For a team that’s supposed to be in a rebuilding year, the Cleveland Browns certainly have been active on the free agency front.
There is a popular school of thought that contends you don’t build a winning team through free agency, you do it through the draft, using free agency to fit the final pieces of the puzzle together.
In the last week, Team President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert have signed a right tackle, a linebacker, and a tight end. These positions were all listed as “needs” going into next month’s draft.
With the signings, the Browns now can focus more on the secondary and *Sigh* a quarterback.
Holmgren not only did not commit to Brady Quinn, he said Quinn’s status with the team will depend on what happens with the rest of the free agency period and if they take a quarterback in the draft.
Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme came and went this week without a contract, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
A lot of people are willing to give Holmgren the benefit of the doubt when it comes to quarterbacks, and for good reason. His track record speaks for itself.
That being said, if Quinn doesn’t get at least one more shot at being the Browns’ franchise quarterback, the team is throwing away yet another first-round draft choice.
Quinn isn’t perfect, but bad coaching, inconsistent play by receivers and injuries all have hampered his development. Accuracy seems to be the big issue for Quinn at this point, but that is a fixable issue.
Moving to the other positions, Tony Pashos should be an instant upgrade for the right side of the line while newly signed tight end Ben Watson automatically is better than any other tight end on the team, including late-season standout Evan Moore.
Watson’s signing came at the expense of Steve Heiden. Heiden’s effectiveness has been severely hampered by injuries to his ACL and ankle, which shut him down at the end of the 2008 season and the last seven games of the 2009 season.
Together, those injuries, combined with age, will reduce Heiden’s ability to be an effective blocker, an essential component of a tight end’s job. Heiden still could catch on somewhere else, but after 11 seasons, his career may be over.
With the draft now about six weeks away, the Browns have to prioritize their first few picks, while waiting to see how many of their restricted free agents sign the second-round tenders.
Linebacker Jason Trusnik signed his tender the other day, leaving five more players up in the air.
If the Browns receive even one more second-round pick, definitely look for a quarterback to be taken in the second round.
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is the most likely restricted free agent to go elsewhere, but his inability to get quarterback sacks is the reason the Browns only gave him a second-round tender.
With the first pick next month, the Browns now are free to go after an Eric Berry or Joe Haden, depending who is still on the board. The secondary should be the Browns' top priority in this year’s draft.
Ultimately though, with these signings, the Browns have added depth to the roster and taken pressure off of this year’s draft class.
Of course, there still is that quarterback issue . . .