1. Filling a Need.
As for Paul Kruger, here are my thoughts from a few weeks ago.
The All-Name Free Agent Team: Paul Kruger
He's certainly better than the player who manned the position a season ago (whoever that was), but then again there is probably a reason why Ozzie Newsome didn't feel the urge to re-sign him long ago.
But just like in 2006, when you're a team like the Browns, sometimes you have to overspend - regardless of what the spin coming out of Berea sounds like.
Naturally, the argument now is whether Kruger or Cliff Avril would have been a better option. Give the slight edge to Kruger here as the Browns' 2013 defense (should) be a closer fit to Baltimore's system than to the one Avril is leaving in Detroit. However, this is not to suggest that Kruger is an every down type of linebacker. Like Avril and Quentin Groves, Kruger is a pass rusher. While he is a welcome addition, the Browns still don't necessarily feature many outside linebackers on the roster.
2. Chudzinski 2, Browns’ Reporters 0.
As for the one-dimensional, “not an every down” player stuff, leave it to Head Coach Rob Chudzinski to (again) offer some common sense to the Browns’ dim collection of quote gatherers:
“One of the things Paul really brings to the table is versatility,” said Chudzinski. “So when you do get into the nickel packages, sub-packages and four down [linemen], he can play defensive end and he’s a move-around guy who can play on both sides. Paul’s versatility and the ability to play multiple positions is also a major factor in us wanting Paul to be here.”
Wait – what??? A defensive player that can play more than one position??? But, but he has to be JUST a linebacker!!!
And, And 3-4!!!
Perhaps Chudzinski didn’t want to expose Kruger to this sad exchange.
Anyway, I’m liking the idea of Kruger playing at different spots – much in same manner that Desmond Bryant could prove to be the defense’s most versatile player in 2013. And I’m really intrigued by a four-man pass rush line of Sheard and Kruger at the ends, with Bryant and Billy Winn inside.
But, 3-4???? (In really sad voice).
3. Let’s not worry about the details. Desmond Bryant is a player.
Desmond Bryant is a solid pickup and a guy who looks like the kind of defensive end Ray Horton had in Arizona. As for what exact position he will play - for the thousandth time - WHO CARES?
And for the thousandth and one time, signing Bryant doesn't mean that Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin are on their way out of town. Depth is good in whatever formation the Browns line up in - the first down version or the ones thereafter. Lost in all the ridiculously dated 3-4 talk is the idea that modern NFL defenses play a variety of fronts and Bryant is a big, quick, versatile defensive lineman.
4. There’s no turning back now.
And for those of you STILL clinging to nostalgia of Dick Jauron's defense, just remember that the 2012 Browns were terrible on third downs and gave up a ton of yards. Or, just remember that the defense currently being re-phased is the same one that Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick tore to shreds. This is a very important point to consider - regardless of personal preferences for schemes and categorical formations. The early emphasis on defensive free agents proves the need for the Browns to dramatically improve what was a statistically misleading and flawed defense.
Now, let's hope that this focus turns to finding some cornerbacks and possibly a safety. The likely improvement in the front seven is encouraging, but again rolling out Buster Skrine and Usama Young will prove counterproductive.
5. Pride comes before the Something…Something.
Of course, this can only mean that the new Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi regime still needs to find some major secondary help - as well as swallowing their egos and extending T.J. Ward and Joe Haden's contracts. This last point is intriguing if viewed through the context of Banner and Lombardi assembling "their" team as opposed to building on the one that was left behind. Let's hope that Banner and Lombardi see the wisdom of complementing Ward and Haden with new players - as opposed to finding players who will eventually replace them.
6. Quentin Groves is basically this year's Juqua Parker. Enough said.
Perhaps more importantly moving forward in the coming days and weeks is a focus on the Browns' soon to be free agents. Extending Haden, Ward and Alex Mack would be a productive use of the Browns' cap flexibility. And as free agency dwindles, let's hope this becomes a reality.
7. Onto more important things….like the Browns’ still thin secondary.
And although it may be counter-productive, I love that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LaRon Landry and Louis Delmas have signed elsewhere. All three players have their positive attributes, but none have proven reliable during their short careers. And as I’ve suggested before, if the “new” players the Browns sign can’t suit up for games, that likely means another season of Buster Skrine and Usama Young receiving significant playing time. As for Chris Owens, bolstering the depth is great; but does anyone think he’s the solution?
8. About the Browns’ Tight Ends (that’s my Terry Pluto impression):
I will show some pseudo-sportswriter bias here and admit that Alex Smith was one of my favorite Browns. I remember talking to him in 2010 when he was barely even a special teams player and then again in 2011 (when he was a part-time fullback) and realized that he didn’t fit into a classic NFL player stereotype. Smith is an interesting guy who happens to be an NFL player and served a variety of unheralded roles for some really bad Browns’ teams. In terms of blocking tight ends, there are probably better players – like the guy just signed on Wednesday – but still, Smith should be commended for making the most of an untenable situation.
As for the position as a whole, Gary Barnidge is necessary and Kellen Davis is probably little more than roster filler. Based on the idea that a wobbly Jordan Cameron is the default number own tight end, I wonder if the better solution is to wait for April’s draft. At least based on most draft people’s assessment, this year is a good one to find a quality tight end. And if adding two pass rushers in free agency is an indication, the Browns’ aren’t necessarily locked into drafting Dion Jordan or whoever with their first pick.
9. As for That Draft Pick:
I’m waiting for the inevitable “The Browns Should Trade Down” COMMENT OF THE DAY because they (also) signed Quentin Groves. As if it’s that easy to do in the draft anymore. Ideally, the Browns could recoup the second round pick they spent last year on Josh Gordon – but realistically, that would necessitate a drop into the nether regions of the first round. (Somewhere Tom Heckert impulsively makes five phone calls.)
Anyway, at least the Browns have a bit more flexibility – or can somewhat bluff other teams into thinking such a thing. What would be ideal right now is for Joe Banner to stoke the flames of Brandon Weeden discontent to the point where a QB-needy (needier?) team like the Bills scares themselves into making a deal. Naturally, the most ideal scenario from a pure mouth-breather hilarity standpoint would have been the return of Derek Anderson.
I can still dream of Weeden and Anderson rifling 90-mph screen passes to oblivion.
10. About Josh Cribbs:
I haven’t fully considered this sentiment, but I’ve begun to realize that Cribbs probably represents the last player that I can fully reach back and feel genuine, childhood fandom towards. Although I probably figured he was done as a Brown when the new regime took over – and I’m kind of delighted that the new regime isn’t getting suckered into the usual trap of trying to satisfy the fans through personnel decisions – I will still miss seeing Cribbs in a Browns’ uniform.
And really – Arizona?
Cribbs is better than Arizona.