The first 24 hours of free agency--at least for Browns fans-- has been underwhelming, to say the least.
I know Tom Heckert said last week and has said it repeatedly that the Browns weren't going to go crazy in free agency and they were going to build through the draft.
So far, he's held to his word.
However, I'll admit, I expected them to strike quickly to nab one or two key players to immediately upgrade their offense like a wide receiver, right tackle, running back or even a quarterback—something to excite the fan base.
I was in Europe when word came that the Rams had traded with the Redskins for the rights to basically draft Robert Griffin III. With all the buzz about Griffin III on local talk shows, I knew that was going to go over like a lead balloon.
Whether the Browns thought they had a deal in place with the Rams and were hoping to consummate it without the Redskins trumping them is uncertain. However, with multiple sources citing the Browns were in the talks and they were willing to part with multiple high draft picks, including at least two first round picks to move up two spots that tells you what they think of their present situation at quarterback—or at least they thought Griffin III was a once in a decade prospect.
If they really want a quarterback, they can always leap frog the Redskins and deal with the Colts and have their choice of Andrew Luck or Griffin. Hey, if you're all in, you're all in.
I'll admit I was a Browns fan long before I started covering the team and it has been somewhat discouraging to hear of very little going on with the Browns so far in free agency. There has been little news out of Berea regarding scheduled visits or talks other than the signing of defensive linemen Frostee Rucker. There has been a couple of reports that the Browns were in discussion with Matt Flynn, but quickly that was refuted—presumably by the team.
I don't think Browns fans want the team to go crazy in free agency, but to make a splash with at least one perceived big name player at wide receiver would go a long way. Instead, the ‘splash' so far has been reduced to small ripples with the news of re-signing Alex Smith, John Greco and tendering contracts to Jordan Norwood and Brian Schaefering.
The Browns were 4-12 for a reason. They have a lot of holes and even if you're going to build through the draft you can't find all of the pieces in the draft. Two or three key signings would be helpful.
I miss the days when Phil Savage signed LeCharles Bentley, Joe Jurevicius, Eric Steinbach and Dave Zastudil minutes after free agency began. At least there was optimism and excitement for the upcoming season.
Obviously, free agency is just beginning and hopefully, the Browns will come out of it with some good additions, but as names fly off the board to other teams, it doesn't seem to be too promising.
My assessment after the first day of free agency is that the Browns are worse off than they were before it started. They opted to let Hillis, Mike Adams and Dimitri Patterson test the free agent waters. Tony Pashos was released. Once players go on the open market, anything can happen.
Experts say that Hillis was a distraction, but until you have a better option there's no reason to weaken yourself. Despite his subpar season, he was still the best running back on the team. Now, the Browns have another hole to fill, if he leaves. If they can get Ben Tate, that would be a great addition, but there are no guarantees that will happen and it will come at a price. If they can't find a replacement for Hillis, they need to use a high draft pick to address the need.
The same could be said about Adams and Patterson. Both players were not great, but were versatile and filled multiple roles and there's no player currently on the roster that can replace them. Pashos played poorly in 2011, but the condition of his injury was never fully disclosed. Again, the right tackle position needs to be upgraded and that is another area the Browns have to address.
Is it too much to ask for some signs that things are going to get better?
Only time will tell.