You can say the Browns aren’t trying to win this year if you want. No doubt there are some options on the free agent market that would have made the team immediately better than a few of the players currently on this roster. In that respect, on a technicality, I wouldn’t be able to say conclusively that any fan is wrong when they say the Browns aren’t trying to win this year at all costs. There is a method to their madness though, and as NFL teams finish their first round of cuts early this week, it is worth revisiting. The Browns are a young team and unless a guy is under the age of 30, you should probably forget about the Browns signing him in all likelihood.
Other teams do mix and match a lot between vets and rookies, occasionally signing and trading for “hired gun” types of vets to put them over the top. It seems that the Browns know they aren’t at that point just yet. How could they think they are there with such a young quarterback in Colt McCoy? How could they think that as they install a brand new offense and defense this season? Even as Browns fans are seemingly taking Peyton Hillis and his production for granted, he has a whole lot to prove after one year of impressive play.
It doesn’t have anything to do with being cheap either. The Browns proved that two weeks ago when they gave Joe Thomas his giant extension. No, this is about building and building for the long-term.
Many fans wanted the Browns to trade for Lee Evans. I can understand it on some level. The Browns’ wide receivers are very young. Maybe they could use a veteran to help them develop, while also delivering some productivity for the team right away. Maybe Lee Evans would have been a better option for winning an extra game or two this season, but then what? Lee Evans is not getting any better at age 30. In fact, he also becomes a riskier proposition because of potential injury at his age. That might seem laughable with all the injuries this pre-season to Mohamed Massaquoi and Carlton Mitchell, but you know I’m right.
The Browns need to solve problems on a more permanent basis rather than just patching holes here and there. They need to come up with legitimate talent that they might want to sign to long-term deals in the future. On Madden video game football terms that might mean that instead of playing with Lee Evans who maybe has a player rating of 75 and falling, the Browns are coming into the season with some guys who are between 60 and 70 with potential to hit 80 or higher in their careers.
Even ignoring the salary cap dollars, a guy like Lee Evans represents an opportunity cost to the Browns who don’t really solve their problems long-term and will have to go through the exercise of filling that position over and over again. Wouldn’t you rather just let some combination of Jordan Norwood, Carlton Mitchell, Josh Cribbs, etc see if they can give the Browns the 600-ish yards that Lee Evans supplied per season over the last two years?
The Browns currently have nine players who are 30 or over. Not one of them is over 32 other than Phil Dawson. Sheldon Brown has one more year on his contract after this season. Same with Scott Fujita. Brandon Jackson and Usama Young were the notable free agent signings this off-season and they are firmly in their mid 20s.
Point being, even if Chester Taylor gets released by the Bears, it probably isn’t worth wasting breath talking about it. If Chad Ochocinco gets released by the Pats, don’t bother tweeting about it. Both guys might be improvements over players like Carlton Mitchell or Quinn Porter right this very second, but it could be a fleeting second with concerns about declining skills and injury risk for older players in the NFL.