The Cleveland Browns are projected to have the most cap space in the NFL this offseason, coming in at around $105 million. That’s enough to completely revamp the roster, and while they won’t be able to lure every top free agent, they should be able to bring in a handful of difference-makers.
With needs all over the roster, the Browns can address several different positions. The secondary needs a great deal of attention, as does the offensive and defensive lines. If the Browns are going to go from worst in the league to playoff contender, they’ll need to spend big in free agency to complement their draft class.
Here are five free agents they should target when the market opens on March 9.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsMatt Kartozian
C JC Tretter (Packers)
The Browns had the worst center in the NFL last season with Cameron Erving ranking dead last, according to Pro Football Focus. Tretter has battled injury concerns in recent years, but he’d be an immediate upgrade at the position. Given his injury history, he likely wouldn’t cost much to add despite being one of the top available centers when healthy. The Browns need all the help they can get on the offensive line, and this would be a good starting point.
Jeff HanischJeff Hanisch
RT Riley Reiff (Lions)
The Browns were so thin at right tackle last season that they resorted to playing starting center Cameron Erving at the position. That was partly because he was abysmal at center, but it was also a testament to how little talent they had at right tackle. Reiff transitioned from the left side to the right side in 2016, and though he might market himself as a left tackle, he’d fit well in Cleveland. He would minimize front side pressure on quarterbacks and allow them to stand tall in the pocket.
G Kevin Zeitler (Bengals)
The Browns’ offensive line was abysmal last season with the exception of Joe Thomas. Zeitler is the top guard on the market and would work wonders in Cleveland. He would provide a boost in pass protection, which will be a huge need for whichever quarterback they acquire to start next season. He was one of the top right guards in the NFL last season, ranking sixth in Pro Football Focus’ metrics. That’s the sort of upgrade the Browns need at guard, and with plenty of money to spend, there’s no reason they shouldn’t break the bank to get him.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMark J. Rebilas
DE/DT Calais Campbell (Cardinals)
One major area of concern in Cleveland is the defensive line. Myles Garrett is the likely No. 1 pick, but the Browns need a runningmate for Danny Shelton at defensive tackle. Campbell and his position flexibility can provide that, boasting the ability to rush the passer from the interior D-line. This would be a huge get for the Browns, acquiring a veteran defensive lineman who also won’t break the bank. He’s played in a 3-4 in recent years, but there’s no doubt he’d be able to make the transition to Cleveland’s 4-3.
S Tony Jefferson (Cardinals)
Safety has been a week spot for the Browns for a few years with the exception of Tashaun Gipson in 2013-14. Jefferson is a versatile safety who thrives at the line of scrimmage, attacking ballcarriers in the open field. He’s also a great blitzer off the edge, recording four sacks and five forced fumbles the past two seasons. He’s quickly become one of the premier safeties in the NFL and would give the Browns a playmaker in the secondary.
CB A.J. Bouye (Texans)
The Browns have a significant lack of talent in the secondary. Bouye would help with that, but even one stud cornerback won’t be enough for Cleveland. In Bouye, the Browns would get a rising star in the secondary who’s still just 25 years old. He can play the slot or move outside to cover No. 1 receivers, which is important for a team thin at the position. He could become the Olivier Vernon of this free agency class in the fact that he’s not a household name but will be paid very, very well.
Jerome MironJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
WR Terrelle Pryor (Browns)
With Jamie Collins already signed long-term, Pryor is the Browns’ biggest free agent. He’s a budding star at wide receiver, having completed his first season full-time at the position, and was the best offensive weapon for the Browns last year. He deserves an extension and with Corey Coleman figuring to play a bigger role next season, he and Pryor can form a good duo at receiver. This will be key for their next quarterback, who’s expected to be a rookie or someone like Jimmy Garoppolo.