Free Agency: Lull before the storm?

Browns passed on the first-wave free agents, but will they catch the second or third wave?

As free agency heads into its third day, thus far the sounds coming out of Berea have been akin to crickets.

Apart from signing quarterback Josh McCown and wide receiver Brian Hartline before the free agency period began the Browns have yet to make an outside move.

They did retain wide receiver/special team performer Marlon Moore on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, three of the team’s free agents have signed elsewhere. Buster Skrine signed with the Jets (four-year, $25 million), Brian Hoyer with the Texans (two-year $10.5 million) and Jabaal Sheard with the Patriots (two-year $11 million). Tight end Jordan Cameron is visiting the Dolphins Thursday.

In the Browns side of the ledger, there have been no signings. Jimmy Haslam said a month ago he didn’t expect the Browns to be big players in free agency, despite having the fifth-most money in salary cap space available with approximately $43 million at the onset of free agency.

Last year, the Browns signed Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Andrew Hawkins! Ben Tate and Jim Dray immediately after free agency began.

Mike Pettine spoke at an appearance at the Cleveland Auto Show the night before free agency.

“It’s always tough,“ Pettine said. ”People make the comparison in free agency you’re paying retail. I know we were active last year with some of those guys, but that traditionally happens when you hire a new staff and you feel like you want to get a new influx, whether it’s a style thing, you want to bring in some different guys.

“I think Ray’s (Farmer) said moderate spending, but again we’ve evaluated a lot of players,” he said. “Not just guys that are UFAs and RFAs but guys being released from rosters and however we can add guys to our roster we think will help us win.”

The first wave of free agency has seen millions of dollars change hands and the big name players go off the boards. The Browns have already lost three starters/key contributors from last year’s team to free agency and will need to fill those holes through free agency or the draft.

Although not drafted by Farmer, when teams say they want to build through the draft that generally means retaining those players drafted at the end of their first contract. The 2011 draft will likely see three players lost in Sheard, Cameron and Skrine—all key contributors.

Brandon Browner and Perrish Cox are still possibilities to replace Skrine, while Cameron is still believed to be on the Browns radar. Other tight end possibilities are Charles Clay and Jermaine Gresham.

Clay has a transition tag from the Dolphins but is believed to have a visit with the Browns scheduled. Other tight end possibilities are Scott Chandler and Zach Miller.

The signing of Hartline helps the wide receiver position but a top-flight No. 1 still needs to be addressed and right now, it appears that would be through the draft. The likes of Cecil Shorts, Michael Crabtree or Andre Holmes are still available.

The trade off of McCown for Hoyer seems to quell the need for a quarterback in free agency, but the talks of possibilities of Marcus Mariota or Sam Bradford will likely linger until the draft.

A pass rusher is needed to replace Sheard and add depth, but there are not many proven commodities available. Sheard could be the best player to get away from the Browns.

Terrance Knighton is still rumored to be in the mix as a run stopping nose tackle. Another possibility is Kendrick Ellis. Ahtyba Rubin will likely sign elsewhere.

Despite losing their last five games and finishing 7–9, the Browns were competitive in 2014 and adding a few pieces is what fans were expecting to help them be even more competitive in 2015.

However, thus far they have lost pieces and yet to add any that would be considered major upgrades. In the coming days and weeks that will be played out.

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