By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on March 19, 2014
The Cleveland Browns have made crucial moves this offseason by filling holes in the roster. Unlike years past, the 2014 free agency period has seen Cleveland signing big-name players in the hopes of turning the franchise around. Here is a list of the players signed thus far in the offseason in the order of their impact.
First playing in the Arena Football League, Trufant has played his way onto NFL rosters for multiple teams. While most of his experience has been on the practice squad, Trufant's most recent stint with the New York Jets allowed him to become a special teams ace and dime-formation defensive back. The Browns have lacked a special teams specialist since the loss of Ray Ventrone before last season and will look to fill the void with Trufant.
Dray isn't a strong receiving threat like teammate Jordan Cameron. While he can hold his own downfield, Dray will be primarily used for his blocking. With the Browns' new focus on the running game, Dray's intangibles will come in handy while Cameron will be free to split out wide in order to throw off defenses and/or create mismatches. Don't expect too much noise from Dray, but look for him to open running lanes.
Dansby is a household name in the NFL. With an All-Pro season in 2013, Dansby is seeking to continue where he left off and fill the need at inside linebacker. He has the skills and size to both stop the run and drop back in coverage. His style of play should pay large dividends on third downs — which were a problem for the Browns last season.
Hawkins was a huge signing for the Browns. The small slot receiver has become an integral part of NFL offenses recently, and it was something Cleveland had been without. The contract offered to Hawkins will pay him a large amount in the first two years, which shows the value of his skill set and how much the Browns will use him in their offense. Look for him to free up Josh Gordon in the passing game, which will be key.
Whitner's homecoming to Cleveland gives the Browns' secondary a large boost. With T.J. Ward no longer lurking in the defensive backfield, Whitner's presence will be a talking point for opposing offenses' game plans. His ability to stop the run is a key reason why the Browns were looking elsewhere at strong safety. Whitner's leadership and style of play will enable his teammates to raise their play in a tough AFC North division.
Prior to the end of last season, Ben Tate becoming a Cleveland Brown was no more than a strong rumor that seemingly made sense for both sides. In 2014, it became a reality. With the Texans, Tate showed that he can shine in the NFL. However, injuries have plagued the beginning of his young career. Tate will get a chance to showcase his skills as a No. 1 back. If he's able to remain healthy, he has the platform to become a star.
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