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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!!
First step: trade back.
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?
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).*
You know where I’m at on this year’s free agent season:
“Free-agency is where it’s at this year. Browns have the cap space to go after someone and, in my opinion, they’re close enough to being playoff caliber where such outlays make sense. … FA done right lets you transform positions of weakness into strength literally over night. FA done right can move an ‘ok’ team into playoff range. That’s where I think the Browns are; that’s why I think this FA season is crucial.”
Are we getting fired up yet?
This weekend, next week, is this year’s version of last year’s three-picks-in-the-top-37 draft weekend. Next week will either turn the Browns into a playoff team or leave us looking at another top-10 draft pick in 2014.
Given that the Browns enjoy more cap room than most other teams and given only one draft pick in the first 67 and given the number of teams struggling with cap space… the Browns are in great shape to address several holes with top notch talent.
I’m as big a ‘build-through-the-draft’ guy as you’ll find and this year’s draft offers a good deal of hope in that at #6 overall, elite talent will be available.
But this is a unique year in free-agency and here’s hoping the Banner-Lombardi team recognize it as such. This is the year where three top-end starters in positions of need should be the goal for free agency.
Blah, blah, blah, enough… here’s my take on all this.
Here’s how I’d use FA and draft to plug the Browns holes.
[editor’s note: reduce your audio volume before clicking on the video clips. there’s no way on my side to adjust the sound and they seem to come out blaring.]
The needs (in order):
This seems so clearly to be the number one need that I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it.
Buster Skrine is currently the #2 CB. I thought his coverage was energetic and actually decent. His problem in coverage centered on his being under 5’10”. When I made the Usama vs Giants clip below, I noticed a lot of Skrine being there, but Victor Cruz just getting the ball… like Cruz would just effortlessly reach out over Skrine’s flailing little arms.. ah well. His other problem is that he’s not known as a tackler as was noted in his combine profile. In fact, pretty much everything in Skrine’s draft profile has been on target:
Undersized and will be out-muscled by stronger receivers at the next level. Tight hips limit his ability to chance direction quickly. Over aggressive at times and can be fooled by play action. Boxed out by bigger receivers in jump ball situations. Does not have the strength to shed blocks and is a poor tackler.
The move: Keenan Lewis in FA. We had him as our pick three weeks ago. We liked his no missed tackles. That no WRs got over 100 yds on him. That he did well against other teams’ #1 when Ike Taylor was out. But we keep finding more and more things to like. For example, his 23 pass defended last year was second only to Richard Sherman. And it quite a bit more than Haden’s best year (19). The video we’ve watched has done nothing but make us more jazzed to get him.
Alternate move: None. Even though the free agent CB crop looks deep — Cox, S. Smth, Toler, Grimes, Williams, Talib, DRC — I don’t see anyone in the draft or FA who is in Lewis’ class. This is the must-have signing.