Never Too Early to Wish
Phil Savage stated he wants to improve these three areas of the Browns next year.
- Defending the run.
- Red Zone Scoring
He also said, "The general rule is you need three difference making players on each side of the ball."
Savage also mentioned in his press conference that he wanted to improve the depth of the team.
The Browns can improve in two ways: they can add players or the coaching staff can improve the performance of players that are currently signed.
Free agency lists this time of year are not completely accurate and much can change before the March 2 deadline. But it is never too early to wish especially when the Browns are watching the playoffs with the rest of us.
NFL Free Agency has three definite waves.
- The initial splash where the top free agents sign for big money.paid.
- The calm where teams look at the second tier players.
- The whirlpool where all parties try to get a deal done before the draft.
In looking at the possible players that can be added it is good to look at the team's list of free agents first. They have been in the system for one year and good teams keep their own.
Browns Unrestricted Free Agents
Antonio Bryant - Wide Receiver
Even though Bryant has been inconsistent at times only two other potential free agents, Reggie Wayne (Colts) and Keenan McCardell (Chargers), can match his production of 1,009 receiving yards. Both Wayne and McCardell were in more proficient offenses with more talented quarterbacks. Neither were the leading receivers on their teams. That being said the Browns may want to overlook Bryant's drops and resign him.
Antwan Harris - Defensive Back
Harris spent the season on injured reserve and I don't see the need to resign him.
Ray Mickens - Cornerback
With Gary Baxter set to return and Leigh Bodden's performance, Mickens would only see action in the dime package. If he is willing to sign a contract conducive to that role then the Browns may want to consider it. My guess is that Mickens will not be on the team next year.
Mike Pucillo - Center / Guard
Savage talked about adding depth and Pucillo gives them that. He played both guard and center and started in six games in 2005. Though not a priority the Browns should get him resigned.
Kyle Richardson - Punter
Hopefully the Browns can find someone else to do the punting next year. I like Jason Baker of the Carolina Panthers who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He had a 43.3 yard average through the regular season, but more importantly 23 of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line.
My second choice would be Jon Ryan of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This guy is an amazing athlete with a tremendous leg. He led the CFL in punting last year with a 50.6 yard average. His longest punt was 80 yards.
If the Browns can't come to terms with either of these players, maybe they can get a hometown discount from Ravens punter Dave Zastudil who is a Bay Village Ohio native.
Orpheus Roye - Defensive End
Roye is a ten-year NFL veteran who had the best season of his career in 2005 registering 95 tackles and he had a bum knee. Was his performance like a fine wine getting better with age or a case of saving the best for last? That is the question the Browns have to ask. I would love to see him in a Browns uniform next year, but not with more than a two-year deal.
Orlando Ruff - Inside Linebacker
Ruff couldn't get in the line-up over Ben Taylor. He won't be with the team next year.
Aaron Shea - Tight End
I would like to see him stay next year, but I don't think he wants to play third fiddle behind Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden. I wish him well with his future team, just not when he faces the Browns.
L. J. Shelton - Left Offensive Tackle
The only free agent tackle I would consider signing over Shelton is Jeff Backus of the Lions. Looking at Detroit's potential free agent list, it is quite probable that they will slap the Franchise Tag on him. If that happens Shelton would jump to the top of the list and I'm sure Shelton's agent is using that as leverage. The Browns may have to overpay for his services.
Ben Taylor - Inside Linebacker
Taylor is a good second tier backer but he will be looking for starter's money. He will be somewhere else next year.
Browns Restricted Free Agents
Ethan Kelley - Nose Tackle
Kelley finished the season on injured reserve. The Browns should not have trouble signing him and his play warrants that they should keep him around for a better look.
Available Free Agents
The rest of my wish list consists of players who can start next year for the Browns and will be signed during the initial splash or at the beginning of the calm.
It starts with stopping the run next year. That means the Browns must get better in the middle. The middle begins with the nose tackle and Jason Fisk was not the answer in 2005. I have two players on my list.
James Reed - Unrestricted Free Agent - N.Y. Jets
Reed started all sixteen games last year recording 65 tackles (44 solo) with 2 sacks. He also recovered two fumbles and scored a touchdown. It was his best performance of his five-year NFL career.
Maake Kemoeatu - Unrestricted Free Agent - Baltimore Ravens
Kemoeatu is 6'5" and 350 pounds. At that size, how can any NFL center move him?
The Browns need a linebacker to play next to Andra Davis in the middle. I believe it is tough for a player who is accustomed to the 4-3 defense to convert to the 3-4. The Browns were a perfect example of that in 2005. That is why I have only targeted one player.
Smith is a nine-year NFL vet who made 116 tackles (90 solo) last year. He has only missed four games in his career. He shows up every Sunday ready to play.
I wouldn't mind adding another safety to the mix next year, but if the opposing back gets to the third level of defense on a constant basis the Browns are in trouble.
Hope had 96 tackles during the 2005 regular season which is 26 more than his Browns counter part, free safety Brian Russell. Anytime the Browns can steal a player from an AFC North competitor the transaction has double returns.
Next on Savage's list was improving the Browns sack production which makes it second on my list also. Only one name stands out.
Abraham is a sack machine he has 53.5 in his six-year career with 10.5 coming last season. Hopefully the new coach of the Jets will decide Abraham is not worth a Franchise Tag. He would add a play maker on the defensive side of the ball.
Red zone scoring starts with the offensive line. I would like to see the Browns add a veteran guard to the mix. Each of the three players that top my list are competing in this year's playoffs and would bring instant credibility to the offensive line.
Stephen Hutchinson - Unrestricted Free Agent - Seattle Seahawks
Hutchinson was named to the Pro Bowl the last two years. He is young and could be part of a player core for the Browns the next five years.
Neal has twenty-eight starts in the past two regular seasons. Left guard Joe Andruzzi, who was a Patriot before signing with the Browns last year, has already formed a cohesiveness with him. It would be great to see them as teammates again.
Tutan Reyes - Unrestricted Free Agent - Carolina Panthers
Reyes matches Stephen Neal for starts in the past two years with 28. Like Neal he would compete with Cosey Coleman at right guard.
I can't wait for March 2 because that is when the football season begins.