Baking the 2014 Browns.
We’ve got a plan and it’s baking. We’re following the same recipe as last year and we’re 100x more optimistic that this could bear some resemblance to something Berea might actually try to put into play. The recipe is is this:
- Identify gaps/holes;
- Inventory draft/UFAs with respect to relative strength by position;
- Project where the best value intersects with most impact;
- Transfer genius to Powerpoint;
- Lard up presentation with caveats and;
For our purposes, we’re going to assume that Mack and Ward are re-signed.1 This leaves with holes at (ranked in some order of importance):
- WR2: I’ve hung with Greg Little longer than most but it’s time to look for something better. It’s not a dropped-ball thing in my opinion; it’s a ‘doesn’t get open’ thing. Regardless, he’s been ineffective and hope is not a strategy.
- CB2: Not a Buster Skrine hater here, but CB2 remains an area of need and it’s a high-value position with the possibility of an elite player to plug-in.
- ILB x2: Two holes here. The Craig Robertson experiment didn’t pan out, DQ is gone.
- OG2: Lauvao won’t be back and that’s fine. You can’t bank on Pinkston or Gilkey.
- RB: Nada. Dion Lewis maybe?
- WR3: Rather than search for a fullback on this chart, I’m going with a third WR. Like/love Benjamin but speed guys with repaired ACLs are chancey propositions and Benjamin wasn’t really a prototype ‘possession receiver.’
- FS: Gipson is just ok; maybe slightly less than ok.
- QB2: A backup QB is on the shopping list too.
That’s eight slots to fill in draft and free agency. That’s do-able. Let’s overlay those needs on top of our draft and UFA resources and see what falls out.
Rank (cap space) Team Offense Cap Defense Cap Cap Rollover Est. Total Cap Cap Space
01 Oakland Raiders 23,686,962 31,181,091 02,250,000 068,887,079 66,362,921
02 Cleveland Browns 39,225,857 48,882,204 24,537,568 096,447,213 61,090,355
03 Jacksonville Jaguars 40,308,290 45,136,307 19,645,313 096,517,189 56,128,124
04 Indianapolis Colts 45,805,471 45,524,673 00,607,906 092,700,877 40,907,029
05 Miami Dolphins 52,940,089 48,907,459 18,064,000 111,882,786 39,181,214
06 Green Bay Packers 50,982,912 48,560,552 09,820,459 107,697,198 35,123,261
07 Minnesota Vikings 59,521,600 35,065,785 00,812,317 098,781,079 35,031,238
08 Cincinnati Bengals 45,025,907 60,808,332 08,663,480 111,300,520 30,362,960
09 Washington Redskins 55,856,390 36,113,391 0 103,426,347 29,573,653
10 Baltimore Ravens 44,268,561 51,706,509 01,531,423 106,402,286 28,129,137
11 New York Jets 62,861,351 43,528,545 01,473,437 107,728,854 26,744,583
12 Philadelphia Eagles 72,770,671 47,795,587 17,169,768 123,775,568 26,394,200
13 Atlanta Falcons 64,326,567 33,076,905 03,129,200 109,878,262 26,250,938
14 Buffalo Bills 52,289,623 58,585,162 17,801,975 125,134,565 25,667,410
15 Carolina Panthers 53,824,038 44,489,105 06,012,268 117,723,053 21,289,215
16 New York Giants 69,474,909 36,543,764 0 113,711,814 19,288,186
17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55,367,526 60,221,426 06,769,781 120,978,071 18,791,710
18 Denver Broncos 71,797,769 38,063,901 06,400,000 121,487,832 17,912,168
19 Arizona Cardinals 53,879,058 54,364,227 05,750,007 120,874,919 17,875,088
20 Seattle Seahawks 57,261,373 52,174,211 02,845,004 118,030,451 17,814,553
21 San Francisco 49ers 50,204,373 66,355,456 02,175,038 121,433,927 13,741,111
22 Tennessee Titans 67,040,464 51,115,377 06,953,561 126,946,608 13,006,953
23 New England Patriots 57,974,543 52,766,449 04,106,801 124,407,546 12,699,255
24 Detroit Lions 54,376,638 64,073,271 01,474,552 124,259,422 10,215,130
25 Kansas City Chiefs 53,070,365 61,909,137 02,381,518 125,589,075 09,792,443
26 Houston Texans 73,412,130 44,742,050 01,114,730 124,892,964 09,221,766
27 Chicago Bears 75,618,550 42,426,780 00,746,727 125,281,999 08,464,728
28 New Orleans Saints 70,923,416 38,856,043 00,500,000 125,317,010 08,182,990
29 St. Louis Rams 60,460,767 63,152,110 0 125,682,771 07,317,229
30 San Diego Chargers 70,111,207 46,077,649 02,319,341 131,443,005 03,876,336
31 Pittsburgh Steelers 65,065,348 68,894,745 01,352,450 140,275,524 -05,923,074
32 Dallas Cowboys 74,031,597 61,974,598 01,280,693 150,751,381 -16,470,688
Free agency priority moves.
Without digging too too deep into this, it’s clear the Browns are in good shape. They have the second most cap space in the league now (~61M). (See table above with accurate data as of 3/1/2014.) Even after signing Mack and Ward; even after extending Haden; even if they do right and get out front and start signing the 2015 UFA class of Cameron, Hoyer, Sheard, Taylor (and Rubin)2 — the Browns should be participants in free agency.
