AFC North Draft Needs: Browns
NFL DRAFT NEEDS: AFC NORTH
Browns are looking to turn around their losing ways under the guidance of new Team President Mike Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert. Their first move was retaining head coach Eric Mangini, who directed the team to a 5-11 record last season. A strong finish in 2009 likely saved Mangini’s job, as the Browns made up for a 1-11 start by winning their final four games. The next step is giving the Browns’ roster the makeover it badly needs. The new decision makers have already begun shaking things up in Cleveland.
After shuffling back and forth between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson the past two seasons, the Browns finally put their foot down and sent both quarterbacks packing. Anderson was released and Quinn was shipped off to Denver in exchange for Peyton Hillis and draft picks. The team then signed Jake Delhomme and acquired Seneca Wallace in a trade the Seahawks, a player whom Holmgren coached in Seattle.
While Quinn and Anderson were a disaster, Delhomme and Wallace aren’t much of an upgrade. Delhomme was a turnover machine his last season in Carolina and Wallace is no more than a decent backup. Mike Holmgren has stated the Browns will take a quarterback in the draft, but it probably won’t be Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen. "I wish I liked him more," Holmgren said of Clausen. "You know how you have a type of player that you like? It's not scientific. People like him a lot. He'll go high. But it would be hard for me [to take him].” The team hosted several quarterbacks for pre-draft visits including Clausen, Colt McCoy of Texas, Tim Tebow of Florida and Tony Pike of Cincinnati.
No matter who is under center, he’s going to need weapons. Cleveland filled a major hole at tight end by signing Ben Watson to a three-year, $14 million deal, but wide receiver is a different story. Mohamed Massaquoi far outshined his rookie counterpart Brian Robiskie, as he started 11 games and led the team with 34 receptions for 624 yards and three touchdowns. Robiskie struggled to get on the field in his first year and caught just seven passes in 11 games. Josh Cribbs is one of the Browns’ most dynamic players, but he isn’t a natural receiver. Braylon Edwards was traded to New York midway through the season and Cleveland needs a top of the line pass catcher more than ever.
The Browns’ 3-4 defense lacks the athletic edge-rushing linebacker that is vital to its success. Kamerion Wimbley had some success getting to the quarterback but he was traded in the offseason. Scott Fujita was signed to a three-year, $14 million deal, but he isn’t the fierce pass rusher that excels in the 3-4 scheme. The draft is quite deep in outside linebackers with the ability to pressure the passer and Cleveland should look to grab one at some point.
The team acquired Sheldon Brown from the Eagles to patch up their shaky play at corner. Eric Wright is a solid starter opposite Brown, but there is very little outside of those two. Cleveland should look to land a young cornerback early in the draft. Florida’s Joe Haden reportedly had a good rapport with Browns’ defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson when the team privately worked him out.
The problems in the secondary don’t stop at corner, as safety is another major concern. The team parted ways with Brodney Pool after he suffered his fifth concussion in five years. When Pool went down in Week 11, the lack of depth at the position was exposed. The situation got so bad that wide receiver Mike Furrey had to fill in at safety and managed to start two games. The Browns hosted Eric Berry of Tennessee on a visit this month and likely won’t pass on him with the seventh pick if he’s available.
Cleveland is poised to add a large influx of youth and talent in the draft. They will have 10 selections come draft day, including three in the third round. They currently hold picks 7, 38, 71, 85, 92, 134, 146, 160, 177 and 186.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Mike Furrey (was not re-signed), TE Michael Gaines (was not re-signed), G Rex Hadnot (was not re-signed, signed with Arizona), CB Hank Poteat (was not re-signed), G Billy Yates (re-signed), G Ryan Tucker (retired)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: S Abram Elam (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), RB Jerome Harrison (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), LB D’Qwell Jackson (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), LB Jason Trusnik (received second-round tender at $1.759 million and signed offer sheet), FB Lawrence Vickers (received second-round tender at $1.759 million), LB Matt Roth (received second-round tender at $1.809 million), S Brodney Pool (was not tendered, signed with New York Jets), TE Greg Estandia (was not tendered, re-signed), S Ray Ventrone (was not tendered, re-signed for three-years at $2.2 million)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: LB Marcus Benard (received one-year tender and signed), LB Blake Costanzo (received one-year tender and signed), RB Chris Jennings (received one-year tender and signed)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Joshua Cribbs (re-signed for three-years at up to $20 million), G Billy Yates, LB Jason Trusnik, S Ray Ventrone, LB Marcus Benard, LB Blake Costanzo, RB Chris Jennings
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: QB Seneca Wallace (via trade with Seattle), LB Scott Fujita (signed for three-years at $14 million), T Tony Pashos (signed for three-years at $10.3 million), TE Ben Watson (signed for three-years at $12 million), QB Jake Delhomme (signed for two-years), RB Peyton Hillis (via trade with Denver), CB Sheldon Brown (via trade with Philadelphia), LB Chris Gocong (via trade with Philadelphia), C Eric Ghiaciuc
PLAYERS LOST: LB Kamerion Wimbley (via trade with Oakland), DE Corey Williams (via trade with Detroit), LB Alex Hall (via trade with Philadelphia), WR Mike Furrey, TE Michael Gaines, G Rex Hadnot, CB Hank Poteat, G Ryan Tucker (retired), C Hank Fraley (signed with St. Louis), RB Jamal Lewis, S Brodney Pool, TE Steve Heiden, QB Brady Quinn (via trade with Denver), QB Derek Anderson (signed with Arizona), WR Donte Stallworth
QUARTERBACK -- Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson combined to produce the NFL’s worst passing offense in 2009. Cleveland ranked dead last averaging just 129.8 aerial yards per game. Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace were signed in the offseason, but they are far from the answer. Delhomme was forced out of Carolina after throwing 18 interceptions compared to just eight touchdowns last season and Wallace is no more than a solid backup. Jimmy Clausen is their best option, but Mike Holmgren isn’t high on him. The team will look to add their quarterback of the future after the first round.
Jimmy Clausen #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks on the field against the USC Trojans on November 29, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC won 38-3.
SAFETY -- Cornerback play wasn’t the only reason for the Browns’ struggling secondary. The safety position was a mess last season. Wide receiver Mike Furrey had to switch positions after Brodney Pool went down with injury and ended up starting two contests. The team should look to grab a talented safety in a draft deep at the position.
WIDE RECEIVER -- Braylon Edwards was traded to the Jets midseason, leaving the team without a number one option. Rookie Mohamed Massaquoi was the team’s most reliable receiver, but Brian Robiskie, who was picked 16 spots ahead of Massaquoi, struggled in his first season. The Browns are going to need to find a dynamic vertical threat to take the place of Edwards.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER – The 3-4 defense is known for bringing pressure from the outside linebacker spot. Kamerion Wimbley was one of few Cleveland linebackers who had some success getting to the quarterback, but he was traded in the offseason. The Browns need to grab an edge-rushing linebacker at some point in the draft.
NOSE TACKLE -- Shaun Rogers faces an uncertain future after being arrested in early April. Ahtyba Rubin was decent when he filled in for Rogers last season, but he isn’t a top-notch player. The 30 front requires great play from the nose tackle position to be truly successful. Cleveland may opt to select a two-gap defensive tackle with one of their many picks.