NFL teams are permitted to speak to free agents tomorrow, although the players cannot sign contracts until March 12th, the official starting day of free agency. With $45 million in cap space, the Cleveland Browns promise to be active in free agency this year. Browns CEO Joe Banner explained why the Browns feel they should be aggressive and target the best players available.
“The fact we have cap room and other teams don’t I think will help us in the marketplace,” said Banner. “I view this as a good year to be in the free-agent market and to be able to get fair market value. You never know, but I would expect us to be participants in free agency.”
Banner believes the Browns need to start spending some of their available money in order to contend.
“We’re going to be an active, aggressive team in spending over the years,” Banner said said. “I say ‘years’ on purpose. In a given year, depending on where you’re at, you might not be, but over the course of years we’ll be on the aggressive end of team spending.”
The Browns are not expected to sign any of their own impending free agents as long tenured special teamers, Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson, are not projected to return, despite both players having spent their entire careers in Cleveland.
Although the Browns are likely a year or two away from contending and even though the top tier free agents prefer to sign with elite teams, the Browns plan to seek out the biggest fish in the free agency sea.
The Browns are reportedly interested in defensive end Cliff Avril and linebacker Paul Kruger, two of the most sought after defenders in the open market. Avril and Krguer would be great additions for defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 multi-front attacking scheme.
The offensive side of the ball is also an area the Browns need to fix badly. Cleveland is reportedly interested in Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, who would fit perfectly in Norv Turner’s offense as the wideout to stretch the field in the down-field passing attack. The Browns won’t rule out signing Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings either. Both Wallace and Jennings are expected to leave their respective teams after contract disputes from last year. Both players complained constantly throughout the year of their contract statuses and were a bit of a distraction to the team. But Banner believes players of this caliber are worth the risk.
“Somebody that’s a little bit flamboyant but is a really hard worker and really badly wants to be the best he can be and really wants to play on a winning team doesn’t scare me,” said Banner, who spoke in general terms. “Players that have off-the-field problems or aren’t driven to be great, we will stay away from.”
With the second most cap space entering free agency, the Browns owe it to their fans to spend some cash on top tier free agents. The Browns have good young talent on their team now, so the additions of veteran free agents would be a significant step in their rebuilding process.