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.
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.