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Cleveland Browns Free Agency: Positions to Address Before the 2014 NFL Draft
With Super Bowl XLVIII in the rear view mirror, the NFL finally closes the book on the 2013 season. With the Cleveland Browns finishing with a lowly 4-12 record, it is one that many fans of the team would surely like to forget.
The Browns enter the 2014 season complete with a new head coach in Mike Pettine, a new defensive coordinator in Jim O’Neil, and a new offensive coordinator (reportedly) in Kyle Shanahan. Time will tell if the coaching staff is an improvement on the 2013 group, but the Browns move ahead regardless, with their eyes set on the NFL offseason.
In the offseason, the Browns will look to make upgrades at every position they are able to, but it must start with making an impact in free agency. The team has far too many holes to fill in the 2014 NFL Draft alone. Even with 10 draft picks at their disposal, the team must not bet the season on finding multiple ready-to-start prospects, so they must find quality depth before draft day arrives. What makes the situation tougher, is that the front office has been candid about only acquiring younger players that can grow with the team, nor are they likely to break the bank. So what positions are most necessary to fill in NFL free agency?
With the Browns already thin at the position, and likely to cut ties with troubled slot receiver Davone Bess, Cleveland has to add one or two solid veteran pieces in free agency. It seems a foregone conclusion they will look to add a young complementary receiver across from standout Josh Gordon in the NFL draft, but the WR3 and WR4 positions need some serious attention. Many feel Greg Little will not make the cut after his lack of consistency, but even if he does, upgrades are needed. The NFL draft receiver depth by most accounts seems pretty deep, but the team is highly unlikely to start a core of rookies at the position.
Potential available free agents: Andre Roberts (ARZ), Jeremy Maclin (PHI), James Jones (GB), Emmanuel Sanders (PIT), Golden Tate (SEA), Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Brandon LaFell (CAR), Eric Decker (DEN), Julian Edelman (NE) and Brandon Tate (CIN).
Watching the Super Bowl should tell you all you need to know about this position.
The Legion of Boom rotated four cornerbacks in and out almost seamlessly, with all four performing at a high caliber. The corner position, given the increase in passing attempts in the NFL, has become an absolute priority. While the Browns have some young depth at the corner, they do not have a a legitimate CB2 on the roster. Buster Skrine had a surprisingly good year, but he would be best served in a nickel role covering the slot receivers with his size and speed. The draft seems a little thin as far as depth goes this year, and with the amount of corners that signed one-year deals last season, look for the Browns to go heavy in free agency here.
Potential available free agents: Alterraun Verner (TEN), Brent Grimes (MIA), Walter Thurmond III (SEA), Captain Munnerlyn (CAR), Antoine Cason (ARZ), Corey Graham (BAL), Chris Cook (MIN) and Vontae Davis (IND).
One of the hardest positions to acclimate yourself to in the NFL might just be the offensive line. Dozens get drafted every year and quickly find themselves out of the league, as it takes a unique blend of size, strength, footwork and intelligence to lock down a spot against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Many players are drafted and simply find themselves over-matched, as is the case for Cleveland’s recent attempts at drafting guards. For that reason, the Browns shouldn’t risk the strength of the line again this year, and they should make it a priority to stockpile players at the guard position.
Potential available free agents: Geoff Schwartz (KC), Zane Beadles (DEN), Willie Colon (PIT), Jon Asamoah (KC), Chad Rinehart (SD), Mike Johnson (IND) and John Jerry (MIA).
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