Cleveland Browns: Buy or Sell Every Browns Move in Free Agency This Offseason
It's an adjustment; after such a long time where absolutely nothing happened, it now seems like things are moving at breakneck speed.
And now that we're back in business and gearing up for the 2011 season, it also seems like a good time to review what the Browns have done thus far during the offseason with regard to free agency.
Today, we'll take a look at the moves the Browns have made so far from a "buy or sell?" perspective. Is the move a "buy" in that it made sense for the Browns future, or is it a "sell" in that they may not have made the correct choice?
On Wednesday, I'll be putting together an offseason report card for the Browns which addresses their overall grade for every offseason situation.
In this piece, however, we discuss only those moves that relate to free agency (players re-signed, players not re-signed or cut, and new players from other teams brought in through free agency).
We'll also look at players who were not free agents who were cut or released. This piece will not include draft picks and signings or undrafted free agent signings.
As always, please share your own "buy or sell" opinions on the Browns offseason activity in the comments below!
1. Re-Signed Players
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Given that we've suffered through an entire lockout since, moves the Browns made way back at the start of the offseason before the lockout went into effect feel like they happened a lifetime ago. However, the Browns made several important moves then that need to be discussed.
Backup QB Seneca Wallace and LB D'Qwell Jackson were both re-signed with the Browns back in the beginning of March. To me, both of these moves should be considered "buys."
Wallace got a three-year deal that will keep him in Cleveland as Colt McCoy's backup for several seasons to come. Wallace is what I would consider a top-notch backup. He's not really starter material, but he's among the best in the NFL in terms of backups.
Jackson, who signed a one-year deal, doesn't present quite such a cut-and-dried case, but I still consider the signing a move that I'll buy.
It's a one-year contract, which gives Jackson time to prove he's the kind of player the Browns want to keep around for the future, but also gives them an easy out card if Jackson can't get the job done.
Another buy move on re-signing players eligible for free agency is the franchising and subsequent re-signing of kicker Phil Dawson. It seems odd to franchise a kicker, but the Browns didn't have any other players who were really a good fit for a franchise tag, so designating Dawson as such was a good move.
The franchise tag was of course applied before the lockout, and on July 30, Dawson was tendered at $3.25 million for the year. Next season, Dawson will again be eligible for free agency, but for the time being, the Browns have locked him up to remain their kicker for 2011.
2. Re-Signed Players (Continued)
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Continuing with players the Browns have re-signed, let's first look at defensive lineman Brian Schaefering. This move was definitely a "buy." Schaefering still has a long way to go to prove he's a viable NFL starter week in and week out, but he definitely has potential and if nothing else, will be a solid backup.
The Browns also re-signed Derreck Robinson, another defensive lineman. I'm fine with calling this one a "buy" as well. I don't see Robinson as a potential starter, but he came at a low price and could be serviceable as a backup.
Then there's ERFA LB Marcus Benard, who might wing up being the biggest "buy" of all the re-signed players for the Browns this offseason, though we'll have to wait to see how he does in 2011 to find out for certain. Nevertheless, it was an easy call for the Browns to choose to resign Benard this year.
Then there's guard Billy Yates. This too is a definite "buy." Yates was a guy who many of us underestimated prior to the 2010 season, and he was a pleasant surprise for the Browns throughout the year.
In the nine games he played in 2010 he started just three, but I would expect he'll fight for a more permanent starting job on the line this season.
I'm not certain that he's really the answer to fortifying the right side of the line for the Browns permanently, but I definitely wouldn't want to lose him as an option at RG.
Finally, there's RFA TE Evan Moore, who was re-signed on July 30. While he's had some injury issues in the past, Moore has been excellent when he's been healthy, and at least thus far in 2011, he appears to be injury-free.
Unless he winds up on the IR for the majority of the 2011 season, this move is an indisputable "buy."
3. Players Cut, Released, or Signed with Other Teams
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The Browns parted ways with a number of ex-roster members way back at the beginning of the offseason, the most notable of which was the ever-troublesome Shaun Rogers.
The Browns chose to let Rogers go based on his poor attitude and work ethic, off-field problems, and general inability to make up for all of that with his play on the field. The move was a "buy" for certain. Rogers quickly signed with New Orleans after the Browns let him go. I say, good. Let him be someone else's problem.
