Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; A Cleveland Browns helmet sits on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of New England

Browns: 2014 NFL Free Agency Options

NFL Free Agency 2014 is rapidly approaching for the Cleveland Browns, with the new league year starting March 11th. With the 2014 salary cap set for NFL  at $133 million, nearly a $10 million dollar jump per team from last years number, the Browns will have $56.9 million to work with. The Browns have many holes to fill in the current roster most notably at Quarterback, Offensive Line, Linebacker, Running Back, Corner, and Safety. The Browns will start the new league year  according to overthecap.com with the second highest cap space available, the Oakland Raiders have the top spot with $66.5 million.  The NFL on Friday (February 28th) set the cost of franchise tags and transition tags, which could be used with the currently available free agents, and must be applied by the Browns no later than 4 p.m on Monday (March 3rd).  In my opinion the Browns will be active in free agency to address much-needed upgrades in the secondary and offensive line, but the really surprise will be how the Browns turn their attention to the current roster of 2015 free agents. The following are ten options that the Browns should explore during the 2014 free agency period:

1. Alex Mack, Center, Cleveland Browns

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Mack the two-time Pro Bowler and second-team all pro is arguably the best center in the NFL. Cleveland’s front office has made it very clear they have every intention of getting a long-term deal done with the would be free agent. Mack is a central piece of the offense and with Quarterback Brian Hoyer coming back of injury, and the prospect of the Browns drafting a rookie quarterback its important to keep them both healthy heading into next season.

Previous Contract: 5yrs – $14.6M

Predicted Contract: 6yrs – $66.5

2. T.J. Ward, Strong Safety, Cleveland Browns

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

T.J. Ward  the first time Pro Bowler and All-Pro safety is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. Ward started all 54 games that he has appeared in during the last four seasons and has been a key play-maker for the Browns. Over his four-year career with the Browns Ward has accumulated five interceptions and five forced fumbles. Ward has been the subject of the rumor mill as of late, and is expected to have the franchise tag applied to him by the Browns.

Previous Contract: 4yrs – $5.08M

Predicted Contract: Franchise Tag – $8.4M

3. Joe Haden, Cornerback, Cleveland Browns

Status: 2015 Free Agent

Pro Bowler Joe Haden is a young athletic shut-down corner who is coming into his own in the NFL. The Browns front office has made him a priority during the 2014 off-season to get him inked into a long-term extension before he enters the final year of his current deal. Haden is a leader on the Browns defense and the front office does not want to let the young corp of talent on the roster to hit the open market after the 2014 season.

Previous Contract: 5yrs – $40M

Predicted Contract: 5yrs – $50M

4. Sam Shields, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Shields is a young athletic corner who is coming off a 2013 campaign in which opposing quarterbacks only completed half their throws in his direction. The 2013 season was a career best for Shields with 61 tackles and four interceptions. The Browns have been searching high and low for a corner to pair with Pro-Bowler Joe Haden, and Shields fits the bill.

Previous Contract: 1yr – $2.02M

Predicted Contract: 4ys- $29.3M

5. Jairus Byrd, Free Safety, Buffalo Bills

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Byrd the three-time Pro Bowler is a tough, athletic safety that the Bills are despite to re-sign, unless they place the franchise tag on him for a second straight year, he is liable to walk. Byrd missed several games in 2013 with plantar fasciitis in both of his feet. Despite the nagging injury Byrd was still named to the Pro Bowl. In only 11 games of the 2013 season Byrd had 48 tackles, a sack, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Byrd played under to new Browns Head coach Mike Pettine during his tenure as the Bills defensive coordinator and Byrd may fit the scheme Pettine wants to run in Cleveland.

Previous Contract: Franchise Tag – $6.9M

Predicted Contract: 4yrs -$39.6M

6. Chad Rinehart, Offensive Guard, San Diego Chargers

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

The 29-year-old Charger is coming off a 2013 campaign were he had reduced snaps due to a nagging toe injury. Rinehart is a gritty  interior lineman who can step in and have an immediate impact in the run game. The Browns will need an upgrade at the guard position especially with free agents Oniel Cousins and Shawn Lauvao set to exit Berea.

Previous Contract: 1yr – $1.25M

Predicted Contract: 2yrs -$2.3M

7. Jordan Cameron, Tight End, Cleveland Browns

Status: 2015 Free Agent

Pro Bowl Tight End  Jordan Cameron has quickly developed into one of Cleveland’s top offensive players. He finished the 2013 season ranked second to Wide Receiver Josh Gordon with 75 receptions, 848 yards and seven touchdowns. Cameron was a primary target for Browns Quarterback Brian Hoyer, and was impressive with his ability to make the big plays when the offense needed them during the 2013 season.

Previous Contract: 4yrs – $2.5M

Predicted Contract: 5yrs – $14.1M

8. Phil Taylor, Defensive Tackle, Cleveland Browns

Status: 2015 Free Agent

Nose Tackle Phil Taylor is a young, aggressive leader of the Browns defensive line. Taylor play in 15 games during the  2013 season but saw a dip in his playing time, only taking just 555 defensive snaps, and was rotated out during passing.  New Browns head coach Mike Pettine runs a multiple-front defense, and Taylor is stout against the run, breaking up the point of attack and should be utilized heavily by the Browns in the upcoming 2014 season.

Previous Contract: 4yrs – $8.09M

Predicted Contract: 4yrs – $27M

9. Jabaal Sheard, Outside Linebacker/Defensive End, Cleveland Browns

Status: 2015 Free Agent

Sheard is a young, tough Outside Linebacker/ Defensive End who can rush the quarterback and can transition to coverage. Sheard was speculated to not be a good fit for the Browns when they switched to the 3-4 scheme, but proved everyone wrong during the Browns OTAs. However nagging injuries throughout the 2013 season limited Sheard to rotational duties off the bench with the Browns linebacker corps. New Browns head coach Mike Pettine runs a multiple-front defense, and if he stay’s healthy and continues to improve in the scheme, Sheard could be poised for a breakout year in 2014..

Previous Contract: 4yrs – $5.09M

Predicted Contract: 4yrs $8.8M

10. Arthur Moats, Inside Linebacker, Buffalo Bills

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent

Arthur Moats is a young Bills linebacker who finished the 2013 campaign on injured reserve due to an ankle injury. Moats connection to new Browns head coach Mike Pettine, and Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil should not be ignored and that makes him an asset to be had due to his understanding of the scheme.

Previous Contract: 4yrs – $2.4M

Predicted Contract: 2yrs – $1.1M

* All of the contract information was researched, and assessed for each free agent based on current player salaries who are of similar age, and skills. (Overthecap.com; spotrac.com) The predicted contracts are based on my opinion with no insider information or insight into the Cleveland Browns front office.

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