After years of inferior management and instability on the sidelines it appears the Browns have hired some solid people to run their organization. Now it’s up to G.M. Sashi Brown to find the right players. With over 100 million in cap space including nearly a dozen draft picks Brown appears to have everything he needs to finally get this team right.
Don’t forget to tune in to The Sports Section where we give more details on free agency and the draft as well as Ourlads’ Guide to the 2017 NFL Draft with Dan Shonka.
Top free agents
-QB Josh McCown
-OL Austin Pasztor
-WR Terrelle Pryor
-S Jordan Poyer
-QB…Coach Hue Jackson’s belief in Cody Kessler as a potential starter will determine whether the Browns will use either of their first-round picks on a signal-caller. If he has strong doubts then by all means Brown needs to draft a player early.
-WR…With four of last year’s draft picks still part of the depth chart including first-round pick Corey Coleman, the decision to add another starter then comes down to whether Brown will re-sign Pryor. Even if he does, Brown needs to add another starting caliber player either in free agency or the draft. Alshon Jeffrey is the top free agent receiver available and the Browns can surely afford him. But would they pay him? If they prefer younger and cheaper players in free agency they can look to either Cordarrelle Patterson or Kenny Stills.
-TE…Gary Barnridge was a pleasant surprise in 2015 and became McCown’s favorite target. He dropped off a bit last season and will be 32 in September. The draft is chock full of players here so I expect Brown will look for his future starter in April.
-OL…Since Brown used two picks last season to add Shon Coleman (3rd round) and Spencer Drango (5th round) I don’t sense this is a position of major need. But adding more depth and re-singing Pasztor would make sense as the offensive line struggled when starters Joel Bitonio and John Greco were lost for the season and 2015 first-round pick Cameron Irving has been slow to develop.
-DE…After drafting Emmanuel Ogbah (2nd round) and Carl Nassib (3rd round) early last year, Brown needs to add just one more quality player here.
-OLB…If the Browns are going to get serious about pressuring the quarterback they’ll need a premier player at this spot. That’s why drafting Myles Garrett first overall makes the most sense.
-DB…The Browns need at least two impact players back here and possibly three if they don’t re-sign Poyer. They’ll be looking to add another starting corner and possibly two safeties.
Key Injuries/games missed
The key position affected the most by injury was the interior of the offensive line. Bitonio missed the last eleven games with a foot injury after missing the last six in 2015 with an ankle injury. Greco missed the last four with a foot injury and also missed the last three in ‘15 with a knee injury. Since both players are quality starters it’s important they remain healthy. But due to their inability to remain healthy the last two seasons the Browns will need to add some depth up front to avoid the break down issues from seasons past.
On defense it was free agent safety Jordan Poyer who was dealt with the most serious long-term injury after a blindside hit from Tennessee running back Antonio Andrews lacerated his kidney in Week 6. Poyer was placed on IR and missed the last ten games.
The most important decision Sashi Brown faces is finding a franchise quarterback. No matter what Hue Jackson thinks of Cody Kessler, the Browns will most certainly add another one early in the draft. And while the rest of the roster needs more quality depth, it’s the difference-makers that ultimately turn franchises around and the Browns can use as many of those as they can find.
After drafting Garrett with the first pick the Browns will most likely turn to the quarterback position next. With three picks in the first 33 and 11 total they’ll have the ammo necessary to move up and guarantee themselves one of the top three available.