The Cleveland Browns in Free Agency and Undrafted Pro-Bowlers
The Browns have been quiet since the NFL opened free agency.
They signed 20-some undrafted free agents to round out their roster, but the big money moves appear to be happening elsewhere.
Why aren’t the Browns doing anything, and should we be excited about all these undrafted “studs” they just signed?
The Browns aren’t signing anyone. Personally, I am 0-2 on players I thought they would make a play for in Paul Posluszny and Quintin Mikell (Posluszny signed with Jacksonville and Mikell with St. Louis). The market is running high, and players are getting paid. The Browns are not going to this party.
Two main schools of thought here.
One – Free agency is fool’s gold, and the Browns know even guys like Posluszny and Mikell can’t be core players when the team contends from 2014-2018. Yes, they might just be that far away.
We hear that good teams “build through the draft,” all the time. That might as well be GM Tom Heckert’s theme song. Well here’s what that means….
The Pittsburgh Steelers have 4 players still on their roster from their 2005 draft. These four guys are pretty good since they were resigned after their 5-year rookie contracts were up.
- They have 0 players remaining from their 2006 draft,
- They have 5 players remaining from their 2007 draft,
- They have 2 players remaining from their 2008 draft,
- And, 5 of the 9 players they drafted in 2009 are still on the team too. I think we can all agree the Steelers have a good team.
The Baltimore Ravens history of draft picks retained since 2005 is similar:
- They have 0 players left from their 2005 draft,
- 4 players left from 2006,
- 3 players left from 2007,
- 7 players left from 2008,
- And 3 of the 5 players they drafted in 2009 are still on the team.
Since the 2005 the Browns have:
- 0 players left from the 2005 draft,
- 0 players left from the 2006 draft, if Lawrence Vickers does indeed walk,
- 2 players left from 2007, assuming Eric Wright comes back,
- 1 player left from 2008,
- And 5 of 8 players they drafted in 2009 are still on the team.
Do the math. Since the 2005, the Steelers have drafted 16 young players (ages 23-28) who are still on their team, the Ravens have 17, and the Browns have 8. That is why Browns fans watched the oldest, slowest team in the league last year.
The Browns are behind, and the only way to catch up to the Steelers and Ravens is by out-drafting them, for years. Not out-free agenting them.
OR, they need to wait until their opponent’s elite players die out. Part of me thinks the Browns will never catch up while the Roethlisbergers, Harrisons, Polamalus, Ngatas, and Reeds of the division are there to kick the Browns while they’re down. This is their era, and the Browns might have to wait their turn.
The other school of thought is – The Browns know (not think) this season is going to be a wash. New coaches, new systems, an unproven quarterback, tons of holes on the roster, the Ravens and Steelers, we could go on forever.
Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren know, this is a 5-11 team again, unless Colt McCoy tricked every GM in the league and is an elite QB. That’s what they’re trying to find out by not signing anyone.
Colt is the only question they need to answer this season, and no $40-million, 30-year old free agent D-lineman with one good year left is going to contaminate that experiment.
I hope no threat of finishing 1-15 will either.
Either their record is 8-8 or 9-7 and Colt proves he should stay, or they watch the league adjust to him and lie down for the #1 overall pick next year, Andrew Luck.
If you think this sounds crazy, look around the league. The new coach ‘n’ regime building Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers are doing the same exact thing. Why are the Broncos trading their best QB Kyle Orton? Who are 49ers signing to support their mediocre QB Alex Smith, other than Smith himself, to a one year extension? *
We all want to know how short Colt’s leash is… I say its 6 games.
If the Browns can’t even muster a winning record against the Bengals, Colts, Dolphins, Titans, Raiders, and Seahawks — 4 home games against a group with a combined 42-54 record last year — then I say they tank, starting game-7 against the 49ers, who are also in the running for Luck.
Undrafted Free Agents
The Browns have however singed approximately 20 undrafted players to fill in the cracks, but that’s all. There’s no reason to get pumped about any of these guys, no matter what their YouTube highlights look like.
Sure you can hope maybe one or two of them stick around to make an impact at the NFL level. If one becomes a good player, that’s gravy (and also a nice way to make up ground on the Steelers and Ravens).
Here’s an example of gravy in action – 115 players were named to the Pro-Bowl last year and 23 of them went undrafted. Here is a list of those 23 pro-bowlers:
- Arian Foster, RB Houston
- Vonta Leach, FB Houston
- Wes Welker, WR New England
- Antonio Gates, TE San Diego
- Kris Dielman, OG San Diego
- Brian Waters, OG Kansas City
- Jeff Saturday, C Indianapolis
- James Harrison, OLB Pittsburgh
- Cameron Wake, OLB Miami
- Billy Cundiff, Special Teams, Baltimore
- Montell Owens, Special Teams, Jacksonville
- John Denney, Special Teams, Miami
- Miles Austin, WR Dallas
- Jason Peters, OT Philadelphia
- Tyson Clabo, OT Atlanta
- Donald Penn, OT Tampa Bay
- Shaun O’Hara, C New York
- London Fletcher, MLB Washington
- Tramon Williams, CB Green Bay
- Brent Grimes, CB Atlanta
- Matt McBriar, Special Teams, Dallas
- David Akers, Special Teams, Philadelphia
- Eric Weems, Special Teams, Atlanta
Also here’s a list of the top three YouTube highlight songs:
- Bodies, Drowning Pool – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xuOHtxg4WU
- Make it Rain, Fat Joe & Lil Wayne – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNkNfc56Su0
- So Cold, Breaking Benjamin – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZwRoWNzZIg
Actually, if you’re looking for a new Browns highlight video featuring a non-sarcastic good song, how about The Only One by the Black Keys. It says, I love my Browns, and that’s painful…
*The 49ers did just sign DE Ray McDonald to a 5-year deal. Even still, McDonald isn’t in Peter King’s Top 50 Free Agents.