Cleveland Browns May Be Attractive To Free Agents

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cleveland browns free agents
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 12: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts has the ball knocked out of his hand, attempting a pass by outside linebacker Dee Ford #55 of the Kansas City Chiefs, during the second half of the AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Browns 2019 off-season couldn’t be more different to the off-seasons of years gone by. 2018 wasn’t a catastrophic nightmare. They have a franchise quarterback, a promising head coach, and talent across the board. For the first time in possibly their entire history, the Browns may be attractive to free agents.

The Browns May Be Attractive to Free Agents

When John Dorsey arrived as general manager in 2017, it was the beginning of a better future for Cleveland. The Browns 2018 Draft was one to be envied. By drafting some of the most highly-touted young talents, the franchise was no longer full of holes at their weakest positions. Baker Mayfield was the quarterback they had been looking for, and there was an air of confidence in Berea never felt before.

By seasons end, the Browns had three more wins they had in three previous seasons combined. Their record of 7-8-1 is a strong reminder of how close they came to being in the playoffs.

With former interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens named head coach, the franchise’s future is now looked at with optimism, not dread. Kitchens already connected with Mayfield, who flourished in leaps and bounds under his guidance, and that sets the rest of the team up for success.

Jim Ingraham of Forbes outlined Cleveland’s free agency situation and it looks promising.

Expiring Contracts

The Browns have 15 free agents. Receiver Breshad Perriman and left tackle Greg Robinson are unrestricted. Perriman was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. In 10 games with the Browns last season, he averaged 21.3 yards on 16 receptions, two for touchdowns.

Robinson was selected second overall by the Rams in 2014. Last season, he performed well replacing injured left tackle Desmond Harrison.

Meanwhile, Rashard Higgins gelled with Mayfield. In 13 games, he caught 39 passes, averaging 14.7 yards per catch, and four touchdowns. Ingraham believes Higgins is a candidate for a low tender offer as a restricted free agent.

The cornerback situation in Cleveland has question marks all over it. Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a restricted free agent, struggled last season. It seems unlikely he’ll remain in Cleveland. However, the Browns may try to re-sign E.J. Gaines.

The Browns Biggest Needs

Denzel Ward clearly needs a cornerback with speed. Run defense was lackluster, and it put the Browns almost at the bottom of the league in that category.

The Browns are in need of two reliable interior linemen. This year’s defensive linemen class is stacked, so the franchise may finally be able to fill this gaping hole.

The franchise has yet to find an elite linebacker. Jamie Collins is the closest they have to that, but it remains to be seen where he will be.

A backup quarterback will be a big need if Tyrod Taylor leaves as a free agent. Drew Stanton doesn’t play at a high level and won’t be enough to fill Mayfield’s cleats if he gets injured.

Targets

Despite Collins leading the Browns in tackles last season, it’s easy to see how little enthusiasm he seems to have. The team is on a positive journey and doesn’t need this baggage. $81 million in cap space gives them the capital they need to shop around.

John Dorsey may feel defensive lineman Dee Ford is worth something since they’ve worked together before. Ingraham believes other defensive line targets should include Ezekiel Ansah, Brandon Graham, and Grady Jarrett. As for wide receiver, Tyrell Williams could be on the Browns watch list.

The Browns are in an unfamiliar position, having the 17th pick in the first round of the draft. It’s their lowest slot since 2011 and they’re not going in with desperation. Now that their quarterback and the overall offensive situation is solid, they can truly address their defensive needs. And by improving in leaps and bounds last year, Cleveland is now an attractive destination for free agents.

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