A lot of talent has shuffled its way through the doors in Berea this month and the Browns don't have much to show for their recent efforts.
Not yet, atleast.
The Browns are showing patience, being careful not to extend themselves, but their strategy of waiting out the market could be failing.
In the early goings-on of free agency the Browns made a splash.
Signings of safety Robert Griffith, defensive lineman Kenard Lang and offensive lineman Ryan Tucker were critical and should greatly improve those areas on the field.
But Houston, we have a problem!
There are numerous players, right now that will play for significantly less than what was anticipated before the free agency period started. Unlike most teams in the NFL, the Browns are not cap-strapped and should capitalize on this opportunity.
Offensive lineman Victor Riley and wide receiver Michael Westbrook both are talented players that had very high expectations going into free agency. Both sought and expected contracts that would have paid them among the top ranks in the league.
Now, both will sign deals for much less than anticipated, according to league sources.
The Browns have some work do, at the present time they must sign a middle linebacker and another offensive lineman. Upgrades in those areas is critical for the development of the team.
The running back, wide receiver, and tight-end positions should be looked at also.
Or I should say, that numerous personnel evaluators believe that the Browns need help in these areas to become a legitimate force in the AFC.
Granted, the choices really haven't narrowed out in the past week or so to some degree, but when you have an all-pro offensive lineman on the board, you do what you have to do to improve arguably the weakest link on the team.
Lets hope the Browns extending a hand to oft-injured offensive lineman Tre' Johnson is thought of as a major move for this team.
Johnson, a dominate player when healthy just can't be counted on to help this team on the field. If he can stay healthy, just maybe the Browns might be catching lightning in a bottle.
At middle linebacker, this team cannot go into the 2002 season with Wali Rainer as the starter. Feeling the drift when Davis speaks, he doesn't want to go that route either.
If the Browns are forced to start Rainer or a mid-round rookie draft selection in the middle, then Davis and the front office will have failed. This team needs a presence in the middle, or a player that can stick a running back in the hole.
Something will happen with a free agent linebacker, I don't believe that this organization would not focus on the need in this area.
Look at the Chris Sanders signing. Sure, they got him for basically nothing in the cap-strapped NFL. The question is, did they need a player like Sanders and what will he bring this team.
Sanders has speed, he has the ability to stretch the field. On the downside, he hasn't done much on the field for a few years. I would venture to guess that the price was right and the Browns just couldn't resist the temptation of adding another potentially marginal player.
One good thing to remember is that Sanders says he is healthy and wants the opportunity to contribute. He appears to be hungry and coming to Cleveland could be a blessing for Sanders and the Browns. He surely could get a legitimate opportunity in Cleveland.
Also, the front office can claim they filled a need and improved the team.
Time will tell, I'm not sold on the slow process the team has taken, not with talent available.
This all reminds me of the days when the Browns would get to the AFC Championship games, only to fall short of the "big show". Boy, it is sure nice to get this far, but if you don't win the big one, then you have basically can say that you failed. Finishing second doesn't cut the mustard. Sure the run is nice, but at the end, you lost.
Same theory here. You can bring these players in. You can wine and dine them, if you can't sign the talent, then you have failed.
When you have a Michael Westbrook, Johnnie Morton and Germaine Crowell (recently resigned) all on the market and the best you can do is add Sanders, well I guess the offense isn't an issue or the Browns have a secret weapon in hiding.
The local limo company is making a good buck this month. Do the Browns get frequent flyer miles on all the visitors that they have brought to town this month?
This off-season has been a busy one for the Browns, as they have done things according to their plan. Credit is deserved for the moves that have been made, the team is improved in those areas. Being said, serious work remains to be done if this team is going to compete week in and week out.
Frustration is mounting guys, this town and the fans want a winner. Surely this is the goal of the front office as well.
Free agency has taken a turn south on the Browns, as they have started to take on the look of a bridesmaid.