Written  By Leon II, Lexington, Ky.

We are now fully into the “official” free agency/trade period in the NFL.  The Browns entered the free agency/trade period with approximately $47.4 million this year, the most in the NFL after cuts allowed us to surpass the Bengals slightly.  With this much money on the books many Browns fans will likely be disappointed that the Browns didn’t do more.

There will be frustration that bigger names were not signed.   People will label the new ownership a failure and “Factory of Sadness” bitterness will continue until the season begins and hopefully a winning season shuts some mouths.

However, what fans need to keep in mind is that is important to look at the bigger picture to build long-term success.  The Browns have 18 free agents potentially leaving the team this year.  Some will have to be resigned and others replaced with value, not elite players.

Additionally, we have to remember that in 2014 the Browns will have 11 players enter free agency, most notably T.J. Ward, Usama Young, Montario Hardesty, and Colt McCoy.  In 2015 the situation is even worse as 15 active roster players will enter free agency with names like Joe Haden, Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Jabal Sheard and Greg Little topping the list.

If you over spend on free agents this year then you limit the ability to resign quality players in the future and you use free agency only to add a missing piece you don’t think you will be able to get in the draft.

The team will need to keep at least $20 million in reserve this year to keep the best players currently on the team.

This is why Haslam III and Banner keep stating you build and maintain a team primarily through the draft not free agency.  Some of the most interesting discussions in the past weeks have been in regards to the Ravens and Steelers.  Most Browns fans have been anticipating the collapse of those two teams due to their limited cap space and having to let big names walk.

If you really look at what is going on though neither team is hurting as bad as people may think by letting those big names go.  Why not?  The reason is simple.  Both teams have resigned their best players and have young players waiting to step up.

The reality is that both teams have been drafting for the last three years to replace those big names they knew they would have to let walk.  The players they are letting go are ones that are older with diminishing skills or play a situational role for the team because a better player is ahead of them on the depth chart.

True, the Ravens and Steelers (which we have already seen) will go through some growing pains but don’t expect a 5-11 record out of either this year or next, if ever.

The Bengals have clearly learned from the Ravens and Steelers what the key to success is.  Under Marvin Lewis the Bengals fans had to endure losing seasons until Lewis finally had his pieces in place.  He did it through smart drafting, smart resigning of key players, and even smarter free agency moves – just like the Ravens and Steelers.


We all have heard from their and other fans the derogatory label of “Bungels” applied to them.  But after making the playoffs three out of four years who really thinks they are the laughing-stock of the AFC?  I for one can see them as Super Bowl contenders within the next few years.  I for one could care less about splashy moves in free agency because I for one am tired of hearing my beloved Browns referred to as the “Clowns”.

We don’t change that label by overspending in free agency but by following the model that Haslam III learned as a minority owner of the Steelers.
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Readers Comments (7)

  1. dan dyer

    Great article…I really hope the Browns take your advice. However, I do think that the Ravens and Steelers are in a downward spiral. The Flacco signing seems like it is crushing the Ravens. And it’ll only get worse in the years ahead. Plus losing Lewis, Boldin, Ellerbe, Kruger, possibly Reed, and Suggs health can not be good.
    The Steelers on the other hand are killing their future with all the restructuring of contracts that they are doing. While it seems to help them now, it only makes their future cap space much worse. Plus they really haven’t excelled in recent drafts. I feel Wallace leaving is really going to hurt them. While I don’t think he was “great” he did take the top off of the opposing teams D. Many times drawing a safety to help. Not having that deep threat will hurt their offense dearly. And that defense is full of alot of older players who aren’t what they once were. GO BROWNS!

    • Leon II

      Thanks for commenting Dan D.

      I have to say I was a bit surprised when Ellerbe walked yesterday. Ozzie made it clear what his play was though and so far he has stuck to it. The Steelers restructuring contracts may not hurt them as much in the future as it seems. A sad reality is that teams restructure then cut the player before the big payday is due.

  2. ABrown

    Leon II, good article. While I wanted the Browns to get a few key players in FA that they might not be able to get in the draft, there usually seem to be more mistakes made by teams that spend too much and get too little.

    Examples: The Titans defensive lineman, Albert Haynesworth, that Washington broke the bank trying to sign, only to find he didn’t want to work anymore — or the Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha that Philly paid a fortune for only to find he was just a roll-player and Philly didn’t have the right roll — or the Bills who may have overpaid for Mario Williams, the defensive lineman Houston had chosen #1 in the draft but chose not to resign because of two seasons interrupted by injuries and because they had drafted JJ Watt in 2011.

    When players aren’t resigned there is often another reason besides that they want too much money.

    Kruger seems like a good guy to have but he doesn’t have much history of success before 2012. The best sign is that the Browns paid one to two million a year less than many thought would be necessary.

    Let’s hope the contracts are structured to help us deal with cap issues and that we don’t over reach for players who are not as good as we think.

    • Leon II

      So far we seem to be doing well in signing both potentially elite players (Kruger and Bryant) and depth plays (Groves, Barnidge & Ogbannaya) without overpaying too much. My speculation is that the cap hit for the five is under $20m per year but until we see the details of the contract we don’t know. That should leave us another $7m to $10m a year we can safely spend leaving us enough room to extend a few contracts of players we want to keep who will become free agents in the next few years. Of course I don’t expect any contract extensions anytime soon as the new regime will want to evaluate each player in the new schemes first.

  3. Bob

    Congrats on your article. Nice job Leon II. I do think they need at least one big splash since Dawson & Cribbs are basically gone. Would love Ed Reed, but don’t think that’s happening. But a Welker (looks like he’s going to the Broncos as of right now) or a Jennings would be an exciting & welcoming addition to the offense for the fans and ticket sales. Just sayin’. As a fan I would like to be excited for at least one popular player.

    • Leon II

      At this point Bob I’m just hoping for an average CB. I don’t get the feeling the Browns are going to make a splashy move at WR but rather will try to upgrade their receiving corps at TE. Not sure why I feel this way its simply a gut feeling. I was shocked they didn’t go after Jared Cook though Barnidge didn’t surprise me. Maybe they are serious about Fred Davis.

  4. Leon II

    Thank you ABrown and Bob for the positive comments. I really appreciate your taking the time to read the article.


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