Browns’ moves confuse ESPN.


War Damn Eagle.

Browns made a couple moves yesterday and dammit I let myself get tweaked by a douche-y ESPN column.  So I’m going to do the Dansby/Whitner eval and at the same time, I’ll try to help an ESPN national NFL writer grasp what’s going on in Berea.  For Kevin Seifert is perplexed:

Speaking of age, the Browns got older at safety and linebacker with their decision to sign Whitner and Karlos Dansby, respectively.  Whitner is a year older than Ward, while Dansby is two years older than D’Qwell Jackson.  Dansby will turn 33 in November and the Browns still guaranteed him $14 million.  It’s rare in this NFL climate to see that combination of numbers. The Browns were in a hurry on Tuesday.  To do what? I’m not entirely sure, but to do something.

Ok, I can help Kev.  The Browns are in a hurry “to win.”  Now.  Thus they are signing players who are good.  Now.

Me @jabaalsheard and @JOSH_GORDONXII welcoming @DonteWhitner and #dansby 2 the team! #GoBrowns

From Haden’s twitter feed:
Me @jabaalsheard and @JOSH_GORDONXII welcoming @DonteWhitner and #dansby 2 the team! #GoBrowns

Among a punditry who seem only to understand endless building for future,1 the concept of a 4-12 team signing a player over 30 is so mind-blowing, so threatening to the world order, that it must be attacked; so far off the radar that smug and smarmy is the kindest reaction Kevin Seifert could muster send Berea this morning.

Seifert isn’t the only one.  Never a known as a Browns-o-phile, Walterfooball offered these nuggets:

On Whitner, (Grade B-):  So, in typical Cleveland fashion, the team has downgraded a position with someone who has a greater contract. Oh, Browns… This deal isn’t bad though. Whitner is a two-time Pro Bowler who has missed just one game in the past four seasons, and at 29, he still has at least two quality seasons left.

On Dansby, (Grade C-):  Sigh… same old Browns. Only inept teams like Cleveland would pay this much money to a soon-to-be 33-year-old linebacker who is almost certain to decline sometime soon. Granted, Dansby played out of his mind this past season, but he was on a 1-year deal, so he was extremely motivated to land another big contract. Cleveland naturally fell for this charade. … Once again, free agents who take big money to go to inferior franchises almost always disappoint. Dansby has shown that his No. 1 priority is money, so how motivated will he be while playing for a perennial loser? This is a disastrous move by Cleveland’s new front office.

Let’s see if we can help Seifert and Walter out and cut through the fog of these moves.

Late edit to add:  Bill Barnwell also confused.

4. Cleveland replaces T.J. Ward and D’Qwell Jackson with Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby: The players the Browns signed are certainly bigger names, and they cost more, but they’re also older and have their own question marks. Whitner is something close to a disaster in coverage, and the track record of 49ers defenders after leaving San Francisco leaves much to be desired.  Dansby barely got any attention after the Dolphins released him last year, and while he played excellent football for Arizona for much of the 2013 season, Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers noted that Dansby’s production coincided with the return of Daryl Washington to Arizona’s lineup.

Old friend Bill Barnwell mails in another one.2 Historically, Barnwell pays closer attention his Sloan-y new-school analytics than he does his eyes.  How’d that DVOA-based “Colts must regress” prediction turn out, Bill?  The guess here is that if the Browns had signed 33-year-old OLB Calvin Pace as Barnwell suggested3 the Grantland page would be friendlier to Berea.

Karlos Dansby:  “Older at Linebacker.”

If you get paid to analyze football and if your comparison of Dqwell Jackson and Karlos Dansby yields, “Dansby is older,” you’re stealing.  Below are four metrics measured by PFF for ILBs:  pass cover, run defense, pass rush, and overall.

