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Dan Gilbert: all you could want in an owner.

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When you’re the only one investing in Detroit, you get featured in the Sunday Times.

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Scott over at WFNY jogged our memory on the Kyrie acquisition a couple days ago.  (See tweet at right.)  He’s right of course:  the Clippers included a non-protected first round pick in the Baron Davis for Mo Williams + Jamario Moon trade.  The Clippers’ pick, not the Cavs’, was the lottery winner that turned into Kyrie Irving.

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And thank you Dan Gilbert as well.

But there’s more to this story.

The Clippers have a history of making bad choices, but these are not the Stepien-era Cavs.  The 2010 Clippers rolled out Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, Baron Davis, and Blake Griffin.  They thought they were playoff contenders.  But they started slow (4-17), Kaman and Gordon got injured, the season was shot, and they decided to re-tool for 2011.  They became sellers at the trade deadline.*

If you’re in re-tool mode and you’re a young team with a #1 overall rookie all-star to build around… 31 year old guards don’t figure into the plan.  Baron Davis had a nice run with the Hornets and Warriors, averaging 20 PPG with a 42% FG% when he moved to LA.    But things went sideways fast.  Injuries and age caught up with Davis, his 3P% slipped below 30% and then there’s his contract.  Davis had $27M due him over the next two years.  The Clippers needed to dump that salary if they wanted to play in the free agent market.  And free agency is where the Clippers needed to be, not the draft.  They needed ‘the one piece.’  No rookie project will do.

Good luck finding a team owner willing to spend $27M on injury-prone, [slightly] chubby, very clubby, 30% shooting, 31 year old PG.  Even with the draft pick which is 72.5% likely to be #8 (2.8% chance at being #1), that’s a tough sell.

We don’t know, but we expect that the Clippers shopped the Davis + pick deal all over the NBA.  With three hours left before the deadline, the Cavs had the best deal on the table and the trade was made.  Looking harder at the numbers:

Davis is still owed nearly $28 million over the next two seasons and the balance of his $13 million contract this year. Moon’s contract expires after this season. Williams is owed the balance of his $9.3 million salary this season and, with player options of $8.5 million for each of the next two years, potentially could get out of his contract altogether. The savings should give the Clippers more flexibility in free agency the next two seasons.

[Math section]

Davis owed:  $28M + (13 * .25) = ~$31M
Williams:  8.5 + 8.5 + (9.3 * .25) = ~$19M
Moon:  3.0 * .25 = ~1M

The delta is roughly $11M.

[end Math]

Baron Davis was waived in December 2011… that’s nine months.

In other words:  Dan Gilbert spent $11,000,000 for the 2.8% chance to draft Kyrie Irving.

Ain’t that more than you can reasonably expect from a team owner? (more…)

Clearing the Decks: BASEBALL edition!

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Nice playing guys. But about those socks…

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I see you Tribe.  I don’t know what to do with you though.   You have a history as a tease.

But I see what you’re doing.  Leading MLB in homeruns.  Leading the AL in the all important OPS (On-base percentage plus Slugging) number; trailing only the Tigers in the old-fashioned Batting Average stat still favored by Kanick.  The strikeouts I was concerned about aren’t a big problem so far, 15th in MLB there.

Mark Reynolds in particular has been a great surprise.  The homers are great of course but he projects as 30 HR guy.  It’s his work on the strikeouts that’s got my notice.  He was a 200 K/yr guy from 2008-2011; a solid 33% SO percentage.  So far this year his SO% is 23%.  But more than the numbers, you can see that he’s shortening his swing with a two strike count; looking to protect the plate, to make contact.  Much like Tristan Thompson and his free throws, the first step improvement is a willingness to change.  Reynolds is showing us a lot of that so far.

‘This ain’t Lucky Lager!’ said Josh Reddick last nite.

On the pitching side, the starters began slowly.  But they’ve looked better lately.  Kazmir’s last performance reminded me of his early years in the Rays when he was a 10+ SO/9 all-star.  Bauer, McAllister, Kluber are showing promise.

