NFL free agency grades: Browns pass the test during tampering period

The Browns kept several key players and upgraded one important position ahead of free-agency

Browns, Jameis Winston
Browns, Jameis Winston / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
1 of 3

The NFL calendar is about to change to a new year which means all the deals announced over the past couple of days can be finalized. The Cleveland Browns were busy during this legal tampering period as they agreed to terms with a few outside free agents and extended some of their own players.

Now, let's be honest about one thing — the idea of a legal tampering period might be one of the worst the NFL has come up with. Since players and teams were discussing contracts before free agency began, they decided to make this legal for two days before free agency — but no one could agree to deals. So now instead of deals being signed within one minute of free agency being open, we now have deals being agreed to within one minute.

Still, this is how we operate and since it gets people talking, it will likely never change. With that out of the way, let's take some time to look back at what the Browns did during this period and hand out their grades for each move.

Browns re-signings

Za'Darius Smith, EDGE, Two-Years, $23.5 million: B+

Za'Darius Smith was a great fit in this defense and re-signing him will help keep the pressure off of Myles Garrett. Expect Smith to surpass his 5.5 sack total from 2023 — he was a disruptive force all year but just didn't always get home. The only reason this isn't an A is the money. It might sound like nit-picking, but there are a lot of people over $10 million on both sides of the ball. Still, a B+ is a great grade.

Maurice Hurst, DT, One-Year, $3.2 million: A

There's a risk with Maurice Hurst due to his injury history but the Browns protected themselves with the low price on this one Hurst has talent far superior to the $3.2 million, making this a win.

Shelby Harris, DT, Two-Years, $9 million: A-

Again, it might be nitpicking but the minus on this A- is simply the addition of a second year. Shelby Harris was really good in 2023 but he will be 33 this season. A one-year deal might have been better but in the end, if this is what it took to sign him, do it.

Michael Dunn, G, One-Year (Terms Undisclosed): A

Unless it comes back that Michael Dunn is being paid starter money, this is an A. He's not an elite player but if a guard goes down, he can fill in and the offense stays on task. He's also capable of playing tackle in a pinch. Great depth piece.