As Rick mentioned in yesterday’s piece on the offensive line, NFL teams looking to add pieces this offseason are in a bit of a quandry due to the pending labor issues that could halt free agency all together.
Last year, WFNY listed the upgrade advisory within the defensive backfield as “severe.” Given what the team had going into last season, it made sense that two early draft selections and a key trade would ultimately land the Browns three new players within their secondary.
Starters: Eric Wright (CB), Sheldon Brown (CB), Abe Elam (FS), TJ Ward (SS), Joe Haden (CB)
Reserves: Mike Adams (CB/FS), Ray Ventrone (S), Nick Sorensen (S), Sabby Piscatelli (S), Eric King (CB), Coye Francies (CB)
|Player||Games||Solo Tackle||Ast. Tackle||Total Tackle||Sack||Yds Lost||Int||Yds||IntTD||Pass Def.||Safety|
Sure, Joe Haden was not necessarily a “starter” by technical terms, but the rookie cornerback exceeded all expectations by playing in all 16 games and taking over admirably for a sub-par and ultimately injured Eric Wright. On the season, Haden’s six interceptions were among the best in the league (T-5th), earning him a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate. Haden’s 18 passes defensed were also top-five in the NFL. His partner in crime TJ Ward (What!? No Taylor Mays!?) started from Day 1 and led the Browns in total tackles. Not a bad draft, eh?
Unfortunately, Wright was a complete disaster through all 13 games, getting obliterated early in the season by Anquan Boldin and subsequently picked on from that point forward. Also unfortunate is that the team was forced to part ways with Brandon McDonald, leaving them with three cornerbacks on the active roster. For this reason, we have names like Eric King and Sabby Piscatelli recording nine combined games of action.
All in all, the defensive backfield was much improved over the past year in terms of talent. The lack of a consistent pass-rush left them vulnerable at times, and Eric Wright’s well-documented regression (and Eric Mangini’s reluctance to sit him in the wake of said regression) did not help matters much. But with the spot-on selections during draft day coupled with the addition of veteran Sheldon Brown, the unit is in a lot better shape than it was one year prior.
- Mike Adams: 2011: $1.1 million, 2012: Free Agent
- Sheldon Brown: 4/2/2010: Signed a three-year, $15.25 million contract. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus. 2011: $3.1 million, 2012: $3.7 million, 2013: Free Agent
- Coye Francies: 2011: $480,000, 2012: Restricted Free Agent
- Joe Haden: 7/31/2010: Signed a five-year, $42 million contract. The deal contains $26 million guaranteed, including a $12 million signing bonus. Another $8 million is available through incentives. 2011: $2,558,165 (+ $4 million roster bonus), 2012: $5,765,505, 2013: $6,936,429, 2014: $6,678,193, 2015: Free Agent
- Ray Ventrone: 3/5/2010: Signed a three-year, $2.2 million contract. The deal includes $200,000 in bonuses. 2011-2012: $700,000, 2013: Free Agent
- TJ Ward: 7/26/2010: Signed a four-year, $4.027 million contract. The deal contains $3 million guaranteed, including a $2.075 million signing bonus. Another $973,000 is available via a “likely to be earned” onetime escalator clause. 2011: $405,000, 2012: $490,000, 2013: $575,000, 2014: Free Agent
So, of all of those names in the stat sheet above, only four of them are under contract beyond next season. Presently, the team will have free agents Eric Wright and Abe Elam to consider. But given Wright’s season of play and the recent release of all former Mangini-acquired New York Jets, it would not surprise many to have both men move on to another employer assuming free agency occurs.
Browns Roster Upgrade Advisory Level: Elevated
Would it be wise to use the sixth-overall draft pick on another cornerback? This is obviously a highly-debatable topic.
LSU’s Patrick Peterson is presently listed as the third-best draftable player per Scout’s Inc. Peterson is considered to be among the elite and would also contribute in special teams. Thus, using the sixth pick would represent a bit of a value and would provide the Browns with their defensive backfield for at last the next five years.
Of course, this current Browns team has many holes that need to be filled if they are planning to be a viable contender any time in the near future. If the front office opted to pass on Peterson to replace a member of the front seven on the defensive end, it would be acceptable. The placing of the “Elevated” need is based more on need for depth more than high-priced talent. While Haden and Ward represent a solid future, this is a team that can not succeed with three cornerbacks on Opening Day.
Other rookies that have graded well per reputable sources: Prince Amukamara, CB – Nebraska; Jimmy Smith, CB – Colorado; Rahim Moore, S – UCLA; DeAndre McDaniel, S – Clemson
Notable free agent DBs: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB; Champ Bailey, CB; Antonio Cromartie, CB; Roman Harper, S; Quintin Mikell, S