Free Agency Plan of Attack

Browns' new front office is setting its course of action for free agency, which begins March 11. The new man in charge - Ray Farmer - has already cast the team in a more positive light from the previous regime.

- The Cleveland Browns will be active early in free agency, but will not be making wholesale, big dollar signings. The plan will be to target a handful of players early in free agency, re-access and move forward. With the number of young, promising players on the roster and a wealth of draft selections, the organization seeks a balance to move this team forward -- with solid, productive results and WINNING starting in 2014.

- Team owner Jimmy Haslam has placed no spending limits on the front office heading into free agency. Haslam's request: Get players that will get them where they want to go.

- As for the salary cap, Haslam has said, "We will use what we have to, if that means we use every penny we will, but with the vision Ray (Farmer) has, I don't sense he will get to that point just yet until we really incorporate the youth we have here and those players he will bring in -- he has the green light to make it happen."

- More Haslam -- "This is a competitive league, everything is a competition and you cannot dictate everything, especially when it comes to dealing with agents and players. You would like to pay a player what you want, but this league isn't set-up that way -- you have to pay what you have to pay to get a player you really want -- this is the philosophy we'll follow, which is different from what we've done here the past couple years."

- Three prominent agents tell theOBR they will engage in productive talks with the Browns' front office with the removal of the previous decision-makers. Each noted to theOBR that dealing with the old regime was extremely difficult, with the demeanor and tactics of Joe Banner costing the Browns a handful of potential deals -- including a deal with cornerback Brent Grimes.

- The Browns have continued to be in contact with the representatives for potential free agents, safety T.J. Ward and center Alex Mack.

Farmer values each player at a higher level that his predecessors had, which has led to a change in contract and general discussions. Prior to the removal of key members of the Browns front office, neither player was viewed as having any desire to remain in Cleveland.

The Browns are of the belief they are in the running to re-sign both potential free agents, but as of early Sunday the Browns weren't close to an agreement with either player.

- As of this writing, the Browns have yet to decide whether they will utilize the franchise tag on Ward or Mack. The Browns do not want to use the tag to retain a player for another year, but understand the importance of retaining quality talent going forward. Farmer believes the culture and state of this team is going to change quickly.

- Another offseason move the Browns would like to secure is in a contract extension with cornerback Joe Haden. The Browns have had positive discussions with the representative for Haden.

- The Browns have an interest in Green Bay's soon-to-be free agent cornerback Sam Shields.

- The Browns are interested to see if the Texans release cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

- Plenty of noise has surrounded the Browns and their interest in soon-to-be free agent safety Jairus Byrd. As of Sunday afternoon, the Browns continued to seek a deal with Ward, and to note, Ward and Byrd play different safety roles. If unable to secure Ward, the Browns may look to Byrd and replace Ward with 2013 season starting free saftey Tay Gipson -- and the Browns will continue to look at upgrading the positions.

- Earlier in the week the buzz was the Browns were on the verge of releasing defensive lineman Ahytba Rubin. While Rubin carries a hefty cap number for the 2014 season, the new Browns coaching staff views Rubin as a player that continues to play at a high level and fills a role within head coach Mike Pettine's defensive scheme -- I am told Rubin will not be released.

- The new defensive staff wants to see defensive tackle/nose tackle Phil Taylor display his explosiveness over a consistent period of time and want him to be a factor, more than the 50 percent of the snaps player he was under the previous regime. Additionally, the new staff wants to see more of defensive lineman John Hughes and Billy Winn -- both players flash on tape often, in the eyes of the staff.

- One major difference between the new Browns defensive staff and that of the past is movement -- the new staff believes moving linebackers Barkevious Mingo around in the scheme will enhance his athleticism. That includes seeing the soon to be second year linebacker inside on specific alignments. The staff wants Mingo to improve his strength and gain weight. They view his as an explosive entity if he can successfully do what they ask.

- Despite his pedestrian numbers a season ago as a key free agent acquisition, the staff likes what they see from outside linebacker Paul Kruger on tape. As told to me, this staff has never witnessed a player get such a push into the pocket and not make the play -- the staff intends on working with Kruger to become a finisher.

- The Browns will gauge interest in quarterback Brandon Weeden through the draft. If not traded, Weeden will be released.

- I am told the Browns are highly unlikely to retain quarterback Jason Campbell.

- I am hearing the Browns have discussed soon-to-be free agent quarterback Rex Grossman as a potential target -- and a Shanahan favorite that knows the offensive scheme well.

- The Houston Texans are putting feelers out on quarterback Matt Schaub. The Browns have their ears at attention, but will not jump into Schaub's nearly $40 million remaining on his contract.

- From what I have been told, the Houston Texans (Bill O'Brien) did speak to former Browns general manager Mike Lombardi about quarterback Brian Hoyer. Farmer is not open to dealing Hoyer, who is coming off ACL surgery at this time.

- At this time, Shanahan has identified running backs Dion Lewis and Chris Ogbonnaya as players he wants to see more of. Remember, at this time, as the Browns have some interest in soon-to-be free agent running back Donald Brown of the Indianapolis Colts.

- I am told the Browns have no interest getting into a high dollar salary bidding war for Texans running back Ben Tate. Citing past injury issues (consistent), such a signing does not fit into the mode of the organization.

- The Browns will add a fullback. Whether it will be in free agency or the draft is the question.

- I am told the Browns have interest in soon-to-be free agent offensive guards Jon Asamoah (Chiefs), Wade Smith (Texans) and Zane Beadles (Broncos). Either of the named players would upgrade the Browns guard spots.


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