Fan View: Take a Deep Breath

The Browns free agency isn't exciting, but it's not a disaster, either. Ryan Jones lends his perspective.

At some point in my life I came to be familiar with an old maxim about writing a letter when one is angry or upset. As it goes, one should put that letter in a drawer for a day or so before sending it. The logic of this being, of course, that a person shouldn’t make rash decisions when they may not be in the right state of mind. They should give it some time and let cooler heads prevail before proceeding with whatever thought or action they were contemplating.

Now, this of course dates back to a time when people actually wrote things on paper with ink, but I think it still holds some merit. It’s still something that I try and think about when I may not be in the most sound mindset. Admittedly, I probably don’t adhere to it nearly as much as I should, but the point is that I try.

I tell this little story because, as it pertains to a certain fan base of a certain team that plays in a certain city that sits where a certain crooked river meets a certain great lake, I think this old maxim is something that would be incredibly good advice.

And something that has been completely and utterly thrown out the window.

It feels like near-Armageddon right now in Cleveland with regards to the Browns and their supposed lackluster effort thus far in free agency. Just about everywhere I turn there’s a sense of deflation and defeat, anger and depression over the Browns being relatively inactive at the start of this year’s free agency period. If you turn on the radio or punch up a local website, you’d think that Cleveland was invaded by some foreign power dead set on occupying the halls of Berea and decimating the football team that resides there.

While that may seem like some kind of extreme hyperbole, it’s really not. Maybe that foreign power is just Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer, but the analogy still stands. By listening to some, you’d think that those two were rounding up all the puppies in Cuyahoga County and taking axes to casks of Dortmunder and Christmas Ale outside of Great Lakes Brewing Company. Some kind of weird, maniacal mixture of evil dog catchers and a heartless Elliot Ness.

Much like everything of late regarding reactions to the Browns, I have to say that I just don’t get it.

I don’t get the massive amount of defeatism and anger over something so relatively insignificant. I’ve heard radio hosts, beat writers, and fans alike, all act like the Browns not signing a handful of free agents is the signal that this team has now reached depths never before seen, and that the people in charge are the most incompetent in a long, long (long) line of incompetence.

What am I missing here? It has to be something. It’s not as if this city and fan base is so scarred and jaded that they can be riled up into a vicious mob over the most minuscule of things, right? Wait. Don’t answer that.

Let me see if I can maybe talk some sense into the collective lot of us. You know, put that letter in the drawer for a few hours so we can all calm down a bit.

If I can try and paraphrase what I think the issues are, I would say most of them revolve around the Browns not using their bountiful amount of cap space, the Browns being inactive, and the Browns missing out on a certain smattering of free agents who were available.

Let me start, if you will, with the cap space thing. I’ve heard countless people say that the Browns need to make move based solely on the fact that they are significantly under the salary cap. To hear these people it’s as if the ghost of Al Davis has sauntered down from the great beyond with an early 90’s Browns Starter jacket on, while he throws dollar bills in the air and yells, “Just Spend Baby!” through his rodent like grin.

This line of thinking conveniently omits the fact that using cap space just to use it has absolutely no benefit for the franchise long term. In fact, spending just to spend in free agency is about the dumbest thing that any team can do. I suppose the Browns could commit large portions of their cap space to a singular player or several players, but what would the ramifications of such moves be a few years down the road? Whether it’s devoting almost half that cap space to premier player like Ndamukong Suh, or using most of that cap space on a combination of a few players like Jeremy Maclin, Pernell McFhee, and Jared Odrick, you would be hampering the future of the franchise for marginal, overpaid players. There are certainly times where deals for a big player or a few marginal players are warranted and can put a team over the top, but is that where the Browns are right now? Do any of us think that? Of course not. Spending just to spend is idiotic. Plain and simple.

Let me move on to the other two complaints that I had mentioned. Those being that the Browns have been inactive and the Browns have missed out on some of the players who have signed. I think I can tie both of these things together because they seem to go hand in hand. I would contend that it’s safe to say the Browns have been inactive because most of the players that have been signed are either way overpriced, don’t fit at all, or ultimately did not have an interest in coming to Cleveland unless they were unbelievably overpaid. At this point, the team has definitely kicked the tires on some players, but the fit just hasn’t been there for one reason or another. The Browns, after all, can’t make people come here. They can offer a lot more money than other teams to try and sway someone, but that isn’t exactly the most sound strategy.

Taking into account the contracts that ended up being signed, I’m not sure which players fans and media members are so upset about missing out on. This feels like one of those mad at the sum while ignoring the actual parts kind of thing. Most of the guys who I would have been excited about obtaining either resigned with their current team or got incredibly inflated contracts. I don’t know how anyone could be angry or depressed about not getting those players.

You have to be smart when it comes to free agency. We have all learned this. It shouldn’t be any kind of a surprise. The teams that spend outrageously and “win” free agency almost always end up losing in the long run.

So why the despair? Why the vitriol? Why the beat reporters up on a soap box waxing about how far the Browns have fallen because they didn’t vastly overpay players whose contracts their new teams will most likely end up regretting? I’m sorry, but I don’t get it.

The Browns will probably wait to scoop up some players in the second and third waves of free agency. And, as history shows, they’ll probably be better off for it.

And while I’m at it, enough with the depths of despair and hopelessness columns and segments that are being bandied about. It’s easy and it’s click bait, but it’s absurd. I could probably write an entire book on this, but does anyone remember Pat Shurmur? Does anyone remember Chris Palmer? Does anyone remember the early Eric Mangini teams getting blown out of the water or the John Collins/Phil Savage power struggle? With all do respect, if you think this is the lowest of lows you are delusional.

The current incarnation of the Browns sure as hell isn’t anything spectacular, but we do have legitimate Pro Bowl talent and a Head Coach that I think is pretty damn good. We are nowhere near some of the depths that this franchise has seen throughout the past fifteen years. Inactivity during the first two days of free agency doesn’t change that at all. No matter how bad some people want to try and make you think otherwise.

As a somewhat rational Browns fan, I think that I have to appeal to the good nature of my fellow supporters. There’s no reason to be down or to jump ship because the team didn’t sign some players within the first few days of free agency. Activity for the sake of activity signals, well, activity. Nothing else. Especially for a team that is not very close to an actual Superbowl contender. There are definitely things that should be criticized with this franchise and there are definitely things that we should all be critical of. Not being active in this year’s early free agency period just isn’t one of them.

Let’s all take a deep breath (please) and see what transpires between now and September. There are a whole bunch of players still out there, players who will eventually be out there, and that local civic treasure referred to as the NFL Draft, all of which will yield changes to the current roster. I promise all of you that there will be plenty of time to lose our collective minds over this team. We have a shady owner who is changing the jerseys that we’ve worn since Truman was in office. Trust me, there will be things to go ballistic about. And I will gladly lead the charge when it’s warranted. Let’s just not do it over the first forty eight hours of free agency.

What do you say?


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