And then there’s Ubaldo.  That’s three wins in three starts after last night.  You have to go back to his Colorado days to find another such streak.  (Naturally this accomplishment was performed in the same month he was traded to us.)  Still, he was hitting 96 mph out of the stretch after 100 pitches thrown last night.  You can’t look at that without having some optimism.  Added bonus:  if he wins five in a row, the whole team will wear stirrup socks for his starts.

I’ll even give Chris Perez an acknowledgement.  He looks like he’s lost weight.  He’s seems determined to throw first pitch strikes.  He’s still and will always be a heart-attack closer, but it’s good to see him tending to his business and keeping his mouth shut.

There’s a lot to like with this Tribe team.  I haven’t even mentioned Santana or the bullpen or Raburn.  Swisher hasn’t caught fire but he looks to be doing the right things, feels inevitable that he’ll get hot.

You have to give the Indians’ front-office credit.  They weren’t afraid to go out and add pieces.  And they aren’t even forced to by a salary floor.

Jason Giambi: MLB’s Charles Woodson. (Well kinda.)

  • Swisher, 32
  • Raburn, 32
  • Reynolds, 29

—– Banner/Lombardi would stop here. —–

  • Stubbs, 28
  • Aviles, 32
  • Bourn, 30
  • Kazmir, 29
  • Myers, 32
  • Giambi, 42.

Can you imagine if Shapiro/Antonetti adopted the Banner/Lombardi ‘No Signings over 28’ tack toward free agency?  I can.  Suffice it to say, Shapiro/Antonetti would not be enjoying the same slack. (more…)

Respect for the local sideline team.

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Clifton thinks she can take Kyrie off the dribble. HEY ALLIE: DONT FORGET YOU PLAYED FORWARD.

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Now here’s a subject I never expected to write about:  the pretty female media personality in sports.  I’m going take a swing at this with some apprehension because it’s going to be hard to pull off without seeming a dirty old man.  Let’s see if I can do it.

I appreciate the work.  Appreciate the hell out of it.  There is no way it’s as easy as they make it seem and much respect to them for that.

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I know *I* couldn’t do this.

When I see so many young women performing -let’s face it- a thankless job in a hyper-hyper competitive environment peopled with dozens of willing applicants dying to take their place… well I just think there is a lot more to the story with these women than just a pretty face.

I also think that simply being an attractive presence in the male-dominated setting and to bring a femininity while at the same time enforcing boundaries without offending anyone… this is a skill that I can’t even fathom.  I’ve known enough flight attendants to know:  it’s hard to be graceful under some of the circumstances our gender can put in front of ‘the pretty girl.’

With that as prelude, let’s review the Cleveland practitioners of this art.  I think we have talent here.

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In praise of Katie Witham.

GUYS?

I love Katie Witham’s work.  I love her cheerful demeanor whether talking to salty old Rick Manning or drunk dudes in the bleachers or an obligatory family-with-small-kids interview.  ALWAYS A PRO.  I appreciate that she’s pretty to be sure, but guys, that doesn’t just happen.  She’s hitting the gym (as all in this piece are).  That’s discipline.  That’s commitment to the craft.

Bee pollen? How else to explain the perpetual positive energy. Guys?

But mainly, I appreciate the obvious homework and prep that she puts in.  When Underwood flips it to her in the first or second inning, she will tell you something useful that she has gleaned from talking to the principal.  If Ubaldo has a blister that makes it harder for him to throw a slider tonite… she’s the one who will tell you.  USEFUL is the key.  Her reports reflect an insight and are relevant.  It’s clear to me that she knows the game and likes the game.

I find them all the more remarkable because 80% of the time, she’s pitching a promotion for the Rally Alley or some such.  For this, she becomes the object of some scorn on my twitter timeline (not huge, but enough to know my opinion is not held by all).  To these guys I just want to say:  THAT’S HER JOB.  I’ll bet you she’d much rather provide you info on Masterson’s pitch distro after the fifth inning.  But HER JOB is to talk about what they tell her to talk about and to do so cheerfully.