There is not one category where Dansby isn’t better than Dqwell.  There isn’t one category where Dansby isn’t considerably better than Dqwell.  For the national sports media pundit on-the-go, the handy ‘Overall’ grading is available and a quick look-see says:  Dqwell Jackson #42; Karlos Dansby #5.4.  

Dansby will be 33 in November; Dqwell will be 30 in September.  So Dansby must be declining while Dqwell is… still in his prime?  Welp.  Here’s that PFF ‘ILBs-OVERALL’ ranking again, this time, year over year.



Click for ear candy.

And did I mention War Damn Eagle?  Quentin Groves is pumped to have another Auburn Tiger at linebacker.5 Wouldn’t be at all surprised if Groves moves into an inside linebacker and you see Dansby and Groves terrorizing the center of the field.

Browns are vastly improved at ILB with the Dansby signing and it’s not a build-for-the-future-cap-space-hoarding-trading-for-future-picks-developmental-project signing.  It’s a we’re a good team now with a six pro bowlers and the window is open we’re jumping through it before it closes move.


That one was easy.   Whitner versus Ward takes slightly more research but we’ll arrive at the same conclusion.

Donte Whitner:  “… a year older than Ward.”

Seifert must have been running his interns ragged to come up with this level of research.  Once again, for the price of a PFF subscription it’s easy to get more granular.  This time, in addition to comparing Ward and Whitner, we’ll also look at Jairus 6yr/ 54M/ 11M bonus/ 28M guaranteed Byrd.

When you look at these numbers, TJ Ward comes out on top, overall, over both Whitner and Byrd.  Whitner/Byrd still top 10.  Ward is tops in run defense, Whitner still a top 10 safety against the run and note the our ILB just got a lot better against the run.  Whitner shows better in pass cover.  Their size is almost identical, both 5’10”, both with shortish (30-31″) arms, Whitner is faster (4.5 for Ward, 4.4 for Whitner).


Why wouldn’t we want some Glenville on the Browns?

Whitner will be 29 in July; Ward will be 28 in December.  Meh.

Here’s what I see:  a net improvement in pass cover.  2013 Browns graded 25th in pass cover, it was a weakness.  It is improved with Whitner.  We lose some run defense.  Note:  if your safeties are crucial to your run defense, you’ve got bigger issues than safety-run-defense ratings.

And I know it’s a crutch to resort to the ‘local ties’ angle, but dammit — all things being equal — wouldn’t you rather have the Tarblooder who can’t wait to get back to Cleveland to play for the Browns?  It’s only good.

Alrighty, my main thing was to get after Seifert and Walter.  But as long as we’re here, let’s check:

Tracking against budget.

In my first planning post, I roughed out the costs needed to keep our core group of 2015 UFAs and — after taking care of Haden, Sheard, Taylor, Cameron, Hoyer — settled on $30M in cap space up for grabs this off-season.  In the second planning post, I assigned some contract estimates for players/positions.  The short net-net:

Browns are tracking on-pace to spend to cap without getting into a box that jeopardizes extensions for the 2015 UFAs.

ILB cap slotting.
  • I had Arthur Moats with Stephen Tulloch money:  5 yrs/ 25.5M/ 11.3 gtd. /2.6 cap hit;
  • Karlos Dansby:  4 yrs, 24M, 6M bonus, 12M gtd. /5.5M cap hit. 
SS cap slotting.
  • I had TJ Ward re-signing using  Tyvon Branch as a template:  4/26/10.1 gtd/ 3.8 cap hit;
  • Donte Whitner:  4 yrs, 28M, 9M bonus, 13M gtd. (cap hit unknown, estimate 4M).

The Whitner signing is neutral against what was expected at SS.  The Dansby’s cap hits are being taken up front.  My takeaway is that they’re going for fewer free agents of higher quality than what I was projecting.  That’s cool.

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

Speaking of decent players over 30… Willie Colon at OG?

About that hole at Guard…

So my Rodger Saffold idea was just a bit off.  Turns out I low balled him by 50%.6 His salary was crazy proof that it’s better to be a tackle than a guard.  The other prime guard target, Geoff Schwartz was signed by the Giants, so the top UFA guard prospects are off the board.


