As the Browns’ list of cuts was finally released and then as they failed to claim anyone, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert’s view of the current Browns is becoming apparent. The team is far from a finished product and instead of grasping at players who appeared to be minor upgrades the Browns seem content in seeing what they have with the unknown young talents.
Obviously I am talking most notably about the wide receiver position. As outside observers, it seemed that this was one of the most dire needs the team has had all off-season. As guys like Vincent Jackson were dangled and as guys like T.J. Houshmandzadeh were cut and became available, the Browns sat idle. In fairness to the Browns, Housh was unlikely to sign with a team not looking seriously at the playoffs this season, and the asking price was so high on Jackson that he still hasn’t been traded to date. Still, it speaks volume either about the potential of Massoquai, Robiskie and Cribbs, or the Browns’ desire to see that talent before extending offers to any other players.
This helps put the quarterback position into perspective. The Browns loaded up, relatively speaking, when they signed what they hoped to be two competent options. They obviously didn’t see either Delhomme or Wallace as the long-term solution for QB, but they found a couple of guys who they think will allow them to accurately see what they have everywhere else. This includes the offensive line, the young running backs and the young wide receivers. As QB prospect Nate Davis was let go by the 49ers yesterday in favor of Troy Smith it didn’t take long to assume that the Browns probably wouldn’t be putting in a claim on him. That speaks more to the stage of development that the Browns seemingly find themselves than it does about Nate Davis as a prospect.
The linebackers seem similar. The Browns brought in some nice complementary pieces in Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong to add competence and professionalism to the linebacking corps. They will find out what they have with the young guys on the roster and probably look to add playmakers in forthcoming drafts at the position. This may give many Browns fans pause as the “prospects” are the likes of Kaluka Maiava and the punchline up to this point in David Veikune.
No sense in signing a receiver in his 30′s staring into the twilight of his career. Instead of wasting cash on minor upgrades in free agency and off the scrap heap the Browns are thinking bigger and long-term. Despite the injury to Montario Hardesty, the Browns will look to build mostly through the draft. They hope that Joe Haden is an impact corner and will look to add more impact players in the years to come. They invest in certain hand-picked placeholders like Fujita, Sheldon Brown, Wallace and Delhomme. It isn’t sexy like what the Redskins have done over the past decade, but did you really want the Redskins anyway?
It sounds so simple on paper, but it should help us think practically about the Browns right now. As the Browns seem idle on the waiver wire for the most part, we shouldn’t be surprised. The Browns are not grasping at every little straw to make this team just marginally better with players that won’t fit into their long-term strategy. They appear to have a type and kind of player they want and will be content with being just competitive as they develop younger players and see what they have on the roster. Just how competitive remains to be seen.