This is what a possible torn ACL looks like.. #PuppyPain #Not... on Twitpic

Get well Sparky.

Without irony or any need to curry favor I say this:  I think Katie can be a good/great play-by-play person if she wants to and is given the chance.  She has the requisite intelligence of the game, speaks well, and her energy level is the right amount of enthusiasm without being over the top.

[Sidebar, can I get a level-set?  I caught a Tribe game with my son a year or so ago.  Tell me if it’s me or if this is true:  when she and her camera crew come trucking through your section all heads turn.  She seemed much more a force of nature in person than on TV.]

It’s worth noting that she was a varsity soccer player for Capital and does sideline work for the Crew too.  And in researching this piece, it seems her dog had ACL surgery last month and you can see that he is bravely sucking it up.

GUYS? (more…)

Why Cleveland is great x3.

#1:  ^^Far and away the best highlight of yesterday’s home opener.

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We’ll return to salty observations on sports soon.

But today, can’t help but be struck by the overwhelming evidence supporting our working theory that Cleveland is tops.

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#1:  Dad muffs foul ball; Clevelander rights potential disturbance in The Force.

In the clip above, Dad and seven year old brought their gloves to the stadium and why not?  Seats on the third base line, prime foul ball spot.  In fact, we can’t rule out that Dad and son snuck down to open seats on the line late in the blow-out game explicitly for just such opportunity as they would meet.

But with the miracle of a slicing foul ball coming straight at Dad — lifetime memories on the line — .. we have to score it:  E-Dad.  Patrons a couple rows away reflexively raise hands in exasperation at Dad’s gag.  Adjacent fan contributes obligatory and deserved “Boooo.”

But thanks to being in Cleveland with Clevelanders around him, all was made right.

Lifetime memories?  Oh yes, this story will be retold by one person in this picture for 60-70 years if all goes well.

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#2:  Terry Francona confirms the difference between Cleveland and Boston.

“Cleveland is officially the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “Everybody I did walk by said, ‘Hello.’ That’s a little different than I’m used to.”

In fairness, it is confusing to walk from the Residence Inn to the Jake/Q complex.  Hopefully the lesson was learned and our manager remembers to use his modified Rascal for his next commute to the field.  And anyway, we want Francona-on-scooter to become another thread in Cleveland’s fabric.

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Click for more Francona-scooter lore.

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Click for link to Withers’ story.

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Let’s play: BEST CASE SCENARIO!!

Rhodes, CB at #12.

Eifert, TE at #41.

Jones, OG/C at #82.

Rambo, FS at #101.

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As of Friday AM, it’s looking like a whiff in free agency concerning the number one need for the Browns:  cornerback.  We’re also missing a free safety, a tight end ‘threat,’ and guard depth.

It could be Aqib Talib has been the target all along and that he’ll be signed today.  It could be that Kerry Rhodes makes a nice fit at safety.  The Fred Davis battle continues today and as for me, I’d welcome Dustin Keller (Dead; Keller to Dolphins.) as a consolation prize.  We see no guards on the horizon.

Regardless, one takeaway here is that the confidence displayed with the initial moves of Kruger and Bryant shows all the hopeful signs of a plan being executed.  Based on that, I will assume that the plan for cornerback, tight end, safety, and guard centers on the draft.

Sooo.. let’s play:  BEST CASE SCENARIO!!

Go.

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First step:  trade back.

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Football Outsiders says Jets o-line sucks.

The usual fan call for ‘trade-back’ tends not to address the ‘with whom shall we trade?’ question.  And as of a couple weeks ago, that was very much an open question.  But several events have created an environment where this becomes do-able.

