NFL free agency is far from over for the Browns

Tom Heckert

I know how stressful it can be to watch big names fall off the boards with the Browns being so quiet. (Apologies to Frostee Rucker.) I’ve gotten caught up at various times during the past two weeks trying to balance between my desire to see the Browns get better and not get held up by some player agent for way too much money. I’ll admit that I sometimes want to crack jokes on this team too and I’m one of the ones who has already willingly admitted that the Browns won’t be challenging for the playoffs this year and will have a very difficult time winning more than six games this season. And six, by the way, includes a much healthier roster than what the Browns had a year ago. The point though is that the Browns can still get better via free agency. The top of the list is pretty picked clean, but the process is really just getting started.

I was reading The OBR and saw a post referencing an article from CBS Sports that had an interesting take on the numbers of free agents vs. roster sizes.

April 1 will still have 400 unemployed: The average NFL team has about 55-60 players under contract right now. The draft will select 256 players, most of whom will make an NFL team. That will put rosters close to 70-75. That leaves about 10 spots for veterans per team, which means about 300 veterans will get signed if they are lucky. I know a number of good veteran players on the street already feeling the pinch. This is a very tough year for the marginal pro that plays special teams and is a backup. When April 1 comes around and some form of team activities can start up for teams with a new coach, guys may grab anything just to get on a roster. It is clearly going to be a buyers’ market by this Monday.

A buyer’s market is all the Browns have said they’ve been looking for all along. Granted the Browns won’t find anything approximating Mario Williams or right tackle Eric Winston among the names the rest of the way. But, they can find a veteran receiver who might be able to provide some stability and leadership for a young group that obviously needs it. Think about a veteran on a prove-it kind of a deal. I won’t throw a bunch of names out there because there could be more and different as teams look to cut salary cap space.

As of March 15th, there were 22 teams with under $20 million in cap space. Eleven teams had less than $10 million in cap space. Five teams have less than $5 million. What that means is a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiation with players that teams would like to keep, to try and reduce cap numbers before those teams have to give up and cut them.

Again, I wouldn’t expect the Browns to go out on a signing spree as they have nine draft choices who will demand roster spots on the team at the end of April. Still, there is some chance for a few opportunistic signings before the Browns start their offseason programs to get ready for the season.

  • typo

    Free agents or no free agents, its been a while since I’ve gone in to a season with lower expectations than I have now. Considering our lack of success recently, makes it all the more distressing. I guess the draft can change that.

  • Modellsux

    When will this town learn that the only way to win is on the O Line. Passing on Winston will be a regret since Kalil won’t be around at 4.

  • Derek

    We saw that in ’07 when Da was giving all day to throw and Edwards and Winslow were at the top of their game. I agree we need to address the line but I think we are better than what you think. I really like Pinkston and I think Lauvao will continue to improve once we finally draft a RT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Murphy/30101207 Joe Murphy

    We are no longer planning on winning in 2012.  This sucks, because we sat through 2011 thinking at least this will pay off next year.  But we can take this opportunity to realize we now have a 2 year plan, which means we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) draft all offense this year.  It’s too long for the comment box, but I outlined who to draft (starting with Morris Claiborne) – post RG3 failure. http://www.CleBrownsBlog.com

  • Max

    I tried reading your blog, until I hit the word “retarded”. I then determined your blog was not worth reading as it would not offer any high level discourse or anything of substance.  Good luck with that

  • Max

    I tried reading your blog, until I hit the word “retarded”. I then determined your blog was not worth reading as it would not offer any high level discourse or anything of substance.  Good luck with that

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Agreed. I think that Lavauo is at least average, but was hurt by the horrible rotation at RT last year next to him. Pinkston was between Mack and Thomas, and thrived. Get a top RT in the draft (Reiff?) and the Browns’ O-line will do extremely well.

  • http://twitter.com/Dennymayo Denny

    I bet we take Ed Hardy at #4 [via Heckert bro-shirts]

  • Jack

    Yeah, dude…really pathetic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Murphy/30101207 Joe Murphy

    The merit of the blog should be based on the theories it presents, the foul language is a byproduct of the passion, and sometimes hate, I have for our front office. Thank you for reading

  • Midellsux

    After reading the first paragraph of your blog… You owe me the last 30 seconds of my life back. And may God have mercy on your soul.

