When the Cleveland Browns undergo coaching and front office changes, there are assistants and players in limbo until the new staff members decide who they may retain. The 2012 season saw some improvement in the defense overall, but at the same time, the defense also developed some frustrating trademarks. The defense kept the Browns in a lot of games and allowed for development of the younger guys. Despite the progress, there were a lot of changes made on that side of the ball. Coach Ray Horton will need new players to run the style of defense that he wants.
The majority of speculation regarding player acquisition is centered on two high level free agents, whoever they may be, and getting two starters with the first and third round draft picks. Most agree that a pass rushing linebacker and cornerback are needs that will be addressed. These will likely be immediate impact players.
When considering other positions that the Browns may be looking at, what do they do at the tight end position? This is a position that coach Rob Chudzinski and coach Norv Turner probably want to solidify. Ben Watson is a free agent. He has been reliable and solid, but is he their guy for the next few years? Jordan Cameron is someone they would have to study from game tape or perhaps discuss with some of the players that defend him in practice. Alex Smith may not be re-signed. How will tight end coach John Embree view Brad Smelley? It’s debatable whether or not it’s a position of need, but surely this coaching staff wants to have a different maker at the tight end position.
New assistant general manager Ray Farmer played with the Philadelphia Eagles when they brought in Chad Lewis, an underrated but critical part of those Eagles teams. Farmer’s career was cut short after the 1998 season (coincidentally, Michael Lombardi joined the Eagles in 1998). He went on to front office work, starting with the Atlanta Falcons in 2002. His duties in the front office with the Falcons, and later the Kansas City Chiefs, included scouting professional players. If he is looking at this year’s available free agent tight ends, his options include Brandon Myers, Delanie Walker, Dustin Keller, Kevin Boss, John Phillips and Fred Davis, to name a few.
Lombardi, on the other hand, was involved in a lot of college scouting during his time with the San Francisco 49ers, Browns and Oakland Raiders. He does not have much of a record at the tight end position, but it is sure to be a position that the Browns want as an effective piece of their offense.
The Browns will be looking at tight end in the draft, especially if they trade down in the first round or somehow trade back into the second round. Perhaps they are looking at Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz early in the draft or Gavin Escobar or Travis Kelce in later rounds. Things will clear up when free-agent signings begin.