NFL Cleveland Browns

5 Cleveland Browns Who Must Be Kicked to the Curb Before Free Agency

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Cleveland Browns Who Must Be Kicked to the Curb Before Free Agency

Cleveland Browns NFL Free Agency
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns head into the 2014 offseason with some critical decisions to make. They have cap room to spend on their own free agents, and to make a big signing or two on the open market. A team that was better than their 4-12 record showed last year, the Browns could be a contender in the AFC North if they make the right roster moves this offseason.

One thing they have going for them is good cap flexibility. They don’t have many bad contracts to shed. A couple jump out as places they could save a few cap dollars, but nothing serious. That’s good, but they were still one of the worst teams in the league, so they need to find some upgrades if they’re going to compete for a playoff spot next year.

The offense needs help all over, but mostly at quarterback. They need more production out of their running backs and wide receivers, but that will come if they can find a quarterback who can make plays, get them in the right calls and keep the defense on their toes. If the Browns find a franchise quarterback in the draft, the rest of the offense will fall into place.

The defense is in better shape, with playmakers in the secondary and at linebacker. The defensive line is solid and deep, but it could use an upgrade. The 3-4 defense relies on elite lineman who can take up blockers and let the players behind them fly around unblocked and make plays.

The Browns can be real contenders next year if they make some key moves this offseason, and it all begins by cutting ties with these five players before free agency.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell Cleveland Browns
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I'm not a big Jason Campbell fan. He isn't anyone's answer for a starting quarterback, and he comes with a $3.25 million cap hit next season. Since the Browns are likely to draft their starting quarterback in the draft, they only need to keep one quarterback on the roster heading into free agency. And certainly not one that takes up that much cap space.

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4. T.J. Ward

T.J. Ward Cleveland Browns
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that the Browns are seriously thinking about using the franchise tag on T.J. Ward astounds me. For a team that has been good about how they use their cap dollars, throwing them away on a safety doesn't make sense. You don't need to spend big money on a safety in the NFL. If your pass rush is good enough all they need to do is keep the big play in front of them and make a quarterback pay when they make mistakes. You can find that in the draft for cheap.

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3. Brandon Weeden

Brandon Weeden Cleveland Browns
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There's no reason to keep Brandon Weeden around if Cleveland plans on taking a quarterback in the first round of the draft this year. That's like having your ex-girlfriend sitting in your living room when you bring a new girl home. Just try that, let me know how it works out for you.

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2. D'Qwell Jackson

D'Qwell Jackson Cleveland Browns
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson has been extremely productive for the Browns, but he isn't getting younger and comes with a $9.4 million cap hit this season. The Browns want to be big players in free agency this year. As good as he's been, that's too much for a player who is starting to decline. Maybe they can work out a team-friendly new deal. If not they need to make the tough choice and let him go.

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1. Ahtyba Rubin

Ahtyba Rubin Cleveland Browns
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A defensive lineman better suited to the old 4-3 scheme than the new 3-4 and comes with an over $8 million cap hit, Ahtyba Rubin had a disappointing year in 2013. He's solid against the run, but struggles to make a difference in the pass rush and doesn't demand any double teams from opposing offensive lines. The Browns have plenty of available bodies on the defensive line, they can't afford to keep him around anymore.