In terms of “needs versus costs,” two signings approach no-brainer category:
1. Arthur Moats, ILB, Buffalo. Pettine player who graded out in the Kiko Alonzo, Bobby Wagner range.3 Put it this way: if we sign Moats, it’s because his defensive coordinator from last year who is now our head coach vouches for him. Works for me.
2. Geoff Schwartz, OG, Chiefs. I can’t claim original ownership on this one… it was either GRR or MGBode who started this Schwartz talk but damn it makes sense. He grades out highly, he’s available, he’s our right tackle’s brother. We could do worse.
There there are two marquee signings:
3. Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo. First off, yes, I know he’s 5’10”. But second, I like the idea of re-uniting the Ducks at safety. (Ward and Byrd both are Oregon products.) Again, if it turns out we make a full-court press for Byrd, I’m happy to trust Pettine to make the right calls with guys he knows inside-and-out. In fact, I’m doubly happy for a Byrd signing because a player widely considered tops at his position, having played for Pettine would have chosen Pettine.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jax. He’s just 29 and dammit he still looked good/great in the game he played against us. Alternatively, Donald Brown would be a fun signing just for the irony factor.4
Assuming these FA acquisitions unfold as planned, this leaves us in a good place to fill the other holes.
#4 Mike Evans, WR, TAMU. Fills a major hole with a unique talent. I’d be most definitely fine with Greg Robinson and Sammy Watkins or Justin Gilbert.
At #26 three options:
- (If Byrd is signed) CJ Mosley, ILB, Bama. There was a time in last season when Mosley was the player in college football I most wanted for the Browns. Then that Oklahoma game. So I’m still a tad pissed at Mosley but I’m getting over it. He can be a dominating game changing force.
- (If Byrd not signed) HaSean Clinton-Dix, Bama or Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville. I like both. I thought Clinton-Dix looked worse in field drills at the combine. But I like Clinton-Dix’s length. But rangy Bama d-back =?= Dre Kirkpatick? Either of these two are fine here, I lean Clinton-Dix because he did impress me in game play.
- (Optional trade-up) Justin Gilbert, CB, Ok St. Let’s say Gilbert is still on the board at #15. If that happens I’m picking up a phone and seeing what our second third round pick might bring in terms of move up. And if I can get Justin Gilbert for the price of our #26 and #83 picks, I’m doing it, fast.
#35 Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, EIU. Seems like a good place to acquire a top-notch learn-as-a-backup QB of the future.
At #71 three options:
- (if Schwartz signed) Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington. He killed it at the combine with speed (sub 4.5) and strength (26 bench reps). With 60 receptions in Seattle I guess you can say he can catch the ball. At least he does it more than Carlos Hyde (not as much as Dri Archer).
- (if Schwartz signed, and you’re feeling frisky) Dri Archer, RB, Kent. Fast and strong and exciting and local. There’s a lot to love here. But he is less conventional, not an every down feature back. If you only can have one, Sankey is the more sensible pick but Archer would be fun/fine with me.
- (if Schwartz not signed) Gabe Jackson, OG, Missy St. Best guard in the SEC, third best o-lineman. His slow 40 at the combine might leave him available in the third round. Jackson would fix the hole at OG for years (probably better than Geoff Schwartz).
#83 Keith McGill, CB, Utah. I get my long d-back. 6-3 with a 39″ vert and 33+” arms. If Stanley Jean-Baptiste is gone when we pick at #71, I take McGill there and take one of the three options listed for #71 here.
Fourth round #15, Max Bullough, LB, MSU. Were going to need more help at linebacker. ((Although I like Chris Borland, the 29″ arms cause me to question if he can shed blocks in the NFL.))
Fourth round #2, Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB, BC. Combine winner; we get athletic coverage linebacker6.
Fifth round. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon. Interview the guy, check him out thoroughly, if he’s not Andrew Bynum draft him. The two tight end offense is a real thing. Lyerla is first round talent. What’s the worst than could happen… you miss out on Jamoris Slaughter.
Sixth round. Michael Capanero, WR, Wake Forest. Rock solid possession receiver. Holds all sorts of records at Wake. Showed good speed and strength and great vertical at the combine.
Seventh round. Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State. Another prototype QB with size and arm. Might strike gold.
Finished product looks like this.
To sum, here’s what I’m talking about and the most likely outcome:
- Free agents: Moats, Schwartz, Jones-Drew, Byrd.
- Draft: Evans, Mosley, Garropolo, Sankey, McGill, Bullough, Pierre-Louis, Lyerla, Campanero, Wenning.
If this all comes together… how do you like the look of this starting lineup:
Like I say, this is first pass. We’ll fine tune this going forward when we know more.
- DBN does math for us and estimates the Browns’ cap space post-Mack/Ward to be ~42MM. [back]
- Nice work getting all these contract to expire at the same time by renown cap genius Joe Banner, eh? [back]
- Quick, someone remind me that PFF stats aren’t end-all be-all. [back]
- However karma requires that the Colts would then sign Alex Mack so maybe we just stay hands off on Brown. [back]
- The draft order for rounds four and on are subject to change depending on awarding of compensatory [free agent] picks. [back]
- and Mingo is buried at yet another position on the depth chart. [back]