If you are an NFL fan, today is kind of like Christmas morning.
It’s the first day of free agency, and as of 4 PM, free agents are free to sign with other teams. It’s the first opportunity to start filling some holes on your roster, and it also changes what players teams are looking at in the draft.
The Browns started the league year strong by filling the gap created with T.J. Ward going to free agency by signing S Donte Whitner, a former Glenville High star and Ohio State standout.
Whitner has spent his pro career with both the Bills and 49ers, and has made the Pro Bowl twice. He’s a hard hitter and brings winning experience to the Browns, having made the playoffs each of his years with San Francisco.
Being a local product, he also brings an understanding of how much the Browns mean to the city, something he and QB Brian Hoyer can communicate to the rest of the squad.
GM Ray Farmer also addressed the lack of inside linebackers on the team by signing veteran ILB Karlos Dansby, previously with the Arizona Cardinals and reportedly are close to signing Arthur Moats, who played for Mike Pettine in Buffalo last season.
Dansby is older than former Brown D’Qwell Jackson, but he’s a much better player, ranking among the top inside linebackers in the league according to some websites, and made second team All-Pro last season.
Moats is just 25 years old and a good character guy, winning the Bills’ Walter Payton Award last season. At his age, he should still be improving as a player.
It is telling that all three free agent additions are on the defensive side of the football, which of course is Pettine’s area of expertise. And in Whitner and Dansby, you have two players who have been in the Super Bowl.
Also, it looks like all three players are leadership/character guys too. That’s not to cast dispersions on Jackson or Ward, but the new coach wants his kind of leaders on his defensive unit.
The spending also makes it appears that Farmer has a mandate to make the Cleveland Browns better in the win-loss department, and to do it as soon as possible. The days of accumulating draft picks and salary cap space appear to be over.
The Browns could sign more players in free agency, and may even do it today. However, their next big order of business is to resolve things with C Alex Mack as soon as possible.
We’ve heard people say that if Mack doesn’t want to be here, then let him go, but since the offensive line is already full of holes, it wouldn’t be prudent to create another one at center.
It also wouldn’t be good for Hoyer or whoever the quarterback is to see pass rushers coming right up the middle and be in his face immediately.
Farmer gave Mack the transitional tag for a reason. The team didn’t want him to leave and wanted to buy time to work out a long-term deal with the two-time Pro Bowl lineman.
Teams that go 4-12 can’t afford to let good players leave.