Cleveland Browns Expected To Make It Rain In Free Agency

The Cleveland Browns are about to go shopping. With over $100 million in cap space, here’s a spending spree that could spark revival in ‘The Land’…

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) reacts after a tackle in the third quarter during Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) reacts after a tackle in the third quarter during Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are coming off of a 1-15 regular season, one of the worst I can remember in recent NFL history. Of course, many factors play into a season like that, but nothing quite dooms a team like a roster without much talent.

Cleveland is taking on a major overhaul from previous regimes, cleaning house and piling up draft picks and cap space in the process. Even though the Browns have the most cap space in the NFL (over $100 million), they face a great hurdle in trying to get big-name free agents to come to the city of Cleveland and play for a franchise that needs saving.

Right now, the Browns are certainly not the class of the NFL, and they are going to have a hard time selling a complete rebuild to prospective free agents. However, the great advantage the Browns have right now is the ability to overpay, and a cap floor they have to reach.

I feel like the Browns are going to go on a shopping spree, which will include taking care of some of their own. In fact, that has already started a bit with the re-signing of trade deadline acquisition Jamie Collins, formerly of the New England Patriots.

If the Browns have it their way this offseason, they could see a nice roster overhaul in free agency alone, and supplement their free agent haul with the top overall pick in the draft, the 12th overall pick, and then multiple selections in the second round along with the top pick in the third.

The assets are there for the Browns to make a big splash this offseason, but it all starts with free agency. They need to have a plan in place, and here are the free agents I think this team will bring in to try and turn the ship around.

Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is tackled by New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower (54) during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is tackled by New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Dont’a Hightower, LB, Patriots

Rumor has it, Hightower turned down over $10 million annually from the New England Patriots. He has won two rings in the past three seasons, and has certainly brought home his share of hardware. The Patriots have plenty of money to re-sign Hightower, but will he price himself out of their comfortable range?

Enter the Browns, who really don’t have much of a filter to have to use this offseason. They can basically afford to pay whatever they want to whatever player they want. Hightower might be looking for upwards of $12 million or more per season on a long-term deal with a lot of guaranteed cash, and this Cleveland team can afford to be a bit over the top this offseason.

After trading basically nothing for Jamie Collins, the Browns reunite two Patriots defenders to key a defensive rebuild. Hightower has proven, like Collins, versatility within a defensive scheme. He will turn just 27 in March, and is entering the prime of his career. One reason the Patriots might be willing to let Hightower go: He has never started a full 16-game slate in his NFL career.

Sep 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA;  New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) is pushed out of bounds by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson (22) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) is pushed out of bounds by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Tony Jefferson (22) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Jefferson, S, Cardinals

The Browns need to rebuild their secondary, starting with the safety positions. Tony Jefferson has been one of the more underrated safeties in the NFL over the past few seasons, and is finally set up for a big pay day.

He started 14 of the 15 games he played in this past season, and graded out as one of Pro Football Focus’ best safeties in football. He finished with an 88.6 grade in 930 snaps, racking up 96 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and five pass breakups.

He would add an enforcer to the back end of the Browns’ defense, and Cleveland will love the fact that he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Just 25 years old, Jefferson as inexplicably undrafted out of Oklahoma four years ago before getting picked up by the Cardinals.

His development has been phenomenal, and he’s ready to emerge as one of the highest paid at his position.

Dec 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (21) reacts to breaking up a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 11, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye (21) reacts to breaking up a pass against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Bouye, CB, Texans

The Houston Texans discovered they have a real gem in A.J. Bouye this past season when injuries arose. Another former undrafted free agent, Bouye stepped into a more prominent role this past season for the Texans, playing inside as a nickel as well as outside, excelling in both roles.

With a 90.9 grade from Pro Football Focus, Bouye would be the best free agent pickup in terms of overall grade the Browns could make other than Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who isn’t likely to be taking Joe Thomas’ spot anytime soon.

Bouye broke up 16 passes this past season, and also racked up 63 tackles and one interception in the regular season. He picked off a pass against the Oakland Raiders in the wild card round of the playoffs, and also picked off Tom Brady in the divisional round.

He’s broken out as one of the best overall corners in the NFL, and would be a great fit for the Browns along with Joe Haden.

Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) directs the offense during the second half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) directs the offense during the second half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Patriots

This would not be a ‘free agent’ move so to speak, but during the free agency period, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Browns send a second rounder to the Patriots for their backup quarterback, who clearly proved in his limited playing time that he’s ready for a starting gig in the NFL.

The Browns may not have a preference of quarterback in this year’s draft, and would instead like to focus on supplementing their talent elsewhere with their top selections. If they planned on using one of their top four picks on a quarterback regardless of who was available, the smart move might be to try and use one of those picks to get Garoppolo.

This would perhaps expedite the rebuilding process for the Browns, who cycle through quarterbacks unlike any team I have ever seen. The thought that Garoppolo could be the next Osweiler or Matt Flynn might scare the Browns off, but they have the picks to make this investment and they could turn around and give Garoppolo a semi-long term contract.

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