How Free Agency Will Affect the Browns on Draft Day
The Browns entered the free-agent period over 15 days ago with the second highest cap space in the NFL with $48.9 million and Joe Banner and the boys didn’t waste anytime adding talent to the young football team.
After signing linebackers Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves, tight end Gary Barnidge and Bryant, there was nothing more than a few rumors and re-signing of current players. That is, until recently, when four more players were added to the roster.
Tight end Kellen Davis and cornerbacks Chris Owens and Kevin Barnes will also look to make an impact in Cleveland. An unexpected signing of former Bears quarterback Jason Campbell may have been to motivate current starter Brandon Weeden and all but end any chance of backup quarterback Colt McCoy staying with the team.
So where does that leave the team now? Pending more surprise pick-ups, it is safe to say the Browns are now focused on the draft, although they still are said to have $28.7 million in cap space.
Defense is clearly where the Browns are trying to improve and after watching last year’s team finish 25th against the pass and 19th against the run, that seems like the way smart way to go.
Kruger was Baltimore’s leader in sacks a year ago and should provide a strong pass rush in the new 3-4 defensive scheme. If the Browns still want to go after a young talent on the defensive side of the ball, there will be a few options available at the sixth pick.
Dee Milliner (Alabama), the All-American and No. 1 cornerback in the draft is most likely a frontrunner, but may not be on the board pending how teams before Cleveland evaluate him. Cornerback is a position of need in Cleveland and if Milliner is unavailable, Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) could be an option in later rounds. Defensive ends Dion Jordan (Oregon), Barkevious Mingo (LSU) and Ezekiel Ansah (BYU) are also said to be on the Browns’ radar.
Offensively, Cleveland is very young, despite starting quarterback Brandon Weeden’s age (29) saying otherwise. Weeden has been without any competition, but now that Campbell has been brought in, the chance for a position battle has risen greatly.
The Browns are set at running back with Trent Richardson and there isn’t any wide receiver worthy of the sixth pick. The only other option seems to be an offensive guard by trading the pick to get a second rounder (along with some others). If the Browns were to trade down for a guard, Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper are the players to look for. Again, this option only seems likely if Cleveland’s first or second choice is off the board.
Whatever the front office in Cleveland is thinking, the next couple of weeks should be fun, as general manager Mike Lombardi will need a near-perfect draft to earn respect from the most loyal fans in the NFL.