Browns, NFL Back to Work

OBR's Fred Greetham lays out the Browns free agent situation entering the 2011 season.

With the lockout for all practical purposes over with and the new NFL year tentatively set to begin, the Browns need to act quickly with regards to their plans for the upcoming season.

According to an email from Drew Brees obtained by, if all goes as planned, the Browns and the other teams will be allowed to negotiate and re-sign their own free agents on Tuesday, July 26.

"There will be no three-day grace period for teams to sign their own players," Brees wrote. "It will be open for anyone to sign anywhere."

For the Browns, it all starts with general manager Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur deciding on which of the Browns unrestricted free agents they want to try to re-sign.  Then, it's on to the signing of undrafted free agents and unrestricted free agency.

The Browns own free agents from the defense are: DE Jayme Mitchell, DE Derreck Robinson, DE Robaire Smith, LB Blake Costanzo, LB Matt Roth, LB Jason Trusnik, S Abe Elam, S Nick Sorenson and CB Eric Wright.

Heckert has said that Mitchell is a player he wants to re-sign after trading for him last season. After joining the Browns, Eric Mangini did not play Mitchell.

"I think Jayme understands the situation," Heckert recently told Jeff Schudel of the Morning Journal. "He knows he's a better fit in a 4-3 and he knows we're going to use a 4-3. He knows I like him because I traded for him."

Roth is not expected to return, as he wants to play in a 3-4. Smith has expressed a desire to return and could help at defensive tackle. It's unclear the Browns feelings on the rest of the players.  Wright and Elam were starters the past two years in the secondary.

On offense, the free agents are: K Phil Dawson (franchise player), RB Mike Bell, FB Lawrence Vickers, OL Floyd Womack, OL Billy Yates, TE Evan Moore, TE Alex Smith and WR Chansi Stuckey.

The Browns drafted fullback Owen Marecic in the fourth-round, seemingly closing the door on Vickers' return. He has said recently that he feels he would be a good fit in the West Coast Offense.

With the Browns low on numbers on the offensive line, Womack and Yates would be players they would likely target to re-sign. Moore is a player that Shurmur has talked highly of, but the Browns did draft Jordan Cameron, who is a similar player.

"There are guys we want back and others guys we aren't going to bring back," Heckert said. "They might be good players and get a lot of attention from other teams. Hopefully, the guys we do want back we'll be able to get back."

Other than targeting their own free agents, Heckert doesn't see the Browns going crazy in open free agency.

"We're not going to be huge players in free agency," he said. "We really do believe you build through the draft. If you can help yourself in free agency, you do it, but we're not going to sign 10 guys in free agency."

Heckert indicated the players the Browns have targeted would be identified quickly.

"There are really two waves of free agency," he said. "The first wave is the guys who are going to get the big money and are in the most demand. Normally, the deals are done right away. You're going to be on the phone as soon as you're allowed to talk to the agent. The deal is going to be done before you bring the player in.

"I think there will be a day or two to let the dust settle and see who else is out there. There are going to be a ton of free agents out there. I don't think you need to go crazy right off the bat."

Depending on whom the Browns bring back, it is expected they will target a safety, linebacker, running back, offensive lineman, defensive linemen and possibly a wide receiver in free agency.

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