  • Geno Smith looked good in his pro-day.
  • Bills cut Ryan Fitzpatrick and now have Tarvaris Jackson as their #1 QB.  While it *could* be with an eye toward reuniting HC Marrone with his QB Nassib in the second round, it could also reflect an interest in Geno.
  • Dolphins get nutty acquiring ‘playmakers’ and lose their best o-lineman.  They would seem to be targeting Joeckel/Fisher/Johnson as a replacement; after all that’s a top 10 QB they’ve got there and need to keep upright.  Add in that the back-loaded trickery employed to stock the 2013 roster still leaves them short on money to the point where signing draft picks might become a problem. 
  • Cardinals display every indication of having lost faith in Kevin Kolb.
  • Jets now rumored to be interested in Geno Smith.  (Of course, this report also says that the Jags, Raiders, Eagles are also interested.  But we’re playing best-case scenario and so dismissing these reports.)  The Jets line is horrible.

I’ll sprinkle in just a touch of reality and acknowledge that Geno could well be gone before the Browns’ 6th pick which would remove Bills, Cards from mix.  But the Dolphins could easily believe in a drop-off after the big three OTs.  The Jets could get squirrelly of it looks like Warmack and Cooper won’t last to #9.

We’re just playing here, right?

Ok then:

Browns trade back from #6 to #12 with Miami.  Complete deal sends Browns’ #6 and #68 (3rd) for Dolphins’ #12, #42 (2nd), and #82 (3rd).*

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Jack Nicklaus, class act.

No probs between these two.

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Jack Nicklaus was in the news this morning.  He still thinks Tiger can get to his record and still has not a hint of pridefulness about it:

In what now sounds like a broken record, Nicklaus maintains that records are made to be broken, including his gold standard of 18 professional majors, despite Woods’ rough weekend.

“I still think he’ll break my record.  Tiger’s talent, at 37 … it’s not that old. I won four after that. They were spread out. It wasn’t that difficult. I don’t think for Tiger to get four or five more — or six or seven — is that big a stretch.”

Pretty cool.

Pretty classy.

Pretty much as good as it gets in pro sports.

Pretty great to count him as a Buckeye.

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Nicklaus’ record of accomplishment is unmatched.  There’s the 18 pro majors, but that doesn’t count his two US Amateurs.  The US Amateur is definitely a major; a week long match play tournament against the best in the country.  It.  Is.  Brutal.  (Likewise, Tiger’s three consecutive US Amateurs are too often overlooked.)

So by my math, that’s 20 majors for Nicklaus; 17 for Woods.  And not a hint of pettiness from Nicklaus concerning the probable elimination of his record.

This is not new for Nicklaus.

The 1969 Ryder Cup is the most famous example of Nicklaus’ sportsmanship.  He drained a five foot putt on the final hole of their match then conceded Jacklin’s two footer to leave their match and the Ryder Cup as a draw.

From Steven Redgrave:

Nicklaus and Jacklin: sportsmanship.

One of the most important putts in the history of the Ryder Cup and Nicklaus wouldn’t let his opponent fail. As he handed Jacklin the marker, he explained his behaviour. ”I don’t think you would have missed that putt, but under these circumstances I would never give you the opportunity.” The match was halved, the tournament ended in a tie for the first time in its 42-year history and the two players walked contentedly off the green, arm in arm. However, the Americans retained the trophy as the previous winners, so Nicklaus hadn’t exactly let the side down.

Funnily enough, his team-mates were not all best pleased that they had been denied an out-and-out victory. Neither was captain Sam Snead. But Nicklaus’s philosophy was this: he believed good sportsmanship should be as much a part of the Ryder Cup as good competition and ‘the concession’ is now immortalised in golfing history.

As for Nicklaus’ golf, you will hear talk about his playing against a softer field that Woods does today.  It may be so, but as a golfer I can tell you that you are defined by your play when under the greatest pressure.  Here are just a few examples where Nicklaus simply out-clutched his opponents in majors:

Q: Why should you hold up a 1-iron in a thunderstorm?
A: Because even God can’t hit a 1-iron.

