August 1, 2014

Browns avoiding “winner’s curse” in free agency

Burning money is for sociopaths

The Browns seem intent on not having that regretful morning after feeling in free agency. This team obviously knows it needs to improve, thus the trade offer to move up to #2 in this year’s draft. At the same time, they’re refusing to act desperately. Just because they think Robert Griffin III has a chance to be a franchise quarterback doesn’t mean that they are willing to throw bad money around in an attempt to replace Colt McCoy with just anyone.

We all know they need a receiver or two. They even said so themselves. Yet, we haven’t seen them engage in bidding wars to place #2 receivers on pedestals with giant contracts that they probably won’t ever earn. It is very frustrating in the short-term and seems at odds with the team’s statement that improving to 6-10 this year won’t be good enough. So, what’s going on here?

Whether the Browns front office is right or wrong, they obviously didn’t believe Matt Flynn had a chance to be better than Colt McCoy or one of the other alternatives available to them with their draft picks. More importantly though, the Browns are limiting their activity in free agency, because frankly it is a wholly inefficient way to build your team, almost by definition. Strangely enough the draft has given us our best example of this because the Browns risked so much trying to get Robert Griffin III. They took the “efficient” way of building their team and made it inefficient by getting into a bidding war to try and move up.

The price tag to move up ended up being very high, and there is no guarantee that Robert Griffin III is going to be the player that so many think he will be. What is pretty much guaranteed is the cap implication of making a move like that. The Browns know for a fact that if they had landed RG3, it would have been at-worst about the same as Cam Newton’s 4-year deal with $22 million guaranteed. The Browns would have paid a high price in draft picks for that kind of cap predictability.

Normally, the draft is a place where you build a team with maximum efficiency because there is no bidding war. The Browns scrapped that by engaging in a bidding war to move up. That says all you need to know about Robert Griffin III and what Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren think of him. The lack of activity in free agency says all you need to know about free agency and the players available. If the efficiency of building through the draft was higher than that of building through free agency before the rookie wage scale, consider the differences now.

Let’s talk about the winner’s curse and what that actually means. If a guy is worth $5 million per year in actuality and more than one team is bidding for his services, the likelihood of him getting more than his actual worth is high. That also decreases the likelihood that he will succeed with the new team as expectations become misaligned with ability.

The Browns aren’t being cheap. They handed out money to Joe Thomas, Ahtyba Rubin, Chris Gocong and D’Qwell Jackson this off-season. To a man, I think most Browns fans would agree these guys were worth bringing back. The key for the Browns was that they were already here. They already know the culture, personnel, coaches and direction of the team. The equivalent replacement players to these guys probably doesn’t even exist in free agency, first of all. Secondly, they would be more expensive as other teams would by vying for their services as well. Third, when they get here there will be a learning curve that could result in failure.

That’s why you build through the draft. It takes longer, but it should raise the continuity level of the whole team. Guys come in on 4-year deals and at the end of those deals the team decides if they’re worth paying to stay. In the case of Ahtyba Rubin he gets paid well and the Browns never let him hit the open market. The Browns also get to keep a guy that they presumably know is working well in their system with his teammates.

Sometimes you can score a perfect hit in free agency like the Browns did with Joe Jurevicius. Other times they bust out like they did with Donte’ Stallworth. The point is that you’re much better off picking and choosing which free agents to keep when their contracts are already within the confines of your team structure. It is the best possible information for making a decision and it has the special designation of contributing to continuity and reducing potential for a “winner’s curse.”

Now, about drafting that roster full of guys worth keeping…

I might even buy the slow build if that’s what the Browns decided to try and sell. The biggest problem comes with the Browns’ mixed messages to fans. Mike Holmgren is taking a real risk saying that an improvement to 6-10 isn’t good enough while also trying to build slowly and continuously through the draft. I’ve written at length about the illusions of “overnight success” in the NFL, but by saying 6-10 isn’t good enough, Holmgren is almost guaranteeing overnight success of a team that won four games in each of the last two years.

Even if the Browns could argue their methodology is smart, the way they’re (not) selling it to the fans isn’t.

  • floydrubino

    well done.

  • Howard44024

    Tony Grossi………. Is that you?

  • Chris Topher McLafferty

    HAHAH Flipping Burgers…Jesus is that what I do??? All it takes is a simple google search to find out how wrong you are. I wonder if I Googled your name if I would find anything. Weird how when Farve was brought over he was an already a Star (Look at his stats prior or his 2-round draft status)!! Oh wait he wasn’t (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/favre-tutors-mccoy-pays-it-forward-for-holmgren?urn=nfl,wp5172) Farve had to be mentored just like Hassleback did in Seatle,,,ran out?? You mean after he took them to a Super Bowl?? Also how wrong could you be…did your sources tell you that Holmgren didn’t want  Farve (http://www.officialbrettfavre.com/news/story_e7e1e53326d8/) . Apparently you are the one who knows NOTHING, I don’t know that Shumar IS or ISN’T the right hire yet and neither do you. One season where your supposed star (HILLIS) goes into whiny girl mode, doesn’t make or break you as a coach. AND yes I’m dying to get Holmgren’s approval, cause I’m sure he’s going to either EVER read this and even if he didn’t it’s not like I’m gonna get a promotion from him, so again not sure where you’re point is. MY point is that you don’t know what it takes to build a winner.

  • Wheel

    Craig, your theory sounds great, but you are ignoring the obvious.  This team has so many holes to fill that it’s unrealistic to think we can turn this around solely through the draft.  Why not approach Free Agency as another opportunity (not the primary one) to upgrade the roster?  Picking up Wintson at RT could mean using a high draft pick to get a LB.  Signing a proven WR could mean taking Claiborne with the 4th pick.  Filling some holes through free agency can enhance and add value to the draft.  Instead, Holmgren and Heckert stick the head in the sand and talk big about doing things ‘the right way.’ 

