NFL Free Agency: Cleveland Browns Position Team Well with Six Tenders

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IMarch 5, 2010

CLEVELAND - JANUARY 03:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns runs by Derek Cox #21 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

In what hopefully will be regarded in hindsight as a brilliant move, the Cleveland Browns offered six restricted free agents the second round tender Thursday.

This means that the six players tendered—safety Abram Elam, running back Jerome Harrison, linebackers D’Qwell Jackson, Jason Trusnik and Matt Roth, and fullback Lawrence Vickers—were offered salaries of $1.759 million for 2010.

Other teams who want the services of these players would have to give their second round pick to the Browns to complete a deal.

Of note, though, is the fact safety Brodney Pool was not offered a tender. Pool’s history of concussions and an uncertain future has put his career in jeopardy. While Pool has played well, the Browns obviously have decided it’s best for the team to move on.

This isn’t to say he couldn’t end up signing a contract with the Browns at a later date, but at this point, it looks like Pool’s career with the Browns is over.

As for the six players who were tendered, this opens up a lot of options for the Browns going into the NFL draft. They now have six players under the age of 30 who they can keep for a relatively cheap price.

Even better, if some other team wants to match the tender, or pay them more, the Browns will get another second round draft pick. So the potential for six more second round draft picks now sits in the air.

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It’s extremely doubtful that all six will end up in other uniforms, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility if two of these guys are deemed worthy of the price, as Jackson almost certainly will be gone.

You have to think the Browns are hoping a few of these guys end up being coveted by other teams, as having the extra second round picks not only gets them better talent, it also helps if they want to engineer trades of their own.

With 11 draft picks already in the bag for this April’s draft, the potential now rises to 17. That’s a ridiculous number, but fun to say.

The question now is, which guys do the Browns feel are expendable? Not all six of these tenders were made with the idea of actually keeping them.

Jackson already is upset he’s not getting offered a big contract, so the Browns had to have put the second round tag on him for two reasons: The first being to let Jackson know they’re the ones in charge, and the second being they believe the second round tender guarantees another team will make a play for him.

You can’t put a first round tender on a guy who spent most of last year injured, and whose career numbers don’t back up trading a first round pick. The man only has three career quarterback sacks; that’s not good enough.

Harrison's tender is a very calculated risk. It tells us the Browns want to keep him but are willing to part ways if Harrison is offered enough money elsewhere. His ability to make it through a 16-game season is under question.

Those questions, however, are based on limited appearances and a short stretch of games last year where he virtually disappeared. Various rumors and theories have been floated about him taking a real beating and needing to heal, but be was buried behind Jamal Lewis for most of the season.

Still, Harrison finished with 862 yards on 194 carries through 14 games with five touchdowns. That's an average of 4.4 yards per carry. Of critical importance here is the fact 570 of those yards came in the last five games after Lewis was injured and off the team.

Team President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert made a bold statement on Thursday. They told their players and the league that they will only keep the players they want to keep on the teams’ terms.

The Browns now are making the kinds of moves that build championship teams, exactly the kind of organization Holmgren promised to build his first day on the job.