1962 US Open, Oakmont.  Nicklaus shoots 69 in the final round against Palmer’s 71 to set up a playoff.  Playing on Palmer’s effective home course, Nicklaus is not rattled by the ‘Fat Jack’ and ‘Ohio Fats’ cat calls from the Pittsburgh gallery.  He cards 71, Palmer 74; Nicklaus wins his first pro major.

1970 British Open, St. Andrews.  Everyone is familiar with Doug Sanders’ infamous three foot missed putt.  (See 11:00 in link.)  It’s as bad a stroke as you’ll see and many say that miss handed Nicklaus that particular major.  But that version of history fails to note that Nicklaus made an eight foot birdie on the 18th to win the next day’s playoff.

1972 US Open, Pebble Beach.  Nicklaus one-iron on the 218 yard 17th with a howling wind in his face.  Hits the pin, stops three inches from hole.

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I happen to find his setting the Scioto course record (66) at 15 to be both fascinating and revealing.  How many 15 year olds have what it takes to close out a round for a course record anywhere (let alone Scioto)? How many child prodigies full of potential go on to realize that potential?

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Ironically, Carmelo Anthony prompted this post.

The germ of this post was found last night.  Coming off a tough home loss to the Heat, the Knicks were sleep-walking through the first half of their game against the Cavs.  With his team down 22, Carmelo Anthony gets ‘injured.’

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Introducing the “Three Studs on the O-line” rule.

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No running back ever ran behind better blocking.

Emmitt Smith’s 164 rushing TDs are the most in NFL history.  His 175 TDs are second only to Jerry Rice’s 208.  (Smith’s eleven receiving TDs in 15 years says something unkind about his versatility but we don’t intend to go there.)

He also brought the NFL’s most classless touchdown celebration to all 175:

After every touchdown, Smith trotted behind the Cowboys bench and carefully tucked the touchdown football into a secured locker.

Dale Hansen.
The last honest Cowboys announcer.

From Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys (p. 227):

“Emmitt would score a touchdown from the two-yard-line, keep the football, and sell it at his souvenir shop back home in Pensacola,” says Dale Hansen, the Cowboys radio announcer.  “I thought it was both odd and selfish.”

Me too Dale.  Me too.  Glad I wasn’t the only one.

I always thought he should give the ball to Larry Allen.  Mark Tuinei.  Nate Newton.  Jay Novacek.  Mark Stepnoski.  Erik Williams.  Moose Johnston.  Ray Donaldson.  Flozell Adams.  Andre Gurode.  Hell, add Michael Irvin to the list, he was a great blocking WR.

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A link to pro-football ass-hattery, yours for $800+.

All of these blockers in front of Smith went to multiple pro-bowls, many all-pros, and Larry Allen is now in the Hall of Fame.

They’re why Emmitt Smith gets to append his signature with ‘HOF.’

It was painfully obvious just through the eye-ball test that Emmitt Smith was the beneficiary of one of the greatest offensive fronts ever assembled.  But his 175 incidents of douche-baggery prompted me to dig in and prove this thesis:  Emmitt Smith is the least special running back in the HOF and owes all to his offensive line.

[Here’s the link to HOF by position and by my gut take, in the RB group, I think it’s Smith and Thurman Thomas in the, ‘Really?’ category.]

After looking at the Cowboys’ impressive o-line, I started looking for other great lines with a view toward seeing whether other running backs benefitted as magnificently.  I didn’t find that.  But I did notice that great offensive lines were, generally, attached to a dynastic team.

That led me to a greater thesis which I first shared with Frowns in an email a couple years back:

“If you find a team with 3 probowl OLs, they’re pretty much in the SB; probably a dynasty.  The 90s boys were incredibly stacked.  ALL FIVE on the line plus TE and FB.  (This is why i never dug Emmitt Smith’s act.)”