Unless the signing of elderly Karlos Dansby frees us to look at other older free agents like, say, this guy. –>

Alrighty, that’ll do for now.  Revising my wish list, I’m now hoping for 

  • WR2, Sanders;
  • OG, Colon;
  • ILB2, Moats;
  • CB2, A. Cromartie;
    • No.  Not Darrelle Revis.
  • FS, meh/draft.

Also, check out a highly caffeinated podcast I did with WFNYCraig yesterday afternoon. 


  1. If you can find a national writer who was critical of Banner’s draft trade-out last year and/or the Bess signing and/or the Kruger overpay and/or the Bryant redundancy, please send link. [back]
  2. He also mailed in the Browns blueprint where we get Brandon Spikes and Calvin Pace. [back]
  3. I know right?  An old OLB?  For the Browns?  Does he not have access to the Ourlads Depth Charts? [back]
  4. If you want to play with the data, I have the PFF stats up on Google Docs here.  You won’t be able to edit/sort and you can at least see it. [back]
  5. As am I. [back]
  6. Walter didn’t like the Saffold signing one little bit:  Reggie McKenzie continues to destroy the Raiders. From the man who spent a first-round pick on a second-round corner prospect with a heart problem and refused to franchise anyone this offseason, McKenzie’s latest deal might be the biggest joke of all.
    I don’t understand this. Why didn’t McKenzie just franchise Jared Veldheer, who happens to be better than Rodger Saffold? And does McKenzie really think Saffold can play left tackle? Because he can’t. He can’t even stay healthy. Saffold has missed 17 games in the past three seasons, so why would he suddenly remain healthy on the West Coast?
  • bupalos

    Is there any significant OL help left out there? Starts to look to me like we might get 4 draft picks there. Not complaining. I think that’s probably the right way to do it. Would guess maybe all of 3a, 3b, 4, and 6 on the line, or something like that.

    • Willie Colon is the only name that rings off the top of my head. Now cheating… and yes it’s Colon although a team willing to risk the bitter enmity of public opinion would find terrific value in Incognito. (Really, not my intent to stir that up. But empirically, he is a good OG available for a song. See ranks attached.)

      Not sure about four picks on o-linemen but would welcome it. I’m starting to warm up to Greg Robinson if he’s there. If you think he’s Anthony Munoz, dont you really have to take him? Plus Auburn.

      I find it telling the Pettine hasn’t gone after ACromartie or Moats as of yet.

      Cant say there’s anyone I really really really want them to get after. If they stop now and lock down the 2015 UFA class you’d have to call it a win.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Jake Matthews with the 4th pick. Zack Martin with the 26th pick.
      That should work well to bolster the line.

  • jpftribe

    Agree here as well. I think the cliche of poor teams overspending on older players is mostly valid and Farmer is taking some risk in Dansby coming off a one year FA contract. I think Banner would not have done so for this very reason. Facts are he is a better ILB than DQ, and they mitigated risk by paying him up front in a year flush with cap. Good bet in my book.

    Also hadn’t thought of Groves at ILB, but that makes eminent sense. Did think of Sheard at ILB, which would be interesting but assumes Mingo is a legit OLB every down. Kruger, Dansby, Groves and Sheard, with Mingo coming in for Kruger / Sheard is actually a compelling upgrade from a year ago. Underneath coverage at ILB was a disaster last year. I don’t see any of those guys getting manhandled in the run game.

    Need a corner bad, a really good one and move Skrine to nickel where he can play. A coverage FS is then the only hole on D. That’s pretty good FO work after losing two starters.

    If the Edelman rumor is true, then they are going WR with the first pick. That starts to make a lot of sense. Gordon, Edelman, Cameron, Watkins/Evans are a lot of weapons for Hoyer. Please, please, please stay away from Johnny Football.

