, right?). Or it can be something other-wordly, like the N64 kid.
Football fans across the country are now like that kid on Christmas. Santa Claus exists as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith. And that N64 under the tree is our football. That glorious, glorious football.
It's officially back. Time to get excited.
OK, so having a lockout the past few months has sucked. We can all agree about that. But, looking at the glass half full (as we always do at TCB), having months of the NFL offseason boiled down to one supercharged week
might will be awesome.
Here are some Cliff's Notes regarding the Browns' free agency, their salary cap situation, their needs and potential targets.
Salary Cap Situation
Here is a breakdown of the salary cap situation. If any numbers have changed within the past few days (and they very well might have), I'm sorry. Full refunds are available:
- Salary cap for all 32 teams is set at $120 million.
- Salary floor for all teams is at 90 percent of the cap. So, $108 million.
- The Browns are currently $33 million under the cap.
- This means that the Browns NEED to spend at least $21 million this offseason.
What does this mean? It means that the Browns will need to sign at least a few quality football players this upcoming week.
The Browns Needs
When you haven't had back-to-back winning seasons in over 20 years, you are going to have a ton of needs, which the Browns do. Here is my take on the Browns top five needs:
This has got to be a top priority for the Browns. I mean, just look at the roster! Matt Roth is goi ng to be gone. I like Jabaal Sheard as much as I can like any unproven second round rookie.
The best pass rusher on the team last year, according to the GM, was Jayme Mitchell—a guy who didn't even dress one game for the Browns last season (and now a free agent).
Marcus Benard has potential, but he was just a situational pass rusher in a different defensive scheme. Then there is Derreck Robinson. So, yeah.
T.J. Ward needs a complementary safety. A ying to his yang, a.k.a. a guy who can cover the field while he tries to kill the likes of Jordan Shipley. While I am wholly indifferent to losing Abe Elam, the fact remains that leaves (or remains?) a gaping hole at the FS position.
Mike Adams is best suited as the utility defensive back. Can Sheldon Brown play FS? I have no idea. Maybe. That's for the coaches to figure out. If he can, then cornerback gets hoisted up to this spot.
I like Scott Fujita and I like Chris Gocong. D'Qwell Jackson is serviceable but has a hard time staying healthy and is coming off of a torn pectoral injury for the second straight year. It's hard to count on him.
Plus, I've heard too many former players/analysts bring up the "he makes all his tackles 5-7 yards down the field" thing for it not to have rubbed off on me. The rest of the linebacking corps on the roster
are should be strictly Special Teams contributors. The middle linebacker position is essential to running a successful 4-3.
The center and left side of the line is great. Well, Joe Thomas is great. Alex Mack is really good. But Eric Steinbach might just a really expensive bum, according to Pro Football Focus. Whatever.
On the other side, the projected starters are a second year, fourth round draft pick who didn't get to play too much and a guy who was injured for the most part of last year. Two of our best back ups last season, Porkchop Womack and Billy Yates, are free agents. Sheesh.
Joe Haden is awesome—both on the field and off. That's a given. After that? Sheldon Brown is aging and Eric Wright (a free agent) had a confidence-shatteringly bad season. After them? Oh wait. Never mind. We only kept three corners last year. But on the bright side, we did draft a guy named Buster. So we'll see about him.
What's that? No wide receiver in the top needs? Am I crazy?
Well, in my defense, I would list it as the sixth need.. which is kind of depressing considering how weak the receiving group was last year. But I just think these other needs are more vital. Plus, I'm irrationally excited about Greg Little, a guy who was busy getting parking tickets instead of playing football this past year.
The other popular need often discussed is the third-down, change of pace back. This was a huge need last year, but it shouldn't be this year with Montario Hardesty, if he is healthy. (Yes, I realize that may be a big "if.") Either way, I'm ready to roll the dice with these two and an undrafted rookie free agent. Besides, veteran free agent running backs don't seem to pan out too well anyways.
Bottom line: basically ANY free agent signing COULD help this team.
How depressing was that last section? I need some Zoloft. That, or a list of guys who can alleviate the aforementioned needs:
Ray Edwards, DE
He has put up solid and consistent numbers through out his career, but never any astronomical numbers to justify his soon-to-be astronomical paychecks. He has never had a double-digit sack year. Personally, that scares me, especially considering on that same line he had the Williams' mountains and Jared Allen—basically meaning that he probably rarely faced a double-team.
