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Too much to ask?

Keenan Lewis.

Ziggy Ansah.

Andy Levitre.

Bacarri Rambo.

Dannell Ellerbe.

Dustin Keller.

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Someone’s been reading Kanick. Well-done Mr. Grossi.

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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.”
–Kanick, 2/13/2013.

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.

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[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.]

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The needs (in order):

1.  Cornerback.

23 passes-defended. No missed tackles.
Bigger, faster than Haden.
Accept no substitute.

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.

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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.

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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.

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FA target #1: Keenan Lewis

You’re looking at an NFL CB who had no missed tackles in 2012.  I kid you not.

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Update:
Jamison Hensley gets it:

There’s no question that Lewis is the Steelers’ top priority in free agency. But it’s going to be difficult to keep him considering he’s a rising player at a coveted position and the Steelers are cap-strapped again. Lewis stepped up in his first season as a starter, leading the AFC with 23 passes broken up.

The Browns’ can fill their greatest area of need with the player the Steelers most want to keep.

Is there any question that he should be priority free agent target number one?

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end update.

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The annual Brownie Hot Stove season is upon us.  Good times.

For me, this year, the draft isn’t where it’s at.  We of course need to get an impact player at number six.  Playmaking edge-rush 3-4 OLB /5-tech DE makes sense.  Ziggy Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Margus Hunt, Dion Jordan.  They all work for me.  But after that, the Browns don’t pick again until mid-way into day two.  I’m just not all fired up for the draft.  I might be more revved up if the final piece of an epic four man front were being procured.

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.

Just stop.

We’ll put the QB talk aside for now (because to be honest, I’m curious to see Weeden in a non-Shurmur offense.).  We’ll leave the silly Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace talk alone.  If you’re here at kanick, you already know that:

  • Flacco aint leaving, if you can’t recognize contract-fluffing agent-planted ‘rumors’ by now … (I was about to say go back to clev-dot-com but I don’t mean that) … and,
  • Wallace plays a position where we’re good (and Wallace’s much-talked-about measurables bear a surprising resemblance to a slightly taller Travis Benjamin*).

No, that’s the sort of talk for radio shows and national outlets.  Our bar is higher.

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When to use free agency in earnest?

Active free agent signings are best done to put an ok team over the top.  This means identifying holes and plugging them.  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.

To my eye, the biggest weakness on the Browns is the defensive backfield.  We saw how bad the CBs were when Haden was out.  Even with Haden playing, Sheldon Brown isn’t getting any younger and it doesn’t look like Skrine, Wade, Badamosi are long term answers.  All of them are 6′ 0″ or less too.

We need a big fast athletic bookend CB on the other side of Haden.  I’ve got my eye on Dominque Rogers-Cromartie.

I was SO trying to build a case for 6-2/4.3/38in vert DRC.  I was going to overlook the bad tackling rep; conjure a ‘non-suited to nickel’ bail-out; maybe even lay some blame on having worked wtih Nnamdi and Asante.  But there were a lot of ‘DRC = Doesn’t Really Care’ posts in his file.**  That nickname reminded me of the worst lay down of a professional team that I saw last year:  the Eagles quitting at home vs Bengals, 34-13. (Eagles were +4.5 at home, this cost me a Cheddar point, we do not forgive or forget.)

Dog ex-Eagle defensive backs are things we need less of, not more of.  (Sheldon Brown, you’re excluded from that.)

Revised mission statement:

Keenan Lewis.

We need a big physical CB who can cover and tackle on the other side of Haden.  

I’ve got my eye on Keenan Lewis.

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Keenan Lewis, 26, Oregon State.

6-0 3/4, 205, 4.47, 33.5 combine vertical (38.5 pro day).

Boyhood friend of Mike Wallace, played Pop Warner together.

Started all 16 games at CB for Steelers in 2012.

Grades respectably on the PFF rating.

Here’s the note that got my attention:

Lewis withstood the pressure, …, leading the AFC in passes defended.  He finished fourth in the conference in yards allowed per target and seventh in touchdowns ….  … he never gave up 100 yards in a game to opposing receivers whom he covered.

Usama Young form tackle.

Lewis was equally stout against the run, ranking third in the AFC in run stop percentage, …  … didn’t miss a single tackle on opposition running plays and helped the team’s defensive backfield allow the fifth fewest yards on runs that exceeded 10 yards. link.

Also note that in week 13, Ike Taylor was injured and Lewis was called on to cover opponents’ #1 WR and the stats are good.  (Though in truth, it appears picking on Cortez Allen became a universal game plan bullet after Taylor’s injury.)

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