Others whose contracts were terminated back before the lockout came into effect were: DL Kenyon Coleman, OL John St. Clair, LB David Bowens, TE Robert Royal and LB Eric Barton. These too were easily all "buys."
Coleman and Bowens are the only two who I might have even hesitated in the slightest on, but Coleman is too big a risk with too little potential reward, and Bowens, while a hard worker and good guy, is simply too old and ineffective to continue getting the job done.
4. Players Cut, Released, or Signed with Other Teams (Continued)
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When Jake Delhomme was cut by the Browns last week, I doubt there was a single person in Cleveland who would have argued that this move wasn't a "buy."
I'll admit I was a bit sad seeing Delhomme leave, but only because I had hoped he would be willing to give up his job as the third-string quarterback and move into a coaching role.
But in terms of what he offers on the field, the Browns were absolutely right to let Delhomme go. With Wallace re-signed as the backup and Jarrett Brown brought in as a possible third-string option back at the beginning of the offseason, there just isn't a role with the Browns any more for an aging and ineffective QB like Delhomme anymore.
This brings me to the first "sell" move of the offseason. That move was allowing Eric Wright to leave. I know, I know: CB Wright had a very rough 2010. I'll admit there were times I wished he'd been cut right in the middle of the season.
But he did show improvement toward the end of 2010, and the Browns don't have a ton of depth at CB. If Wright could have kept the mental mistakes to a minimum, he could have snagged and kept the starting CB job.
Instead, the Browns, despite having tendered him, lost him to the Lions. The compensation for losing a tendered player may wind up being worth it in the end, depending how Wright does this season with the Lions and how the Browns do this season without him.
We could see a shift to a "buy" on this move eventually, but until the Browns build out some depth at CB, I'm calling it a "sell."
LB Jason Trusnik left the Browns as a free agent and has signed with the Miami Dolphins. Letting Trusnik go seems easily like a "buy." He wasn't a player who had nothing to offer, but the Browns have more than enough mediocre LBs on the roster. They were smart to let Trusnik go and spend their money on other things.
Lastly, there's Guard Floyd "Porkchop" Womack, who was a free agent and left the Browns to sign with the Cardinals. While I'll miss having a player called Porkchop around (who wouldn't?), I'm fine with the Browns letting him leave and will call the fact that he wasn't re-signed a "buy."
Womack wasn't completely without value, but he was too old and weak to do the job we needed him to do.
5. Newly Acquired Free Agents
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First, let's talk about the two players the Browns have brought in thus far via trade rather than free agency: they are DT Brodrick Bunkley and G John Greco.
Bunkley was acquired from the Eagles in exchange for the Browns 2012 fifth-round pick. A fifth-rounder is costly enough to force us to carefully evaluate the deal, but overall, I like the move and will call it a sell. Bunkley is excellent against the run, an area in which the Browns defense has struggled in recent years.
While he started only five games for Philadelphia last season due to an ongoing elbow issue, he seems healthy now and is good insurance if nothing else given that first-round pick Phil Taylor has yet to sign his contract with the Browns.
Then there's Greco, a guard for whom the Browns traded a conditional seventh-round pick to St.Louis. Any time you trade for a conditional pick, it's a good assumption that the move is a "buy."
That appears to be the case here, as the Browns have only offered a seventh rounder for him, and they won't even have to give the Rams that if Greco doesn't start. It's a very safe agreement that can really only help the Browns.
Next let's look at QB Jarrett Brown, who the Browns signed way back in January. I like Brown as a possible third-string QB for Cleveland, and he wasn't expensive to bring in at all. The move is definitely a "buy."
Lastly, there's former Packer RB Brandon Jackson, signed to a two-year contract that will pay $4.5 million over two years. This is a great move for the Browns and a definite "buy."
The Browns had serious depth concerns at RB with Montario Hardesty's health issues, so it made a lot of sense for them to bring in a guy like Jackson.
He's a huge upgrade over Mike Bell, so unless Hardesty miraculously stays healthy this year, we'll assume Jackson will be sitting directly behind Payton Hillis as the second RB on the Browns' depth chart.
Beyond that, the rest of the signings from outside were UDFAs which I'll discuss later this week. The Browns have stated that they won't be "very aggressive" in the free agent market this year, but we should expect to see a few more players brought in as training camp gets underway.