Clearly the guy is talented and I would still be stoked to get him. It would take me all of five seconds for me to talk myself into him being the missing piece. But I don't see it happening ... Browns likelihood: Could see it, but wouldn't bet on it, even with odds.
Charles Johnson, DE
This is sort of the bizarro Ray-Edwards. Instead of underwhelming, consistent statistics over the past few years, Johnson came onto the scene like a bat of hell in his first year out of Julius Peppers' shadow, getting 10.5 sacks. Also unlike Edwards, he played on a team with a really crappy defensive line. But he still made plays. For that reason, I think he'll get a big day ... Browns likelihood: I think they are interested, but he might end up being too rich for our blood.
Mathias Kiwanuka, DE
This is my favorite guy. He is a monster when healthy and fully versed in the 4-3 defense. He is coming off of an injury, but the Giants still put a second round tender on him. That tender doesn't mean anything now in the new CBA, other than the fact that the Giants still think he can play. As long as he isn't Whole Foods-expensive, this is my favorite potential signing ... Browns likelihood: Hopefully but maybe to risky.
Michael Huff, FS
He has the pedigree of a top 10 pick and is a good cover safety. He might be the ideal guy, but wouldn't come at an ideal price tag. He is originally from Texas, which has fueled speculation that he would want to become a Cowboy. Dallas is over the cap, so I am not sure how they could afford him. But they have smarter folk than me working their books, so I'm sure they can figure it out if they wanted it to happen ... Browns likelihood: Doubtful.
Donte Whitner, SS
He also has the pedigree of a top 10 pick... but notice the "SS"... he is basically T.J. Ward in terms of style of play. As much as it pains me to say, I don't think this would make sense. Browns likelihood: Unlikely.
Quintin Mikell, FS
Former Eagles will always make sense ... Browns likelihood: Most logical bet here.
Barrett Ruud, MLB
The best of the bunch at this position. But with the Bucs over $50 million under the salary cap, I cannot imagine them not being able to re-sign him ... Browns likelihood: Doubtful.
Paul Posluszny, MLB
This Big Ten standout would immediately be beloved by fans. He wouldn't break the bank either. He would be a great signing, but it sounds like he is interested in re-signing with Buffalo ... Browns likelihood: Makes sense, maybe unlikely though.
Rocky McIntosh, MLB
This is just an example of the next-tier middle linebackers. Also, his name is Rocky ... Browns likelihood: Rocky? Not sure. Someone else from this tier? Likely.
Logan Mankins, G
He is simply a man with a gorgeous beard who will maul you. I'd love him, but he will probably come at too high of a price tag ... Browns likelihood: Probably too expensive.
Alan Faneca, G
Yeah, I know he is in his 13th year and that he is looking for a contender. But wouldn't it be sweet if we took someone from the Steelers to knock them in the mouth? Just saying ... Browns likelihood: Slim to none.
Carl Nicks, G
He is young and a stud. He is also a restricted free agent, meaning he will likely remain with the Saints ... Browns likelihood: Don't count on it.
Max Jean-Gilles, G
Former Eagle means that this is a guy that Heckert knows. He is big, athletic for his size and I remember he was highly regarded coming into the draft. He wouldn't cost a lot of money because he has been struggling with injuries and is still a question mark. But if Heckert is going to bet on any question marks, I'd think he'd bet on a former pick of his. Browns likelihood: This actually makes a lot of sense, if he is healthy.
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB
The cream of the free agent crop. I think he gave up only 15 completions last year! This guy is a monster. But if you want him eating up opponents #1 wide receivers, you are going to have him eating up A LOT of your cap space too ... Browns likelihood: Slim to none.
Jonathon Joseph, CB
A great corner. And again, wouldn't it be nice to snag someone from your own division? He might be too expensive as well though ... Browns likelihood: Doubtful.
Ellis Hobbs, CB
Another former Eagle... anyone smell a pattern? ... Browns likelihood: Wouldn't surprise me.
The Browns general philosophy is to build through the draft (as it should be). So do not expect them to spend an arm and a leg on someone when they are still a few years from legitimately contending. They do not need to be financially handcuffed to a bad deal when they are ready to really compete.
My guess is that they sign some lesser known guys as they search for a few diamonds in the rough. And with Holmgren and Heckert running the show, that makes me excited.
(Have any more suggestions/predictions? Share them in the comments. Also, feel free to check out my Cleveland sports site, Ten Cent Beers.)