To put a finer point on it, the postulate being proposed is this:

If you assemble an offensive line with three or more pro-bowlers, you’re likely going to a Super Bowl and probably more than one.

Or, more safely:

A great offensive line is an excellent indicator that you have a playoff team.

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Browns have best salary cap position in NFL.

The current Free Agent project here at kanick has uncovered some great news:

Browns are in better shape, cap-wise, than any other team. (more…)

FA target #3: Andy Levitre

Has not missed a start in four years.

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I think we’ve done good work shoring up the Browns’ defense here at kanick with the additions of Keenan Lewis at CB and Dannell Ellerbe at ILB.  Both are upgrades over the incumbent Brownie and both increase the physical presence.  Both also should be bring some needed ‘AFC North’ DNA from their old teams.  God knows we can use more Steeler and more Raven style play here.

What’s next?

Woody agrees.
All praise Woody.

Well.  When in doubt, I’m always pro investing in the offensive line.

Philosophically, I think football games are won at the line of scrimmage.  I think you build your line first.  I think all great teams share the trait of owning the LOS.  I’m old school in this way.  A great o-line can make Randall Cunningham at 15-1 QB.  A great d-line can reduce Tom Brady to a puddle.

I like the way our o-line is shaping up.  But if we’re being honest, even with Thomas, Mack, and Schwartz, we got pretty lucky at guard with Jon Greco coming in and playing great after Pinkston’s injury.  Even though he’s been pretty durable, Shawn Lauvao hasn’t been overwhelming.  We don’t know how Pinkston will be after his injury.  And putting the individual evals aside, added depth on the o-line is a good thing.  Like,, who knew losing Billy Yates would be one of the critical injuries of 2010?  But it was.

(PS, Ryan Miller is NOT depth.)

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Andy Levitre, 26, Oregon State, 6-2/306.

Hasn’t missed a start in four years.  I can’t think of a cleaner statistic for a guard.  Let’s face it:  I’m not breaking down film here so foot-work waist-bending critiques are not part of this commentary.  Stats-wise, reviewing Bills ‘sacks allowed’ isn’t a perfect metric with all the other variables involved.  (Although the Bills were 23rd in sacks allowed which is better than the Browns.)

Nice rating from PFF.  I readily admit that I don’t know how they arrive at their ratings.

Oregon State Beaver so he and Keenan Lewis will have lots to talk about.
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Just how good is the Browns’ cap position?

“I’m hearing about the Browns’ good cap position.  How good is it?”

Short answer:  Browns are in better shape, cap-wise, than any other team.

Only the Bengals have a lower current cap hit number (65MM) than the Browns (73MM).  But the Bengals need to sign Andre Smith and Michael Johnson… and there are quite a few other UFAs the Bengals need to sign or replace.

After Bengals and Browns, the Colts sit at 76MM.  All other teams are over 90MM.

Not only that:  many teams are in a world of hurt.

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I’ve been consulting spotrac.com/nfl for my data in this 2013 FA project.  I subscribed; not sure what I’m getting that you may not.  (Please let me know if I’m giving out inaccessible links.)  It seems a pretty up-to-date source.  For example, here’s their transaction tracker.

Anyway… if you look at the Browns’ 2013 cap hit page, we’re sitting at $74MM.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know exactly what this means.  I understand it to be a snapshot of the Browns’ cap situation as it stands now.

It seems useful as a point of reference in relation to other teams’ cap situations.  For example, here are the teams whose FAs we’ve been coveting:

  • Bills = $100.5MM (with Byrd a priority, I’m tipping my hand on FA #3.);
  • Ravens = Disaster.  $106.5MM (Flacco, Kruger, Ellerbe, Pitta -and Reed- all unsigned; but Ray Lewis relief seems probable);
  • Steelers = Disaster.   $133.5MM (Roeth restructure, Harrison dump seem inevitable);
  • Browns = $74.5MM (Sheldon Brown, Cribbs, Dawson are only notable UFAs). (more…)