CLEVELAND--Sashi Brown said at the NFL Combine it was a priority to retain the Browns prospective free agents.
However, after the beginning frenzy of free agency, the scoreboard showed the Browns were down four to zero.
Gone are right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, center Alex Mack, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and safety Tashaun Gipson--the Browns top four free agents.
Johnny Manziel and Dwayne Bowe are still on the roster in a mild surprise.
It appears that money was more important than wanting to play for new Browns coach Hue Jackson as was reported the weeks leading up to free agency. Browns fans didn’t see the Browns involved in any free agent signings, but did see several of their prominent players leave quickly.
—Three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack signed immediately after free agency began with the Atlanta Falcons, re-uniting with former Browns and current Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Mack signed a five-year contract that averaged $9.5 million a year.
—Wide receiver Travis Benjamin immediately signed with the San Diego Chargers immediately after the new NFL year started. Benjamin was signed to a reported four-year, $24 million contract, including $13 million guaranteed.
—Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz signed with the Kansas City Chiefs shortly after free agency began to a reported five-year contract that averaged $7.5 million per year. Michael Silver reported on NFL Network that there was some talk that the Browns were in discussions with Schwartz, but pulled their offer off the table. Schwartz’s brother, Geoff seemed to confirm that report after Mitchell signed with the Chiefs by tweeting:
"So proud of my brother on his deal with the Chiefs! Went through some nonsense today, and ended up in a great spot.''
—Safety Tashaun Gipson has agree to a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. Reports were Gipson signed for five years, $35 million.
Some of the reported potential targets for the Browns have already signed with other teams: wide receiver Marvin Jones (Lions), safety George Iloka (Bengals), linebacker Danny Trevathan (Bears), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (Giants), linebacker Bruce Irvin (Raiders), running back Chris Ivory (Jaguars) and running back Lamar Miller (Texans).
With the loss of starters at wide receiver, safety, center and right tackle the Browns have some options still available as of early Monday evening. Potential targets that have not signed as of yet are wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, tackle Donald Penn, center Stefan Wisniewski and tackle Andre Smith. Sanu was reported to be visiting with the Falcons.
Jackson said last week he didn’t think the Browns would be big players in free agency, but did indicate he thought the Browns would sign two or three starters in the process.
“By (Brown's) standard, they are failing," Silver said. "I want to believe they are smart guys. You've got Alex Mack who has been a really good player for you and you let him go. You're probably going to lose the safety (Tashaun) Gipson. Maybe they have a master plan, but right now there doesn't seem to be a plan and if there is it hasn't been communicated well or it's been miscommunicated and it's not being executed. Hue Jackson and I may disagree on this, but I think this is a horrible start for this regime."
It’s only the first few hours of free agency for the Browns new decision makers grounded in analytics, but the Browns are already down four starters from last year, including two of the five starters from the offensive line.