The Browns First Move in Free Agency Should be…

It would appear that the NFL lock-out is close to being over. We’ve tried to curb our enthusiasm on the possibility of such in the last few weeks, because we simply didn’t want to be burned if negotiations went south again. But perhaps it is time for optimism to abound again.

This has been the worst NFL off-season in quite some time. The Browns called for a line change on the coaching staff, but there has been nothing to talk about for months even with the changes. The lock-out has robbed us of the joy of off-season trade and free agent chatter, which is probably the least of our worries concerning the labor stoppage, but none the less.

Assuming the lock-out ends and the ‘new season’ can begin soon, there is one important thing I think the Browns need to do ASAP.

With the salary cap number being tossed around at $120 million, give or take a few, the Browns are reportedly sitting around $99 million, before signing rookies and such. They could potentially save a few million by players becoming free agents earlier because of the bargaining agreement or by getting rid of a couple of contracts (cough, Delhomme). Regardless, they have a little money to shop with.

Before they address the defensive line through free agency. Before they sign any kind of receiving help. Before they add a single player to the defensive backfield, I have a suggestion.

Call Joe Thomas.

Ask him if he’d like to make $10 million instead of $8 this season. Work out a new deal before he becomes a free agent next season. I’m serious. There isn’t a more important free agent signing the Browns are likely to work out this year than to lock up Thomas for the future.

After Thomas there are a lot of names that intrigue, but it is almost too soon to start looking at such a list. Almost.

Dallas DE/DT Stephen Bowen is a name that interests me. Dallas would love Bowen to return, but may be staring at a salary cap crisis. Bowen is the pass rush specialist that attracts attention from the media and fans, but he is very good against the run, and is only 27 years old. He could be the extra inside lineman the Browns need with Rubin and Phil Taylor. He also won’t break the bank.

In the secondary, if the Browns are ready to move on from Abe Elam, the name I’d like to see added is Quintin Mikell. Does Tom Heckert have enough to pry him away from the Eagles? Probably not. In which case the Browns could be staring straight at Donte Whitner. To be honest, I don’t see that as a tremendous upgrade from Elam at the FS spot. We have our SS of the future. Perhaps this isn’t the right time to grab a safety in free agency.

Forget the big name corners on the market this year. The Browns should target Baltimore’s Josh Wilson. The 26 year old is in the same boat as Eric Wright when it comes to contract status- in limbo. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent the Browns should do what they can to line him up opposite Joe Haden. If he is a restricted free agent, the odds are the Ravens wouldn’t keep him, having to resign Chris Carr and just drafting Jimmy Smith.

Those are the names I’d look to target.

After taking care of Thomas of course.

  • lilOUmikey

    Don’t forget about the probable restructuring of Jake Delhomme’s contract

  • Buckeyedawg

    The two big areas that I would like to see addressed are WR and RT. Neither one needs to be an all-pro…just an upgrade. We especially need a WR that scares the secondary a little so they back off a few steps and open up some running lanes and short passing lanes. There is not a secondary in the NFL that is the least bit scared of being burned by our receivers…we need a deep threat who the defense needs to account for. I think that one player would make all the difference in the world in implementing our offense. That and a RT who is better than “the turnstile” (shouldn’t be too hard). Address those two areas and I’m a happy fan.

  • The Conductor

    They should sign Eric Metcalf! That guy is wicked good at running up the middle.

  • Nate_4

    Couldn’t agree more. If Joe Thomas doesn’t finish his career a Brown then the front office has failed.

    WR and RT are are definitely a need, but I think we need to concentrate on defense like we did in the draft. We absolutely have to sign a starting safety and we need to add a LB and D-Line depth. Also, we’ll need to add one CB depending on Eric Wright’s status.

    Who do we even have signed on our D-line right now? Rubin, Taylor and Sheard will be, Schaefering (?), some other bums.

  • Right Side

    If we don’t sign Thomas, I wonder if he will film a special episode of Outdoors Ohio on STO next off season to announce his new playing destination.