    • jpftribe

      Sign Colon and draft a guard with one of the Steeler picks. That would be a great double whammy.

    • bupalos

      This is why I don’t understand why Verner is not a Brown today. It was responsible money and you’re paying for his prime. I think it was like 6.5. I’m guessing they just didn’t like his style of play, but unless they’ve got a bigger corner on tap in the next few days or think there is a guy in the draft who can play this year, I don’t understand.

      Need to look at who’s left at corner.

      • jpftribe

        Don’t assume they didn’t go after him. Think they were after Revis, Carroll and Verner and couldn’t land them. Revis wanted to go to Pats, Carroll chose Kelly and Tampa money is tax free, Browns would have had to up it 8-10% to stay even. Lets face it, this franchise has serious reputational issues. As much as Farmer, Pettine seems to make sense, they are not Belicheck, Kelly or Lovie Smith.

        There is a reason Whitner and Dansby cost more than DQ and Ward, and I don’t think it is entirely PFF rankings, they are paying premiums to land these guys.

        • bupalos

          The bottom line is that with the cap we have, we CAN pay a premium and CAN land whoever we want. Verner at 7.5 seems totally reasonable to me. They can control things here and they need to.

          I was reticent to spend last year because it was hopeless. This year I think they need to go all-in up to the point of still preserving future flexibility. I think that would mean one more top-tier acquisition at corner, and I think they may have let the market get away. DRC on 4 years 36/22 might make sense. Or I guess maybe a combo of WR-Sanders and the next best corner after DRC? That secondary is good but still incredibly thin. They were pretty lucky health-wise last year. A Haden injury would blow the whole season up.

          • jpftribe

            Can pay premium, yes. Can land who we want, I dunno.

            The reports were they wanted Revis if he wanted to play here and would do a trade. Maybe that is BS. Maybe Tampa was trying to jack them for a high round pick and they walked. Maybe Tampa was playing games while they locked in Verner. Only a handful in Berea really know.

            But they did cut him, he signed for 4m less with the Pats and Tampa wound up with Verner. Reports were 6 teams bidding on Verner. Not sure they can land them even with a premium.

          • bupalos

            That trade thing made 0 sense to me. No one wanted to pay him 16, so in order to do a trade, he had to agree to lower money, which presumably would be something even less than whatever he would get in FA. Otherwise why is the acquiring team trading? But he has absolutely no incentive to agree to that, it would be insane–the bucs choose where he goes and he gets less money.

            All the bucs had to trade was Revis at 16M. That is a zero-value commodity. So none of that made a lick of sense to me.

            It’s hard to know what the loser premium is at this point, but I’m pretty sure it’s not even 10%.

          • jpftribe

            And I totally agree on your point in losing Haden. But losing Hoyer was a disaster last year, and losing Groves and Bryant did not help. I wouldn’t call them lucky in that department.

      • Petefranklin

        Munnerlyn is gone. I thought his deal looked inexpensive to me, and he goes to a team that desperately needed a CB.

        • jpftribe

          Not impressed with Munnerlyn. Long time Panthers follower here. Made most of his coin as a special teams gunner.

  • zarathustra

    No disagreements for the most part from me. I prefered whitner to ward prior to monday–though I thought he would be cheaper–and I don’t care how old dansby is I am supremely confident he will be better than d. Jackson–easily one of the most overrated players of the expansion era.
    My only plea is that you disregard the pff numbers and watch some Steelers games. I promise you will not be so enamored by Emanuel Sanders. Edelman is infinitely better at only a slightly higher price.
    Totally agree about moats and cromartie though. I would be fine with colon as well, but I’m not sure he fits what they are looking for in a guard.

    • bupalos

      Agree the drops on Edelman are overrated. Every player who is asked to run those routes ends up with drops.

