The beginning of free agency answered some questions for fans of the Cleveland Browns, but many will remain through August.
By adding Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves and Desmond Bryant, it is clear that secrets are difficult to hide. These players have been linked to the Browns for a large part of the off-season. The Browns pass rush should be improved, which was a stated goal of the front office.
The assumption is that Jabaal Sheard can successfully transition to the outside linebacker spot opposite Paul Kruger. Sheard will potentially be learning a new position, in a new scheme, on the side of the defense that he was moved from during his rookie season. If given the time and the coaching, Sheard will make a solid player at the position. Quentin Groves gives them a player that knows this defense that helps solidify the idea of the position, whether he shares time with Sheard or Kruger.
Who will play the inside linebacker positions? D’Qwell Jackson will have one spot. Will Tank Carder get an opportunity to compete? Where do Chris Gocong, James-Michael Johnson, and Emmanuel Acho fit in on the defense? Craig Robertson and LJ Fort give the Browns good depth and flexibility. This defense needs an enforcer at the linebacker position. The questions regarding the linebackers can not be overlooked or taken for granted.
While the defensive line seems solidified, a lot must happen at the linebacker position before the Browns defense is set. Coach Ray Horton and his staff will be very busy assembling a core of linebackers.
Most of the offense is set. The team may add a wide receiver from the group of free agents, but who would it be, and will the constant rumors surrounding the quarterback position turn off some potential receivers? With Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, and Jordan Norwood, the Browns have a group that will be going into its second year together as a unit.
This is the point where chemistry and trust develops between the skill players and the quarterback. A good rapport between the quarterback and his receivers takes some time. While Andrew Luck was fortunate to have an experienced receiver in Reggie Wayne to throw to, you will not find that level of ability in the remaining pool of free agents. It will be interesting to see if this group of receivers can come together under coach Norv Turner, and be exactly what Brandon Weeden needs to succeed.
It would be great to add a productive tight end in the NFL draft. They have Jordan Cameron, with Gary Barnidge signed to help fill a variety of roles at the position. Cameron will be counted on to supplement what the receivers do, but why not add a player in the draft that they feel confident can come in and play?
The Browns appear to be looking at cornerback in the draft, but trading down is an option as well. There is plenty of reason to like what is happening in Cleveland, but there is always more work to be done. It does not happen overnight. Patience and development is critical with this team.