The clock is ticking down toward the college player draft. But, before the draft, the Browns continue to dip their toes in the waters of free agency.
Despite interest, the Browns are not on the door-step in offering a UFA or RFA a contract prior to today's deadline.
It's been interesting watching the method the organization has used in dealing with their own restricted free agents. Subtle and limited discussion between the organization and player reps has been the story this off-season.
But that is on the verge of change.
With the draft-boards basically complete and the organization now in the tinkering process, those RFA players may become somewhat more of an interest to the Browns.
- Indications are the Browns are ready to address some of their own RFA players. In a sense, the Browns do want to retain some of these players, but let's not forget to factor in that the player(s) need to sign their tender offer(s) before the Browns can trade any of these players.
- TheOBR has learned that the Browns intend on retaining RB Jerome Harrison and OLB Matt Roth, unless a very appealing trade opportunity presents itself.
- The Browns have not closed the door on ILB D'Qwell Jackson returning for the 2010 season. A tendered RFA, Jackson remains a solid interior linebacker for a team searching to rectify the play inside. The problem at the moment is that the player isn't happy with the organization and their tender offer. At present, the Browns do not have any pending deals in place to move the veteran ILB, despite the organization adding another versatile player via free agency in veteran Scott Fujita.
- Presently, the depth chart at linebacker is a wide-open affair. With the coaches preaching versatility, this type of player has suddenly become the norm within that portion of the roster. Much of the positioning will be predicated by the scheme, especially as the Browns seek an increased presence inside next season.
- Two characteristics of the wide receivers have been talked about in Browns' circles: size and speed. The immediate belief is that adding this presence/threat will open up the field and provide second-year WR Mohamed Massaquoi room to grow and attack the seam, while Brian Robiskie is expected to become a possession receiver. The organization is looking at the draft as an avenue to improve the overall quality at the position.
- The bottom line for the vast changes at QB for the Browns this off-season was simple, from a personnel evaluation perspective. The belief was Derek Anderson is simply too inconsistent and Brady Quinn isn't as talented as many believe. The latter was viewed by the new brain trust as inconsistent and inaccurate. Quinn did little throughout the 2009 season to change that view.
- While the handling of the QBs a season ago by head coach Eric Mangini was questioned at every turn, the start of team workouts shows a notable change. Veteran QB Jake Delhomme (signed in FA) is the unquestionable starter. Early in the process, Delhomme, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and special assistant Gil Haskell are developing a solid, professional relationship. Despite some differences in the Browns offense and what he learned while with the Carolina Panthers, the phrase "light-years ahead" is being used to describe the current Browns QB when compared to those recently departed.
- The tight-end position was one of the first positions identified as an area of major need. Despite veteran Ben Watson's (signed in FA) bouts of inconsistency while in New England, he is viewed as a monumental upgrade in the Cleveland offense. No less than eighteen drives were stopped as a result of the 2009 cast at the position a season ago. Although they added Watson to the mix, the Browns have spent a good amount of time and effort on the TE's in the upcoming draft.
- With Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis, Chris Jennings, James Davis, Thomas Brown and Lawrence Vickers in the backfield, it would seem unlikely the team would look to add another running back. Unlikely? Guess again, the Browns are looking at the RB's, with Ryan Mathews and Jonathan Dwyer gaining solid grades by the Browns.
- Due to age and an anticipated decline in production at any time from players such as Robaire Smith, Kenyon Coleman and Shaun Rogers, the Browns are looking to add promising young talent along the defensive line as well. We are not talking about players to move the veterans from the roster in 2010, but prospects to learn to play the 3-4, as directed by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and head coach Eric Mangini. It will come as a surprise if the Browns do not add a viable prospect in the draft.
- Speaking of Rogers, the Browns organization awaits the conclusion of the legal process ahead for the defensive lineman. The Browns have been quiet on his pending legal issues (weapon charges), but the fact the team is looking to add talent along the defensive line could play into the equation at some point in the future.
- The need areas in the Browns roster don't end there, of course. There is a definite void at the safety position and the cornerback position should be construed as 'in need' as well. The addition of veteran CB Sheldon Brown provides immediate relief to a Browns defensive backfield that was often victimized a season ago. Brown has told the Browns he will play anywhere -- including safety alongside Abe Elam. Expect the Browns to select either a safety of corner in the draft, if not both. Also, 2009 draft selection Coye Francies may get some work at safety.
- The right-side of the Browns offensive line was a disappointment a season ago. Veteran John St. Clair played through various nagging injuries and did not solidify the tackle position. Alongside St. Clair was a revolving door of talent, which included the departed Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley and Floyd Womack. Right tackle Tony Pashos was added in free agency to start at RT, with Floyd Womack expected to start at RG, while St. Clair could add experienced depth. Despite the addition of Pashos and early positive notes on RT Jason Capizzi, the right-side of the line remains an area of continued interest for the Browns.