  • Big Z

    “[they] will have a very difficult time winning more than six games this season.” 

    They’ve only done that 3 times in the last 12 years, you’re not exactly going out on a limb there.

    They’re going to start a failed project QB who has yet to win a division game, they let their ONLY offensive weapon walk in free agency, and they currently have no running game, no passing game, and are full of holes on the offensive line… They will be lucky to win more than one game… A win-less season is entirely possible. 

  • MCCULLOUGH_DAVE

     Super Bowl Bound Browns

  • Acmesteamcleaning

    who was that saying we wont be in playoffs this year.if that is clevelands management they should be fired .yeah i know that its wishful thinking but what the gm is saying that.oh my god fire that ass hole.loyal browns fan for 30 years,this is sick

  • Ritz

    Yea but the word ‘retarded’ has no place in sports discussion. Not only is it juvenile, it is also far more than just ‘foul language.’ As one grows up he realizes certain words just are not appropriate for several reasons whether they are offensive, demeaning, etc. it’s one thing to use those in everyday conversation (although as someoe who has worked in special education that word IS inappropriate). It’s another to want to become a quasi journalist and use that word. It also implies you can’t think of better adjectives.

  • saggy

    Drew Storen hurt his lat recently.  He decided not to get it checked out until he had to.  Turns out, all the extra throwing has retarded his return to good health.

    Just saying it IS possible to have a sports discussion with that word.  However, i didn’t read Joe Murphy’s blog, but i bet that’s not how he used the word…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Murphy/30101207 Joe Murphy

     I concede, the rest of the article is written (or attempted to be written) on a higher level.  I appreciate the few Cleveland sports fans who have corrected me, as I had lower expectations for my target audience. The post is corrected and future posts wil try not to fly off the keyboard as haphazardly.  Go Brownies

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    hey joe, i think the criticism here on your piece is a tad harsh.  appreciate the work you put in to it — that’s always number one.  it’s a low bar but your analysis is already more credible to me than anything ive seen from clev dot com.

    cant say im on-board with the all-defense strategy.  but agree in principle that it’s better to be kick-ass in one thing than half-assed across the board.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    I’m saying it. The Browns will need to be lucky and healthy to contend for the playoffs this year. They will be very young and face what appears to be a very difficult schedule. 

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    The only way they’ll go winless this year is if they decide to pass on their draft picks. This team SHOULD get at least three starters in the draft. Two of those should have a big impact if Tom Heckert gets it right.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs?  They’ll need to be more then lucky and healthy I’m afraid.  You must be tired from all of your writing, honestly. ;-)

  • Big Z

    I have faith in Heckert, especially in the later rounds. He became familiar with drafting late during his days in Philly. That said, I certainly can’t look at their upcoming schedule and say “They’ll win that game.” The only two teams I think they match up with are the Redskins and Colts. 

  • steve-o

    The Browns are not going to add free agent veterans. Since they are in the build slower than a tortoise mode, their plan would have to consider next year’s draft. In the 2012 draft we are likely to be awarded three or four compensatory picks due, in part, to our inactivity in FA last year (bringing our total to around a dozen picks). We want more compensatory picks next year’s draft as well, and if we sign a bunch of free agents we won’t get any. They also want cap flexibility and roster spots for the younger players that will soon arrive.

  • Saurabhgup

    are you kidding?  they have done nothing and don’t seem to being doing anything.  What has Holmgren done really for this team.  Name 1 positive?

    I seriously think the lady owner of the Tribe in Major League is running this team.  Pretty soon the Browns will be traveling by rickshaw to away games.

  • Areesh24

    Does anyone have access to Mike Holmgren or Heckerts email address?  I would love to send them an email on why I quit my season tickets.  I would love for them to know that I have been patient for 8 years in having season tickets.  And in 8 years I have enjoyed 1 season.  So I am not about to wait 2-3 more years while these arrogant pompous leaders tell us to be patient.  I am sorry you can build a team other than the draft. And most good teams use FA and draft to get better.

  • mgbode

    How fun would that be to see McCoy beat RGIII and Luck in the same season?

    Just from the standpoint of “it takes a team to win” actually has some credence and everything.   Fun thought at least.