July 28, 2014

One area the Browns need to improve in free agency- the offensive line

As the clock strikes 4pm and the new NFL year begins (and with it free agency) the Browns could potentially lose four more offensive linemen. OT Tony Pashos was released yesterday. That would be five linemen, who combined to start 16 games for the Browns last season, and had 41 game appearances between them.

And the truth is, with one key signing, and perhaps a pick mid-draft, the Browns wouldn’t miss a beat.

Set to become unrestricted free agents today are Oniel Cousins, John Greco, Artis Hicks and Steve Vallos. Between the four of those players, they counted $4 million against the cap last season. The Browns could decide to retain one or more between now and the beginning of free agency by agreeing to a new deal, or they could just as easily wait and see what players they are able to come to agreements with and offer deals later. None of these guys will be the first off the board at 4:01 today.

The player that became available yesterday, and should be target #1 for the Browns, is former Texan RT Eric Winston. Winston (28) was a third round round pick in 2006. Since then, he has started in 87 of Houston’s 92 games. That’s durability. Not only is Winston durable, but he is widely considered one of the top right tackles in football.

The Texans simply did not have money to pay all the players that became free agents this year. We know about Mario Williams and Arian Foster, but the Texans also had Center Chris Meyers to sign. Additionally, they would like to be players in the market for a WR. The numbers just didn’t add up to keep Winston.

He was set to make between $4.5 and 5.5 million dollars this season, depending on where you get your contract information from. Teams like Oakland, Miami and Denver could be in play for Winston. Possibly Arizona if they are trying to woo Peyton Manning. The Browns would need to move fast and make a decent offer.

The Browns though aren’t usually ones to get into bidding wars with free agents, and that’s what could happen with Winston.

With Steinbach coming back from injury this season, the Browns should be set at four of the five spots. Jason Pinkston started at left guard in Steinbach’s place as a rookie and improved as the season went along. Pinkston played tackle at Pitt, but perhaps the best spot for him in the NFL is guard. He could shift from the left guard spot to the right with no problem, with Lauvao backing him up.

There are several great guards available in free agency, should the Browns decide to give Pinkston a shot at the RT spot. Carl Nicks of the Saints is the top notch name available, and will be paid as such. Former Eagle Evan Mathis is good, but at his age isn’t a long term solution. Baltimore’s Ben Grubbs would be an interesting signing.

There is always the possibility that the Browns end up sitting at #4 in the draft and USC’s Matt Kalil slides to them. Would the Browns pull the trigger and have the right and left tackle spots locked up for years to come?

  • mgbode

    i’m worried that Winston is going to get LT money from a team trying to transition him to that side.  also, he’s more of a zone-blocking scheme type guy.  i’d still like him here, but our FO may see differently.

    either way, I wouldn’t mind him and our backup plan should be using the #22, #37 or 3rd rounder on a RT to solidify the spot.

  • RGB

    Steve Hutchinson?

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    i surely agree with the need for improvement, but im completely gun-shy about another FA RT after schaefer, stclair, pashos.  probably irrational because (not sure) wasnt ryan tucker a FA?

    my sense is that to get a ‘good’ olineman via FA, you need to overpay.  eg, eric steinbach.

    but… all that doesnt mean it cant work out.  im for all the love and resource the browns can lavish on the o-line.

  • Kevin

    You haven’t talked about the browns trading down in the draft… is it on purpose because you wait to be closer to the draft? 

    I know Blackmon is the most probable choice… but call me crazy i’m not sold… what about trading down to 7 or 8 and picking riley rieff to play RT? Or take tannenhill or richardson (who is considered a reach at 4) and still acquiring picks for next draft? 

    I think there are interesting scenarios there and knowing Heckert habits in the draft I believe it’s a real possibility…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I feel the same about getting tackles in free agency.  It seems like you can find really good guards, but if a team has a tackle who they think is a solid starter, then they rarely ever see the free agent market during their prime.  I’d much rather find a right tackle in the draft as I think you have a chance to get a really special player as opposed to a stop-gap solution.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I feel the same about getting tackles in free agency.  It seems like you can find really good guards, but if a team has a tackle who they think is a solid starter, then they rarely ever see the free agent market during their prime.  I’d much rather find a right tackle in the draft as I think you have a chance to get a really special player as opposed to a stop-gap solution.

  • steve-o

    Free agent linemen tend to be overpriced with their best years behind them, and with our luck usually become injured. I think the plan is to use FA to add depth and acquire low-priced stop-gaps. Hopefully we’ll fill out the lines long-term through the draft this year. If so, it will have taken only 13 years.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    WR and OL if they spent/overspent on either one I’d be happy but I doubt it happens.  This feels like an Indians discussion where all we or they can do is window shop and it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    ill share the rumor im trying to spread.  :)

    we trade #4 to patriots for their 2 first rounders plus ryan mallett.  

    and not quite as far fetched as it sounds.  if there’s a team that could you blackmon, it’s the pats.  and their fanbase is fed up with the hoarding of picks here.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ WFNYRick

     I like the cut of your jib here, but wasn’t the knock on Mallett his accuracy? Not really a WCO kind of QB is he?

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    i think the knock on mallett was his head and -you know- no one liked him.  one would hope a year around brady improves that condition even if through osmosis.

    he dispelled the accuracy knock in the sugar bowl vs ohio state.  he was phe-nom-in-al.  ive never seen more good passes dropped.

  • mgbode

    he reminded me of Derek Anderson at Arkie (both the good and bad). 

  • Big Z

    If they draft a RT with #4 I’ll eat my own shoes.

  • Big Z

    If they draft a RT with #4 I’ll eat my own shoes.