  • floydrubino

    Your cap button must be broken or something. And your assessment on Shurmur is meaningless. You think anyone else was interviewing Shurmur when the Browns hired him and if they did no other team would of seriously considered him. The strength of our team was clearly the defense which he had nothing to do with. I hope I am wrong about Shurmur because I don’t care about the person who brings us to the promise land as long as they are good decent people. But Holmgren fought Ron Wolf on the trade to get Favre from Atlanta. My source is Ron Wolf in some interview he did. Holmgren threw Shurmur into a ridiculous situation and Heckert bailed us out by getting Jauron to coach here. Imagine if Heckert was not part of this package how pathetic this situation would be unfolding. Randy Lerner has been the most clueless owner in sports history and now Holmgren thinks he is doing us a favor when he clearly isn’t by being here. I wish it was just Heckert running things. If Holmgren was this good he would of never been run out of Seattle. And also your comment about Jim Donovan in your 1st post normally I could care less what reporters think but if you don’t know what he has been going through the last year then  you know nothing about Cleveland football just from the standpoint of watching things about Cleveland sports in general. Holmgren was pathetic the way he recognized Donovan and just as a standpoint from how personable and good you are at treating others goes a long way for your franchise. If he is a jerk like this in general who would want to work with him or for him. Get a clue.

  • floydrubino

    You guys are blinded if you can’t see how bad Lerner is.

  • floydrubino

    well said

  • Wheel

    You speak the truth.  And for this Browns fan, the truth hurts. I was in the  “In Holmgren we trust camp.”  The more he opens his mouth, the more his true colors show.

  • hutch058

    The Browns wont have to worry about the ‘Winners curse’ for a loooong time

  • eldaveablo

    Aren’t you maybe ignoring the obvious as well? The Browns HAVE signed free agents, and this year isn’t over yet – they may sign more. They may not be blockbuster moves, but they are filling some holes and still have time left. Winston would have been great, but it’s not like other teams weren’t trying to get him too. As Craig pointed out, this is why you inevitably end up overpaying for FAs. 

  • eldaveablo

    Aren’t you maybe ignoring the obvious as well? The Browns HAVE signed free agents, and this year isn’t over yet – they may sign more. They may not be blockbuster moves, but they are filling some holes and still have time left. Winston would have been great, but it’s not like other teams weren’t trying to get him too. As Craig pointed out, this is why you inevitably end up overpaying for FAs. 

  • Old coach

     You say….”Holmgren stinks and in my other comments I say Heckert is the only one worth anything….”  Hmmm, who was it again that hired Heckert?

  • Old coach

     HUH?  Have you looked at Tebow’s completion percentage?  The lowest passing completion percentage in the NFL.  I can see Tebow as a good running back/backup quarterback.  I can even see the Browns using him in that manner if they would get rid of Wallace (will never happen).  How about a trade of Wallace and a 4th or 5th round draft pick for Tebow?  Denver gets a backup QB (who is developing into a locker room cancer in Cleveland) and we get help in our running game and a backup to McCoy.  Tebow is definitely project as a QB, but down the road, who knows?

  • floydrubino

    Yes I gave him credit for that one thing. Do you want me to list all the things that he has done wrong. My typing finger might hurt after. My general point is that I am not impressed with what Holmgren has done whatsoever. I and most of my friends who love football already have known about building through the draft. He doesn’t need to say such obvious things. His major decisions have been Shurmur and McCoy and both have stunk. Colt McCoy can’t even make all the nfl throws he needs to and the Shurmur hire is insulting. His ego is way to big and if you can’t see that he hired Shurmur because if Shurmur does something Holmgren wants all the credit for himself for hiring a swing for the fences closing your eyes type guy. What has Holmgren done outside hiring Heckert for the team that has any benefit. Why couldn’t Lerner just hire Heckert for control of the Browns which Heckert would have done because he has control over the team to run this whole show. Holmgren is bringing nothing to the table.

  • floydrubino

    I’m glad your excited about the Tony Pashos type signings but I’m not. I don’t want has beens I want some guys that might play for more than one season as a band aid type player. I know it is important to get the one year type players to cover some areas but what he said was seizing some opportunities.  The Browns need to be more opportunistic at every level of their franchise.

  • eldaveablo

    Again, someone using poor reading comprehension as an excuse to act holier than thou. I must have missed the part where I said I was excited about these signings. 

    Besides, I hate to break it to you, but I doubt Browns management’s goal in free agency goes anything like this: “Sure, we’ll overpay for this guy who doesn’t want to come here and it will be bad for the team long term. Screw it, I don’t care – maybe we can excite people who comment in blogs we don’t read! Let’s do it.”All I was doing was stating the obvious. Something that few around here have any interest in. I guess it’s way more fun to read things incorrectly so they can piss & moan. 

  • floydrubino

    Wow you can’t even comprehend my point. I will dumb it down for you. You said in your comments “The Browns have signed free agents, and this year isn’t over yet – they may sign more.”      
    I was saying that the Browns are only signing guys that won’t really make an impact on the team like a Tony Pashos type talent player.W The free agents they have signed are pathetic for the most part. Yeah you might have to pay a little more for Eric Winston or Ben Grubbs but so is everyone. Tennessee just signed Kameron Wimbley to a big contract so they overpaid. Sometimes you have to overpay to get some guys and most teams will sometimes have to do this. I personally don’t think New Orleans and Kansas City overpaid for these offensive linemen because they know the importance of these staple positions. Stop making excuses for Randy Lerner being cheap. Roger Goodell just passed this rule in the nfl to force owners like Randy Lerner to have to spend their money because he is so cheap.