Since the clock struck 12:01 on Friday morning, rosters have been changing all over the NFL.
The Chicago Bears made the most noise in free agency by throwing $55 million of GUARANTEED money at three players: tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, running back Chester Taylor, and defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers will receive the majority of that figure, a total of $42 million guaranteed, which is an NFL record.
Until today, the Browns had stayed relatively quiet.
Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert had previously stated that the Browns were not going to be major players in this free agent market.
However, that changed with the signing of two players today.
The new Cleveland Browns are offensive lineman Tony Pashos, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, and linebacker Scott Fujita, formerly a member of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. Pashos receives a three-year deal for $10 million and Fujita will receive a multi-year contract of which the details have not yet been disclosed.
So what do these signings mean for the Cleveland Browns?
The addition of Fujita will bring stability to a group of linebackers that has seemingly been a revolving door of unproductive, injury-prone players over the last few seasons.
While the Browns saw some bright spots in late-season addition Matt Roth, the team needed to bring in a veteran presence that would help anchor the defense throughout the entire season. The Cleveland Browns got their man in Fujita. If you are looking for durability, then Fujita has what you need with 103 starts in 120 games played in his career.
The signing of Fujita brings more versatility to the group of linebackers because of his ability to play inside or outside in the 3-4 defense. It could also open the door to the Browns drafting a “project”-type defensive end/outside linebacker if that prospect is the best available when they draft in the first round.
The signing of Pashos has more of a question mark, although many feel that he will be the opening day right tackle.
Over the past few years the Browns’ offensive line has been riddled with journeymen right guards and right tackles, while the left side of the line has been its heart and soul. After Ryan Tucker made his illustrious exit with mental problems, the right side of the line has been, at the very least, a disaster for our offense.
The Browns hope that with the addition of Pashos, a guy who started one game out of five appearances for the 49ers last season, the group of Rex Hadnot, Floyd Womack, and John St. Clair will fight for the right guard position.
Personally, I am not sold on Pashos, but his big body and ability to play the entire line will be a welcome addition to a less-than-stellar right side. Hopefully the Browns are still targeting other line prospects, either via free agency or the draft.
With the front office finally coming out of hibernation in the free agency period (I wonder if the surprisingly spring-like weather here this weekend woke them up), we can only hope that this opens the door for more solid additions to the Browns’ roster.
Personally, I feel that we can significantly upgrade the following positions in the next few weeks before the draft:
· Defensive Line
· Wide Receiver
· Running Back
· Tight End
· Offensive Line
Oh wait, that’s our entire roster except for special teams. Here’s to hoping that Holmgren can find some help somewhere!