Going back to the the conclusion of the the 2000 season, the Cleveland Browns usually have at least a few issues looming over the team during the off-season.
The 2013 off-season has seen a re-imagining of the front office, sweeping changes on the coaching staff, and the usual discussion surrounding the quarterback position. The Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam, will resume his position at Flying-J that he stepped down from less than a year ago, and the Browns are about to embark on a period of free-agency where they have the second most salary cap room in the league. They are led by team President Joe Banner who was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles front office that assembled the ‘Dream Team’ (as it was described by Vince Young). Banner filled holes on that team with players he thought would not only elevate them immediately, but give them a team that could compete for years. Amongst the moves they made were extending LeSean McCoy‘s contract and trading for DeMeco Ryans. If the Browns make similar positive impacts to their roster prior to the draft, they can be creative on draft weekend and look forward to future off-seasons.
Rumors persist that the Browns will bring in a pass rusher such as Paul Kruger or Cliff Avril. Coach Ray Horton will expect a lot from his defense and bringing in Quentin Groves from the Arizona Cardinals may help with some of the language that the defense will be learning in training camp. There are a lot of quality options at the cornerback position which is a pressing need for the Browns. The Browns should avoid spending too freely this year so that they can re-sign their own players over the next couple years. In addition, there is a free-agency period every year, but some teams tend to spend as though there is no tomorrow.
When looking at free-agents, the Browns should be looking at players that are the correct fit. The Eagles ran into some issues with fitting a player into their system when they signed Nnamdi Asomugha. He was accustomed to a man-to-man style of defense in Oakland and came to Philadelphia who ran more of a zone-schemed defense. Perhaps each side trusted that things would work themselves out on the field. It was not the best fit, and the Eagles were forced to make large-scale changes.
Teams should spend the amount of money that makes sense, which correlates to getting guys that can play well for your particular team. Young teams such as the Browns should not stray away from quality veterans who would fit their team. If a player can produce for your specific team, but not necessarily start 16 games, you can still give him a look. A big impact in free-agency should not be measured in dollars alone. Every transaction should fill a spot on the depth chart, and each side (the player and team) should have a clear idea of the player’s role on the team going forward. The Browns have good young talent, and if a veteran is a better fit for them than a player hitting the market for the first time, they need to go with who they can positively coach, who they know will fit, and who will produce. There is no room for a ‘boom-or-bust’ move right now.
For example, if the Browns had not drafted Mitchell Schwartz last year, would we be talking about bringing in a big name offensive tackle? Perhaps, but now it is just a necessity to sign or draft a guy that could periodically play the tackle position. In other words, they do not necessarily need Jake Long. Most of the Browns offensive line depth is at the interior (Ryan Miller will probably line up at guard for the future), so a quality backup tackle is something they should address.
Coaches Rob Chudzinski, Ray Horton, Chris Tabor, and Norv Turner are the leaders of this team on the coaching staff. Ideally, they each have a good idea this off-season who they might need to add to the team so that each may effectively run their systems. Signing players is one thing and coaching is another. Those coaches will be working with Michael Lombardi, Ray Farmer, and Joe Banner on putting together the right roster for the Browns.
If all goes well the Browns have enough of the right people in all areas of the team to make 2013 a good season.