This past Thursday, the NFL entered its new league year. Nowadays, it’s certainly become a social media spectacle, especially concerning the Twitter account of one Ian Rapoport. During this time, Rapoport’s account becomes one of the hottest destinations on the internet. This is because of the NFL’s annual “free agency frenzy.” While free agency is open, NFL teams scramble to throw money at their players of choice in the hopes of signing them. Over the course of the past weekend, the Cleveland Browns free agency department made three signings and one trade. Let’s take a look at them in review and give them a grade.
Cleveland Browns Free Agency Report Card
Kenny Britt: B+
After everything settled, the reasoning behind this signing is rather sound. With Terrelle Pryor now leaving for the Washington Redskins, the Browns had to sign his replacement. That replacement turned out to be former St. Louis/Los Angeles Ram, Kenny Britt.
Britt had a breakout season in 2016 with five touchdowns on the year. Additionally, Britt caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards, the best of his career. Britt gives Browns quarterbacks like Cody Kessler a big body to throw to and allows for a wider margin of throwing error. Coach Hue Jackson reportedly told Britt that it is now his job to “make the quarterback look good.” Hopefully, he can do that in 2017. It seems like the Browns could see something in Kessler and want to help him out. The Browns free agency analytics department made a nice move with this one, and receive a B+ for their efforts.
J.C. Tretter: B+
While the day went on, the Browns stayed quiet for a few hours. Then, news broke of another Browns free agency signing. Rapoport reported that Cleveland had signed J.C. Tretter. Before he injured his knee, Tretter was the starting center for the Green Bay Packers. During his time in 2016, Tretter was top five at the center position. In short, the Browns got incredible value with Tretter.
The only worry that fans should have with him is his injury. Although he might be relatively the same, the risk of re-injury tends to run high in the NFL. But then again, anything that Tretter does is better than Cameron Erving‘s work by default. The Browns made out like bandits on this one, so they receive another B+.
Kevin Zeitler: A
When free agency opened up, Kevin Zeitler immediately became the hottest guard on the market. The former Cincinnati Bengals lineman narrowed his list down to three teams, including the Cleveland Browns. Of course, with the most cap space in the league, the Browns won him over with outrageous money, right? Well, almost.
Zeitler did tell reporters that the Browns had the most to offer, but that was in more ways than one. While the money did factor into it (as the Browns made Zeitler the highest paid guard in NFL history), he also mentioned Hue Jackson. Zeitler played under Jackson when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Now, this is incredibly telling of Jackson’s influence and potential. If he was able to win over the top free agent guard to the worst team in the league, that’s really saying something. The Browns get a solid A for this one.
Brock Osweiler: A-
In the first minute of the new league year, the Cleveland Browns made headlines by trading for Brock Osweiler. Immediately, reporters were quick to shame Cleveland for being the “same old Browns.” But then, the details of the deal came in, and this year’s Browns free agency strategy became clear.
This trade, for the Browns at least, was not about Osweiler. This trade was about the draft pick that the Houston Texans packaged with the “Brock Star.” In addition to Osweiler, Cleveland collected yet another draft pick in 2018’s second round. If the Browns find a player better than Brock Osweiler with that pick, it immediately pays off. Currently, the Browns are looking to shop Osweiler and a fifth-round pick for a third-round pick in exchange.
Composite Grade: A+
All in all, this free agency period for the Browns was magic. First of all, they went in and bolstered the league’s worst offensive line. If Shon Coleman works out at right tackle, this could be one of the league’s best lines in 2017. If not, the Browns still have a solid four out of five because they extended Joel Bitonio‘s contract.
In addition to the offensive line, the Browns picked up a replacement for Terrelle Pryor. Kenny Britt is underrated and could have another breakout year with the right quarterback. Perhaps one Cody Kessler? Finally, the Browns essentially bought a second-round draft pick. Overall, this Browns free agency period receives an incredibly solid A+. It looks like Cleveland might be heading in the right direction with this “analytics” approach after all.