  • 216in614

    i dont want to see any big names in FA. make sure thomas doesn’t go anyware and look for more guys like fujita please

  • jimkanicki

    i agree on RT… but i’m so so tired of patching RT with free agents (shaeffer, stclair, pashos all busts*) that Phil Taylor better be a stud because we passed on our bookend Badger RT… Gabe Carimi was there (and wouldn’t have cost us a 3rd pick).

    so if we go after a RT, let it be of Jordan Gross quality. lets not screw around.

  • Ezzie

    Sign Tyson Clabo. Once you have him, you’ve got the most elite line in the NFL – convincing other offensive weapons to come could be a lot easier.

  • Harv 21

    If they don’t re-sign Thomas, it won’t be for lack of effort, it’ll be because he wants out. He’s already on his third coach and his teams have generally sucked. He’s a smart dude; don’t assume they can just charm him with an extra year if he thinks he has a better chance to both get rich and win elsewhere.

    BTW, why are the Browns and many fans so down on Abe Elam? Sounds like they have little interest in him returning. But I thought he was making some plays toward the end of the season. Just wondering how much better a FA replacement will be, if at all.

  • mgbode

    Joe Thomas is obviously priority1 and 1A even though he’s signed for this season.

    of our own, I really want Yates back. he played really well at RG and would leave us just 1 position to solidify there. we also really need to look at Jayme Mitchell and Robaire Smith for DL depth if nothing else as we have virtually none.

    RT: forget Free, Clabo, Gaither. too expensive for RT. I’d say go after 27yo Jermon Bushrod who the Saints might not have room to sign and he’s more of a RT than LT anyway. Ryan Harris is another name that we could consider, but he’s been a bit injury prone. Marshal Yanda might be able to handle a shift to RT. If those are all too pricey, Marion Henderson is who I would want to go after (Raiders in cap trouble, Henderson was miscast as a LT last season when he’s a RT).

    LB: the Packers are staring at salary cap issues and will need to trade Nick Barnett. he also goes by the name “perfect 4-3 MLB for the Browns”. If not, Takeo Spikes is older, but could fill the stop-gap role at least. Other guys to target who won’t command top-dollar: Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard

    DE: I really like Cliff Avril. They tendered him a 1st and 3rd so he’ll be a tough get (and would require draft compensation too). Andre Carter wants to go back to the 4-3 and we should see if we can help him with that. Bowen is an interesting one. Too bad Minny re-upped on Robison before the lockout. Ray McDonald and Jarvis Moss are a couple other names we could use in DE-rotations.

    S: already talked about ad nauseum. Goldson, Weddle, Whitner, Mikell. Heck, even Elam if we strikeout on those 3. We have no choice but to sign somebody and hopefully we make the right choice. there’s also DeAndre McDaniel who reportedly didn’t get drafted because of character concerns?

    CB: Josh Wilson would be a steal from Baltimore. He’s likely too pricey for a position of non-urgent-need though. I am not opposed to bringing Eric Wright back. Another guy I would have liked is Stanford Routt but the Raiders somehow managed to overpay him already ($10mil/year).

  • jimkanicki

    ^^cliff avril. seconded.

  • bobby

    The only O signing that could make an impact (not including resignings) will be a 3rd RB. Definitely no big name WR, and probably not a RT. Pashos and Pinkston will be there (and hopefully Porkchop). I doubt a big name D player comes too, tho I would like to see Ray Edwards.

    Also, I thought I read the browns are in the bottom 5 in the salary cap so they have a lot of room to sign. I thought it was they may be below the bottom line depending on the CBA.

  • Chris

    It’s going to be a sad day in Cleveland if Thomas leaves. The guy has been solid and is a good person off the field as well (helping with Cleveland food bank and others). But our team is not winning (as usual) and he’s a Pro Bowl player that might want to be on a winner. He’s been a winner forever and might be time to play for a winner and I would not blame him at all for that. He’s not from here or has ties to here so we can stop the lbj comparisons immediately.