      • zarathustra

        Exactly. There are only a few lunatics with the fearlessness to play the slot as effectively as he does. By running the routes that he does it not only keeps the chains moving, but it opens things up downfield for Gordon, rookie wr, and Benjamin. I will gladly accept a few drops. Emmanuel sanders offers more big-play ability for sureand has far more potential as an overall receiver, but a suicide slot guy–again to steal your term–is far more valuable to the offense as a whole.

  • mgbode

    if you would like a good laugh. see that Walter Football has Dansby the 2nd rated FA ILB, DQ the 5th. They sign similar contracts. Indy given grade of C for DQ, Cleveland given grade of C- for Dansby. That is all you need to know about Walter Football when it comes to Browns’ analysis.

    • bupalos

      DQ’s contract isn’t similar. Only the top-line number. That deal is basically a 1 year deal with team options.

      But Dansby is a WAY better player so point taken.

  • bupalos

    >>>(exception being the increasingly dumb Colts).>>>>

    Their strangest moves have short term outs, but I agree that I haven’t agreed with a single thing they’ve done.

  • Dave Kolonich

    It’s the same lazy stories every year. It’s NFL free agency – everyone gets paid way too much. And obviously the worst teams in the league are the ones doing the most spending (exception being the increasingly dumb Colts).

    On Dansby – The Cardinals were one of the best defenses in the league last year (without Ray Horton – whooda thunk?) and Dansby benefited. While I would love to see Calais Campbell and Daryl Washington come with him, I’ll still take Dansby over D’Qwell any day. Whitner’s an upgrade in terms of physical safety play – something that was always missing with Ward.

    Now onto the important stuff….grab a Guard, another ILB, a Corner, a WR, FS, figure out Mack, extend Haden….you know, all the things that Banner and Lombardi didn’t do.

    • Petefranklin

      Talking about lazy, Grossi has his second mock draft up and people are all stirred up over there. Unbelievable.

  • GRRustlers

    ESPN Alternate Headline:

    ESPN not prepared for a world in which Browns are trying to win.

  • bupalos

    Well done. Totally agree.

    Wondering why Moats isn’t done. I have to think the Browns feel Dansby solidifies things by itself and went kind of low like maybe 3-ish, and he’s trying hard to find more dollars. He has to be worth more to the Browns than anyone else– although your thought about Groves is sure interesting.

    Glad the Browns went for Hawkins and at worst pushed another million+ onto Cinci’s books. And I would be ok taking him for that.

    Of what’s left there I think Sanders is a decent bet and something relatively minor on the O-Line. We’re still thin in the secondary so maybe a minor signing there too.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      Would have liked a CB playing safety, but Hitner is a linebacker trying to cover receivers. I liked TJ, but his coverage skills were in question. Now the Browns have up/down/midgraded to another safety with very questionable coverage skills. Drink!

      • bupalos

        yeah, my take is/was there are hardly two more similar players in the NFL than Whitner and Ward. But I haven’t really seen Whitner lately and at least according to Kanick’s fancy metrics he’s supposed to have improved his coverage. Mostly a wash there.

  • nj0

    I’m no capologist (sp?), but since nearly half of the Dansby guarantee is in this year isn’t that “building for the future” as well? We’re spending on this year’s cap to get someone who can contribute now (hopefully) while also taking on minimal commitments over the rest of the contract. Isn’t that how it works?

    Lazy, lazy analysis though. Peter King said the same thing (not surprisingly).

  • AlvaroEspinoza10

    Thank you for calling out the lazy/superficial/false narrative coming from national (and local) media. Older = worse 100% of the time apparently. I can’t believe some of these people get paid to write about sports.

    Would signing Moats now tie up too much money at ILB?

    • not per my calcs. i had a fair amount of dough allocated to OG and QB and those monies look to be freed up.. could re-direct to moats. i will be interested to see whether i overrated moats’ value. i have him slotted for slightly less guaranteed than dansby. given that his name isn’t out there in the rumors, i’m guessing he might come in “cheap.”

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