Several ‘home-grown’ Browns players are set to become free agents. Typically, teams try to keep their own players that they’ve drafted and developed at the end of their rookie contracts.
However, the Browns current slate of prospective free agents were not drafted or brought in by Ray Farmer and the current regime.
The Browns elected not to designate any of their soon-to-be free agents either as the franchise or transition players. Unless a last minute deal is struck, several players that played with the Browns last year and earlier, will likely be playing elsewhere next year.
Four of the six unrestricted free agents were drafted by the Browns, three in the 2011 NFL Draft in Jabaal Sheard (2nd), Jordan Cameron (4th) and Buster Skrine (5th). Ahtyba Rubin was drafted by the Browns in the sixth-round in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Brian Hoyer, Cameron, Austin, Skrine and Rubin were all starters last year, while Sheard played as much or more than a starter. By losing these players, the Browns will need to find their replacements, if not on their current roster, via the draft or free agency.
Teams and the players’ agents are allowed to begin negotiating this weekend before free agency officially kicks off on March 10.
The Browns can re-sign one of their players after they test the market, but usually the players that hit the open market end up with another team or out of the league.
Here are the Browns that are set to hit the market.
Jordan Cameron — Probably the biggest name the Browns had going into free agency, Cameron played in just 10 games last year and averaged 17.7 yards per catch to lead all of the NFL’s tight ends. He had three catches of 40 or more yards. However, he missed five games with a concussion.
It would’ve cost the Browns over $8 million to franchise Cameron and over $7 million to tag him with the transition tag. Cameron’s history of concussions could devalue him on the free agent market.
Cameron’s production from 2013 dropped from 80 receptions to 24 receptions and his yardage totals went from 917 yards to 424 yards. He had seven touchdowns in 2013 and just two in 2014. Cameron’s biggest play last season was an 81-yard touchdown catch against the Panthers. Pro Football Talk listed Cameron as the 32nd best free agent prospect and second tight end behind Julius Thomas.
Brian Hoyer — Hoyer finished the season at the bottom of NFL quarterbacks in most statistical categories, including completion percentage at just 55.3 percent. Overall, Hoyer was 242-of–438 for 3,326 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His rating was 76.5. Hoyer’s record as a starter for the Browns is 10–6 over the past two seasons, which is his most redeeming accomplishment. Hoyer is ranked as the 82nd best free agent by Pro Football Talk and is the fourth quarterback on the list. Ironically, recently signed Josh McCown was ranked ahead of him at No. 69. The signing of McCown all but assures Hoyer signing elsewhere.
Miles Austin — Austin finished second on the team with 47 receptions for 568 yards (12.1 avg.) and two touchdowns in 12 games. Austin’s best game was against the Bills when he had 7 receptions for 86 yards before suffering a kidney injury that finished his season and placed him on injured reserve. Austin is an unrestricted free agent and the Browns have indicated they would like to re-sign him. Austin was not ranked by Pro Football Talk’s Top 100 free agents.
Buster Skrine — Skrine had arguably his best season with the Browns with 66 tackles, 18 passes broken up and four interceptions. He finished eighth in the league in interceptions. The Browns drafted Justin Gilbert with hopes he would win the starting cornerback position opposite of Haden to allow Skrine to move inside to the slot. However, Skrine was able to hold off all challengers Skrine was ranked as the 46th best free agent by Pro Football Talk, with seven cornerbacks listed ahead of him.
Jabaal Sheard — Sheard finished with 44 tackles, the lowest of his four-year career with the Browns. He also had just two sacks, lowest in his career after leading the Browns in sacks in his first three seasons when he had 21 sacks in his first three seasons. He also had three passes broken up. Sheard ranks ninth on the all-time sack list for the Browns with 23. Sheard was ranked by Pro Football Talk as the 33rd best defensive end/outside linebacker. They ranked eight players ahead of him.
Ahtyba Rubin - Rubin finished the season with 28 tackles, one sack, one pass broken up in 13 games. Rubin’s 100th game with the Browns likely was his last with the Browns. Rubin has 375 career tackles, including 12 sacks in seven seasons with the Browns. Rubin finished the season on injured reserve. Rubin was not ranked on the available free agent list.
Tashaun Gipson — Gipson is a restricted free agent and the Browns will certainly match any offers if he were sign an offer sheet. The Browns are believed to have been in contract extension discussions with Gipson. Gipson was an undrafted free agent signed by the Browns in 2012. Pro Football Talk listed Gipson 86th on their list.
Craig Robertson — Robertson, like Gipson is a restricted free agent and the Browns are expected to match any offers that he might get. He was also an undrafted player.
Jim Leonhard — Leonhard is technically a free agent but he has announced that he will retire from the NFL.
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